CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio Saturday Track Notes

MILLER LITE 200 - Satruday Track Notes Good Morning from soggy Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Miller Lite 200! Just when the CART community thought things would be drying out, after yesterday's ...

MILLER LITE 200 - Satruday Track Notes

Good Morning from soggy Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Miller Lite 200! Just when the CART community thought things would be drying out, after yesterday's hit-and-miss showers, the local farmers' prayers have been answered, the local weathermen stymied. A steady rain all night has given way to a gray dawn, punctuated with mist and drizzle, with a stiff wind from the north. The track is soaked, the rain tires are on, and it's business as usual in the FedEx Championship Series. CART's on-track activities begin with a 75-minutes warm-up at 9 a.m., followed by the final round of qualifying at 12:45 p.m. DARIO FRANCHITTI sits on the provisional pole with his 124.394 (1:05.347)-second lap.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9 a.m. to start the morning practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 70 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 66 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 9:02 a.m., #71 GARCIA Jr. spins at Turn 14 but continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

At 9:10 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #5 de FERRAN with a lap of 89.863 mph (1:30.458), followed by #44 KANAAN (87.291 mph; 1:33.123) and #12X VASSER (85.012 mph; 1:35.620).

At 9:11 a.m., #25 da MATTA spins off course at Turn 8 and makes light contact with the wall, stalling the car. The left rear suspension is damaged and the CART safety workers move the car to safety while escorting the driver back to the Pit Area. Also, at the same time #40 JONES spins at Turn 14 but continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 9:11 a.m. to allow the CART safety workers to tend to the car of #25 da MATTA.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:18 a.m. to resume the session.

At 9:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 9:10 a.m. report.

RED FLAG waves at 9:21 a.m. after #11 MORENO slides off course at Turn 14 and makes light contact against the tire barrier at Turn 15 with the rear of the car. CART safety workers get the car hooked up and tow it to Pit Road.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:26 a.m. to resume the practice session.

At 9:30 a.m., the fastest driver is still #5 de FERRAN with a lap of 91.017 mph (1:29.311), followed by #4X MONTOYA (89.591; 1:30.732) and #19 JOURDAIN Jr. (87.811 mph; 1:32.572).

At 9:35 a.m., #19 JOURDAIN Jr. slides off course at Turn 3 and stalls the car. The incident is handled with a local Yellow Flag as CART safety workers get the car restarted and JOURDAIN Jr. continues on course.

Also, at 9:35 a.m., the drizzle has stopped and the track starts to slightly dry in the groove.

At 9:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #4X MONTOYA with a lap of 93.039 mph (1:27.370), followed by #18X BLUNDELL (92.195 mph; 1:28.170) and #5 de FERRAN (91.373 mph; 1:28.963). Halfway through the session, only 12 drivers have taken to the track, with the remainder of the field evidently waiting on the expected better weather before practicing their car.

At 9:50 a.m., the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 9:40 a.m. report.

RED FLAG waves at 9:51 a.m. after #19 JOURDAIN Jr. spins at Turn 7 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and JOURDAIN Jr. continues to his Pit Area.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:55 a.m. to resume the practice session.

At 10 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 9:50 a.m. report.

At 10:10 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 10 a.m. report.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:15 a.m. to end the session with the fastest driver still #4X MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 93.039 mph (1:27.370), followed by #18X BLUNDELL (92.195 mph; 1:28.170) and #5 de FERRAN (91.373 mph; 1:28.963). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 13 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #4X MONTOYA, #18X BLUNDELL, #12X VASSER, #17X GUGELMIN, and #15X HATTORI. CART drivers logged a total of 65 laps in the session.

At 12:30 p.m. with the final round of qualifying scarcely five minutes away, the cold north wind has brought the misting drizzle back onto the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course grounds. The track is wet; not as wet as this morning, but wet enough to definitely require rain tires to qualify. Of course, that would require someone wanting to qualify. With little or no chance for any driver to better his time from yesterday's provisional qualifying on the dry course, it makes little sense to waste the limited supply of tires in this afternoon's session on the wet course. It would take a 119 mph-lap for any driver to improve their qualifying time and the fastest wet-track laps this morning were in the 93-mph range. Therefore, race cars are in short supply on Pit Road awaiting the Green Flag. Only the teams of #25 da MATTA and #9 CASTRO-NEVES have cars sitting in the Pit Box. Both of those cars are present for a shake down of repairs made earlier in the Garage Area.

GREEN FLAG waves at 12:45 p.m. to start the Group one qualifying session. No cars take to the track. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 71 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 66 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 12:54 p.m., #9 CASTRO-NEVES pulls on course.

At 1 p.m., halfway through the Group One session, only #71 GARCIA Jr. has logged a qualifying lap. GARCIA Jr. has turned a lap of 82.418 mph (1:38.629).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 1:15 p.m. to end the Group One qualifying session with #21 GARCIA Jr. the fastest and only driver with his lap of 82.418 mph (1:38.629). #18 BLUNDELL and #9 CASTRO-NEVES circled the track less than once on shakedown cruises and then parked their cars. The top nine drivers on the grid are separated by less than one second in lap times. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced four different cars to the track in the final qualifying session, logging a total of 14 laps.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. to start the Group Two qualifying session.

At 1:45 p.m., halfway through the Group Two session, the fastest driver is #4 MONTOYA with a lap of 92.231 mph (1:28.135), followed by the only other car to go on the track from Group Two; #71 GIDLEY (84.175 mph; 1:36.570).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2 p.m. to end the group Two qualifying session with #4 MONTOYA the fastest driver with a lap of 92.231 mph (1:28.135), followed by the only other car to go on the track from Group Two; #71 GIDLEY (84.175 mph; 1:36.570).

DARIO FRANCHITTI wins the 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 has just won his first pole of the 1999 season. This is the seventh pole in FRANCHITTI's career. FRANCHITTI is only the second driver in the history of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to earn consecutive poles. MICHAEL ANDRETTI accomplished the feat in 1990,1991, and 1992. 7 BRYAN HERTA will start second tomorrow with his speed of 123.493 mph (1:05.824). This represents HERTA's season-best start.

PAUL TRACY will start third on the grid with his 123.336 mph (1:05.908)-lap. This is TRACY's seventh top-six start and 12th top ten-start in the last 13 starts.

Honda wins their 10th pole of the season as well as their fourth consecutive pole. This also represents the 12th pole of the 1999 season for Firestone.

Quotes from the top three qualifiers follow:

BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "Obviously, starting toward the front is a big advantage if it's raining or if it's dry. I'm pretty happy with the car. We're starting to get things turned around from earlier in the season, and we're looking forward to a good finish. [Regarding last year's incident of opening-lap contact with polesitter Dario Franchitti] Dario's not a guy I worry about racing with. We'll probably do the same thing all over again but get it right this time."

PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I really feel that we didn't show the full potential of the car yesterday. I locked up in the keyhole on my quick lap and lost a couple of tenths [seconds]. I'm pretty happy with the KOOL car. Both Dario and I felt that we didn't need to go out [in the rain] and risk damaging our primary cars. So I'm very happy, and I hope we can go out tomorrow and have a good strong finish."

In an effort to reward the fans that braved today's inclement weather, CART, in conjunction with its drivers, set up an impromptu autograph session. All the drivers who are competing in Sunday's Miller Lite 200 were available for autographs and photographs at their respective team hospitality transporters following qualifying. The session was scheduled for a half-hour, but was extended to an hour to accommodate the large amount of fans that took advantage of the opportunity. SCOTT PRUETT, President of the Championship Drivers Association said "It was terrific to meet as many fans as we did today. We felt bad about the weather. It's great to get the opportunity to reach out to the people in the paddock like we did, it's great that so many of them came on short notice."

This concludes the Pit Notes for today from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Have a safe and dry evening and we'll see you tomorrow for the running of Round 14 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Miller Lite 200!

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti