CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Saturday qualifying notebook

TRACY BREAKS TRACK RECORD WHILE CLAIMING POLE POSITION FOR MICHIGAN 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 22, 2000) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green blazed to a new Michigan Speedway track record Saturday while winning his first ...

TRACY BREAKS TRACK RECORD WHILE CLAIMING POLE POSITION FOR MICHIGAN 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA

BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 22, 2000) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green blazed to a new Michigan Speedway track record Saturday while winning his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1997 for Sunday's Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota (ABC-TV, live, 1:30 p.m. ET).

Tracy's (KOOL Honda Reynard) lap of 234.949 miles per hour (30.645 seconds) came on the final lap of qualifying and eclipsed the track standard of 234.665 mph (30.682 seconds) established by Jimmy Vasser during qualifying for the 1996 Marlboro 500. It was the 13th pole of Tracy's 10-year career and his first in the FedEx Championship Series since 1997 at Milwaukee.

The championship point Tracy earned for the pole position drew him to one (75-74) behind Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske for third place in the championship. Tracy will seek his second victory of the season, the 17th of his career, and his first-ever 500-mile triumph when he leads 24 fellow competitors to the green flag Sunday.

Tracy's record effort bumped Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) from the pole, but Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader, starts second after a lap of 234.627 mph (30.687 seconds). Andretti will make a season-best start, improving on third at Toronto last week, a position from which he drove to his 40th career triumph.

Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) made it an outstanding day for Newman/Haas Racing, joining teammate Andretti among the top three starters after a lap of 234.230 mph (30.739 seconds). It will be his best career start in seven appearances at Michigan, eclipsing ninth in 1998.

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) allowed Newman/Haas and Team KOOL Green to sweep the two front rows by qualifying fourth at 233.176 mph (30.878 seconds). It marks his sixth consecutive top-10 start, dating to an outside pole at Milwaukee. Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske qualified fifth at 232.980 mph (30.904 seconds) for his ninth top-five start in 11 events this season.

FedEx Championship Series leader Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) qualified 16th at 228.086 mph (31.567 seconds). He holds a two-point (90-88) lead over Andretti entering Sunday's 11th of 20 rounds in the championship.

The top 16 qualifiers were separated by less than one second.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "My last warmup lap was 234.5 [miles per hour], and I thought that was pretty good. Then, on the first lap the car had a little push and it just slid up the track in Turn 3. On the second lap the car was planted in Turns 1 and 2 and I just let it slide up in 3 and 4 and got a 234.9 [mile per hour lap]. It definitely boosts the team up. Our qualifying has been disappointing, but our performance in the races has been good. I think [the race] is going to be faster than last year. Last year, we ran 224s and 225 [mile per hour laps]. I'm expecting 228s and 29s this year. We just need to settle in and run a good pace. If you're running in the lead pack, you won't have a choice but to get in the lead sometimes with these wings. It's great. We've been looking for a pole for a long time. It's just self-gratifying for the team."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola: "[The speeds] just amazed me. When Christian put up his time, I thought, 'whoa.' I thought I'd be in pretty good shape because our setups are pretty identical, but then it [Fittipaldi's lap] held up for quite a while so I didn't know what the conditions were going to be like. The conditions were pretty good. There was a little wind, but not too bad. I had a lap that I thought would hold, but then Paul went out and did a blistering lap. I'm a little disappointed. It would have been nice to get my first pole on an oval in what seems like forever. But we've got a good car for the race. We've just got to think, 'finish, finish, finish,' and we'll be right there."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola: "The car felt good the whole weekend. When we came and tested before [the race in] Detroit, we only ran for a couple of hours because the car was already good. The car was good when we got here, but we had a few little problems in practice yesterday and again this morning. I wasn't worried about the lap, I just wanted to be in the top five. I didn't think the pole would be that quick. Tomorrow it's going to be a long day in the office. You just have to be patient. You could be running at the front in the beginning or in the middle and it doesn't say anything. The last ten laps are when it counts."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

* Paul Tracy's (KOOL Honda Reynard) pole position was the 13th of his career, the past six of which have come on ovals. Included in the run, in addition to Saturday's pole, are poles at Homestead, Nazareth and Milwaukee in 1996 and Nazareth and Milwaukee in '97.

* Tracy's pole was Honda's fifth in the past seven FedEx Championship Series events at Michigan Speedway. Included in the run are poles by Parker Johnstone (1995) and three by Jimmy Vasser (1996 U.S. 500, 1996 Marlboro 500, 1999 U.S. 500).

* By qualifying second, Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) has now improved on his previous season-best qualifying performance in three consecutive events. He was fourth at Cleveland and third at Toronto prior to Saturday. His previous season-best qualifying performance on an oval is sixth at Homestead.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) has qualified among the top 10 drivers for nine of 11 FedEx Championship Series starts this season. Saturday's third-place effort was his second best of the season, exceeded only by second at Nazareth.

* Coyne Racing rookie driver Takuya Kurosawa, airlifted earlier to Foote Hospital in Jackson for precautionary x-rays following an incident in Turn 3 during qualifying, was transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor for further evaluation. Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, said that Kurosawa was moved for additional tests to determine if he incurred any internal bruising. Olvey said Kurosawa is expected to be held overnight at St. Joseph's. Kurosawa, who was briefly unconscious following the incident, will not compete in Sunday's race.

WHAT'S ON TAP

Qualifying for the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota will air 12:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast following at 1:30 p.m. ET. The race will also air live on the Armed Forces Radio Network, reaching 165 countries around the world, on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Takuya Kurosawa
Teams Team Penske