CHAMPCAR/CART: Nazareth Friday Practice Story

Castro-Neves Tops Friday Practice Nazareth, PA (April 24, 1998) -- Rookie Helio Castro-Neves was the unexpected pacesetter Friday during the opening day of practice for Sunday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at ...

Castro-Neves Tops Friday Practice

Nazareth, PA (April 24, 1998) -- Rookie Helio Castro-Neves was the unexpected pacesetter Friday during the opening day of practice for Sunday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway.

Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes) averaged 180.305 miles per hour (18.888 seconds) on his quickest lap of the .946-mile oval in a field which boasts former PPG Cup champions Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) and Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), as well as former race champions Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda), Rahal and Andretti.

Pole qualifying is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. ET, with the winner earning the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award and the opportunity for a record rollover bonus of $165,000 in Marlboro funds with a victory in Sunday's fourth round of the FedEx Championship Series (12:30 p.m.. ET, live, ESPN).

"It's the first time I've been here in a Champ Car, but [chief engineer] Tom Brown knows this track very well," said Castro-Neves, fourth at Nazareth last year en route to runnerup honors in the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship. "Today, the car feels pretty good. We were just going to worry about the race [setup] in the beginning [of the session], and try to concentrate more on qualifying toward the end. We did very well for today and we'll try to do as well for tomorrow."

Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) was second at 179.601 mph (18.962 seconds). He won the pole at Homestead and qualified fifth at Japan in his previous oval starts this season.

"We haven't tested at all on ovals, other than two days at Homestead," he said. "We've been doing our testing on the road and street courses. It's the first day we've run the '98 Reynard in the short oval configuration, so we're pretty happy. Traffic is going to play a big role, so it's important to qualify well."

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) was third at 179.167 mph (19.008 seconds). The time came in the morning practice while Moore and Castro-Neves recorded their best in the afternoon.

"We spent the afternoon [session] working on the race setup," he said. "I generally think we have a good setup, and a good shot at [the pole] tomorrow and I think an even bigger one on Sunday. If you go loose here, you'll be nowhere in the race, and traffic will be a big issue here, as well."

Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) was fourth at 178.519 mph (19.077 seconds), Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) fifth at 178.491 mph (19.080 seconds).

Qualifying for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota will air 2 am. ET Sunday on ESPN2.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Christian Fittipaldi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Greg Moore , Tom Brown