CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio Friday Track Notes

MILLER LITE 200 - PIT NOTES · Good Morning from the rolling farmland of Central Ohio for the first day of practice and qualifying for Sunday's Miller Lite 200! Today's weather has opened the weekend with partly cloudy skies over the ...

MILLER LITE 200 - PIT NOTES

· Good Morning from the rolling farmland of Central Ohio for the first day of practice and qualifying for Sunday's Miller Lite 200! Today's weather has opened the weekend with partly cloudy skies over the 2.258-mile, 16-turn permanent road course. Last night produced a deluge of badly-needed rain in these parts, leaving the track still damp but drying this morning. Temperatures are predicted to reach the mid-80's, with partly cloudy skies and a small chance of rain for the rest of the weekend.

The drivers will be chasing the existing track qualifying record held by DARIO FRANCHITTI of 123.766 mph (1:05.679) set in 1998.

· A stroll through the camping areas that are a significant part of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course reveals that Champ Car fans from locations near and far are on the premises for this weekend's Miller Lite 200, Round 14 of CART's FedEx Championship Series. A check of license plates on the vehicles situated in the campgrounds Thursday afternoon found a majority of Ohio tags. But other states represented included Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Oregon, Georgia, California, Nevada and even Alaska. Campers from Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec also were present. All campers were seen Thursday afternoon, prior to the official start of the weekend. "We have 1,500 camping spaces and we expect they will all be filled by Saturday night," said Michelle Trueman, president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, who added that sales of her weekend spectator tickets are up when compared to a year ago. "It's difficult to say how many people are actually camping on each site but we believe camping represents roughly 10 percent of the crowd we get this weekend.

"The motorhomes began lining up last weekend, and we let the first one onto the grounds first thing Thursday morning. We see a pretty diverse group in the camping areas - lots of families camping, as well as couples and groups of young people. It's really a great bunch of people who love Champ Car racing" said Ms. Trueman. CART estimates that the camping crowd at Mid-Ohio is the largest on its 20-race schedule.

· This weekend's official CART entry list again features quite a few changes. Veteran pilot ROBERTO MORENO will again drive in the FedEx Championship Series in place of the recuperating CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI in the Newman-Haas-owned, Big Kmart/Texaco-sponsored Ford Swift. FITTIPALDI was injured two weeks ago in a testing incident at St. Louis and will be sidelined for this weekend's race. MORENO is coming off his best qualifying performance of the 1999 season with a fifth place on the grid at Detroit. The Players Forsythe Racing Honda Reynard, normally piloted by Canadian PATRICK CARPENTIER will not be present this weekend. CARPENTIER sustained a minimal compression fracture of the third thoracic vertebrae in an incident with MAURICIO GUGLEMIN during last week's Grand Prix of Detroit and is taking the week off for convalescence, returning to the cockpit for next week's Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell at Chicago Motor Speedway. Also, injured at Detroit was ADRIAN FERNANDEZ in a practice incident, sustaining a fractured wrist. Veteran P.J. JONES will start the Patrick Racing Tecate-sponsored Reynard Ford in FERNANDEZ's place. Hogan Racing will enter a second car this weekend in addition to the #9 machine of HELIO CASTRO-NEVES: Rookie LUIZ GARCIA Jr. will pilot the #21 Mercedes Lola this weekend. MEMO GIDLEY will again drive the #71 Payton-Coyne-owned Herdez-sponsored Ford Lola that he drove for the first time last week at Detroit. Finally, Marlboro Team Penske will campaign one car this weekend; #2 AL UNSER Jr., leaving the #3 car at home.

· This week's boxlunch stats (so-named as they are better read with the meat-to-be named-later sandwiches) features ROBBIE GORDON in the Panasonic Johns Manville-sponsored Toyota Swift logging his 100th start in his eight-year CART career in this weekend's Miller Lite 200. PacWest Hollywood-sponsored MAURICIO GUGLEMIN needs $49,020 to achieve $4 million dollars in prize money from CART competition. Canadian PAUL TRACY needs $61,500 to reach the $500,000 in winnings from the 1999 season. Team Kool Green teammate DARIO FRANCHITTI only needs 41 laps to reach 5000 career completed laps in CART competition. All-American Racing pilot GUALTER SALLES scored his first points of the 1999 season with a good run last week at Detroit.

· Last week's Grand Prix of Detroit produced quite a contact-filled event with no less than seven cars waylaid by incidents, tying the 1999 record with last month's Molson Indy at Toronto. A full 32% of the race was run under the Yellow Flag with two cars damaged beyond repair during caution laps! Even with the bizarre Detroit race in the books, the 13 races of the FedEx Championship series have averaged 21% of the total laps run under the Yellow Flag equaling the 1998 full-season average of 21%.

· GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 80 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 75 degrees at the start of the session.

· At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #22 GORDON with a lap of 114.747 mph (1:10.841), followed by #17 GUGLEMIN (108.716 mph; 1:11.771) and #2 UNSER Jr. (108.500 mph; 1:14.920).

· BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:49 a.m. to #21 GARCIA Jr. for a Pit Road speed violation at Pit In. GARCIA Jr. subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

· At 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #18 BLUNDELL with a lap of 117.062 mph (1:09.440), followed by #10 HEARN (116.744 mph; 1:09.629) and #2 UNSER Jr. (116.249 mph; 1:09.926).

· At 11 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 120.298 mph (1:07.572), followed by #71 GIDLEY (119.093 mph; 1:08.256) and #18 BLUNDELL (118.953 mph; 1:08.336).

· At 11:02 a.m., #19 JOURDAIN Jr. spins at Turn 8 but continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

· At 11:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #6 ANDRETTI with his earlier lap of 120.298 mph (1:07.572), but now followed by #18 BLUNDELL (119.638 mph; 1:07.945) and #25 da MATTA (119.436 mph; 1:08.060).

· At 11:19 a.m., CART course observers report possible smoke trailing from the rear of the car of #4 MONOTYA while at speed on the track. MONTOYA subsequently pits the car.

· At 11:20 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #44 KANAAN with a lap of 120.457 mph (1:07.483), followed by #18 BLUNDELL (120.421 mph; 1:07.503) and #9 CASTRO-NEVES (120.307 mph; 1:07.567).

· At 11:27 a.m., #11 MORENO spins at Turn 15 but rights the car and continues to his Pit Box without apparent damage to the car.

· At 11:30 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is still #44 KANAAN with his earlier lap or 120.457 mph (1:07.483), followed by #18 BLUNDELL with a faster lap of 120.421 mph (1:07.503) and #27 FRANCHITTI (120.316 mph; 1:07.562).

· At 11:31 a.m., #4 MONTOYA pits after CART course observers report smoke and spray at the rear of the car while at speed.

· RED FLAG waves at 11:33 a.m. after #71 GIDLEY swaps ends and spins into the gravel pit at Turn 11, making contact with the tire barrier at the back of the trap. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains light damage to the right front wing. CART safety workers quickly hook the car up, remove it from the trap, and get the car refired. GIDLEY continues for several turns before stalling on track. CART safety workers then tow the car back to the Pit Area.

· At 11:40 a.m., 70 minutes into the session and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is again #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 120.677 mph (1:07.360), followed by #44 KANNAN (120.457 mph; 1:07.483) and #18 BLUNDELL (120.421 mph; 1:07.503).

· GREEN FLAG waves at 11:41 a.m. to resume the practice session.

· At 11:43 a.m., #10 HEARN spins at Turn 3 but continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

· At 11:46 a.m., #19 JOURDAIN Jr. spins at Turn 5 but continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

· At 11:50 a.m., 80 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 121.372 mph (1:06.974), followed by #9 CASTRO-NEVES (121.219 mph; 1:07.059) and #7 PAPIS (120.926 mph; 1:07.221).

· At 11:53 a.m., #18 BLUNDELL pulls off course at Turn 3 showing fluid at the bottom of the car. The PacWest pit crew reports an engine problem to CART Pit Road workers. The incident is handled with local Yellow and Surface flags.

· At 11:55 a.m., #9 CASTRO-NEVES clocks the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 122.422 mph (1:06.400). On the next lap, CASTRO-NEVES pulls off course at Turn 9 and stalls the car. The Bettenhausen crew reports that the car has run out of fuel.

· CHECKERED FLAG waves at 12 p.m. to end the session with the fastest driver still #9 CASTRO-NEVES with his earlier lap of 122.422 mph (1:06.400), followed by #8 HERTA (121.796 mph; 1:06.741) and #27 FRANCHITTI (121.372 mph; 1:06.974). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced a total of 33 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by ##10X HEARN, #4X MONTOYA, #12X VASSER, #11X MORENO, #99X MOORE, #20X MAGNUSSEN, and #25X da MATTA. CART drivers logged a total of 443 laps in this morning's session.

· As the time for the Group One qualifying session approaches, ominous rain clouds have built up in the south. The Pit crews are busy loading rain tires into the Pit Stalls just in case. But here, five minutes before the Green Flag, the track is dry and all of the Group One qualifiers are on slick (dry) tires.

· GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session. Just as the Green Flag flies, a light drizzle begins in Turns 1, 2, and 3. Moisture flags greet the drivers as they pick up speed on the first lap.

· At 2:33 p.m., #18 MORENO stalls at the exit of Pit Road with smoke trailing from the rear of the car.

· RED FLAG waves at 2:35 p.m. to allow CART safety workers to retrieve the stalled car of MORENO. The car is pulled back to safety, but MORENO earns the standard eight-minute penalty for delaying the qualifying session.

· At 2:35 p.m., five minutes into the Group One session and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 121.251 mph (1:07.041), followed by #26 TRACY (119.913 mph; 1:07.789) and #99 MOORE (119.390 mph; 1:08.086).

· GREEN FLAG waves at 2:37 p.m. to resume the group One qualifying session. The skies have now brightened and there appears to be no more drizzle around the track.

· At 2:39 p.m., #12 VASSER slides off course into the gravel trap at Turn 7. The incident is handled with a local Yellow flag to allow CART safety workers to retrieve the stalled car of VASSER. The CART safety workers get the car restarted and VASSER continues to his Pit Area with no apparent damage to the car.

· RED FLAG waves at 2:40 p.m. after #99 MOORE slides across the gravel trap at Turn 11 and makes contact with the tire barrier at the back of the trap. MOORE is uninjured in the incident but the car seems to have sustained light damage. CART safety workers retrieve the car and tow it back to the Pit Area. MOORE also earns an eight-minute penalty for delaying the qualifying session.

· At 2:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session and under the Red Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 2:35 p.m.

· GREEN FLAG waves at 2:49 p.m. to resume the Group One session.

· At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group One qualifying session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 2:40 p.m.

· At 2:52 p.m., #26 TRACY clocks the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 121.463 mph (1:06.924) on his third lap of the session.

· At 2:53 p.m., #44 KANNAN moves to the top of the speed board with a lap of 122.065 mph (1:06.594).

· At 2:54 p.m., the penalty given to #11 MORENO expires and the #11X car heads onto the track. Since he has entered the secondary car into the session, MORENO will forfeit all times earned in the #11 car.

· At 2:54 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 122.736 mph (1:06.230) on his fifth lap.

· Again, at 2:54 p.m., #5 de FERRAN ups the speed and takes the top with a speed of 122.916 mph (1:06.133) on his sixth lap.

· At 2:55 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI drives back to the top with a lap of 124.394 mph (1:05.347) on his sixth lap. This represents a new track record.

· At 2:57 p.m., the penalty period for #99 MOORE expires but the team elects not to re-enter the session.

· CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to end the Group One provisional qualifying with #27 FRANCHITTI still the fastest with his track record lap of 124.394 mph (1:05.347), followed by #8 HERTA (123.493 mph; 1:05.824) and #26 TRACY (123.336 mph; 1:05.908). #7 PAPIS stalls on course out of fuel at Turn 14 and CART safety workers tow the car back to Pit Road.

· GREEN FLAG waves at 3:15 p.m. to start the Group Two qualifying session.

· RED FLAG waves at 3:20 p.m. after #21 GARCIA Jr. spins into the gravel trap at Turn 11 and stalls the car. Simultaneously, #40 JONES slides into the gravel trap at Turn 6 and also stalls the car. CART safety workers quickly get both cars free of the traps and tow the cars to their respective Pit Area. Both drivers receive the standard eight minute penalty for delaying the qualifying session.

· At 3:20 p.m., five minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is #22 GORDON with a lap of 122.205 mph (1:06.518; 10th-fastest overall), followed by #9 CASTRO-NEVES (121.549 mph; 1:06.877; 12th-fastest overall) and #18 BLUNDELL (121.275 mph; 1:07.028; 15th-fastest overall.)

· GREEN FLAG waves at 3:27 p.m. to resume the provisional Group Two qualifying session.

· At 3:30 p.m., 15 minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3:15 p.m. report.

· At 3:35 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest Group two driver is still #18 BLUNDELL with a lap of 123.074 mph (1:06.048; fifth-fastest overall), followed by #9 CASTRO-NEVES (122.909 mph; 1:06.137; eighth-fastest overall) and #22 GORDON (122.205 mph; 1:06.518; 12th-fastest overall).

· At 3:36 p.m., the penalties assessed to both #40 JONES and #21 GARCIA Jr. expire. GARCIA Jr. and JONES both immediately pull back on track in the Group Two session.

· At 3:40 p.m., 25 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest group Two driver is still BLUNDELL with a lap of 123.074 mph (1:06.048; fifth-fastest overall), followed by #9 CASTRO-NEVES (122.909 mph; 1:06.137; eighth-fastest overall) and #22 GORDON with a faster 122.510 mph; 1:06.532; 11th-fastest overall).

· CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3:45 p.m. to end the Group Two provisional qualifying session with the fastest Group Two driver #18 BLUNDELL with a lap of 123.386 mph (1:05.386; third-fastest overall), followed by #9 CASTRO-NEVES (122.909 mph; 1:06.137; eighth-fastest overall), and #22 GORDON (122.510 mph; 1:06.532; 11th-fastest overall).

· DARIO FRANCHITTI sits on the provisional pole for Sunday's Miller Lite 200 with his track record lap of 124.394 mph (1:05.347). FRANCHITTI is the defending polesitter for the race but is chasing his first pole of the 1999 season. FRANCHITTI has previously started second at Long Beach, Rio de Janeiro, and Toronto.

· BRYAN HERTA sits second on the Provisional grid, looking for a season-best start. His current best is a third at Long Beach.

· Quotes from today's top two qualifiers follow:

· DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We've spent four days testing here over the last couple of months, and the track didn't feel as good today. To do a 5.3 (1:05.3) was a bit of a surprise. I looked at the dashboard and saw '5.3' and I thought, 'Where the hell did that come from?' I think the times tomorrow are definitely going to be better. At certain points the car felt as good as it did during the test, at others, it felt a little worse. The car feels great on the straightaways to be honest. It's very quick."

· BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "Patches of the track were slippery, then it would dry out. It [the track] was a little slippery early in the session, and everybody was trying to bang one in [turn a fast lap] in case it rained. When the sun came out, that made it better. It's always good to see you guys [the media, in the post-qualifying press conference] at the end of the day. It's good to have a good weekend going for a change."

· Vice President of Competition J. Kirk Russell has announced that the car of PacWest Racing driver MARK BLUNDELL has failed the minimum clearance requirement of two inches and therefore has been disqualified from the provisional qualifying session. All lap times are disallowed and BLUNDELL now sits 26th on the provisional grid with no laps and no time. BLUNDELL will have the opportunity to qualify his car in tomorrow's final round of qualifying for Sunday's Miller Lite 200.

· The "Ladder System" is again well-represented in today's provisional qualifying. Four of the top five qualifiers are graduates of CART's two develoment series, Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantics. BRYAN HERTA came to CART with the 1995 Indy Lights crown, PAUL TRACY the 1991 Lights champ, and TONY KANAAN won the 1997 Lights Championship. JIMMY VASSER was an Atlantic graduate.

· This concludes the Pit Notes for today from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Well see you tomorrow for the final round of qualifying. Have a great night!

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske