CART continues to take steps to make racing safer for its fans and competitors. by Robin Miller WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- After using tethers on the front wheels of its cars last weekend at Gateway, CART technical chief, Kirk Russell,...
CART continues to take steps to make racing safer for its fans and competitors. by Robin Miller
WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- After using tethers on the front wheels of its cars last weekend at Gateway, CART technical chief, Kirk Russell, announced that beginning at the U.S. 500 at Michigan on July 25, all four wheels would be using energy-absorbing devices.
The first test was passed in the Motorola 300, when Robby Gordon's front wheels remained with the car after he pounded the wall early in the race. It was in that race a crewman from Gil de Ferran's team was run over during a pit stop, escaping serious injury because he was wearing a helmet. So, beginning at Cleveland on June 25, it will be mandatory for all crew members to wear helmets when over the wall on a pit stop.
Many teams had already decided to use them today. "The recent accidents at Indy and Gateway made us take the 'better safe than sorry' approach," said John Tzouanakis, assistant team manager of Newman/Haas Racing. "I did pit stops for 17 years, and I've seen my share of accidents, and there's lots of activity these days in our pits.
"We want to do everything possible to insure our guys are as safe as possible." Paul Tracy had suggested the crew stay behind the wall until the car stopped in the pit box, like in the old days of Champ Car racing. That wasn't done, but CART did cut the maximum pit-lane speed from 60 to 50 mph -- starting today in the Miller Lite 225 here at State Fair Park, and for the rest of 1999.
It was also announced that cars in the PPG/Dayton Indy Lights and KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series will be required to tether all four wheels in their next oval-track events.
The have-nots continued to show their stuff during Saturday's qualifying. Helio Castro-Neves put a Lola on the pole for a Champ Car race, rookie Cristiano da Matta stuck the Toyota-engined Reynard in the seventh slot on the grid and Alex Barron qualified Dan Gurney's Eagle in the 10th spot. It was Lola's first pole since 1995, when the late Scott Brayton started on the left at Indianapolis.
"We knew it was a good car the first test and it keeps getting better," said Castro-Neves, after winning his initial pole position in CART competition. Da Matta, who started sixth in the season opener at Homestead, Fla., did another nice job for the Arciero/Wells stable.
Barron had owner Gurney beaming. "We didn't quite get the time we wanted but I think we'll be real good for the race," said Barron, who out-qualified fellow Goodyear runners Gil de Ferran and Al Unser Jr. Confusion in the Back
One driver who continues to scratch his head is Bryan Herta. He qualified 25th of the 26 cars Saturday in the Shell Reynard/Ford/Firestone, and looked seriously depressed afterwards.
"Our team is a bit confused," understated Herta, whose only good run of 1999 came at Long Beach, where he started and finished third. "We need to find some consistency, obviously. We've got a lot of work to do."