Cleveland, July 1, 2000 - Walker Racing rookie driver Shinji Nakano performed well today at the Burke Lakefront Airport during qualifying for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar. Nakano, in the ...
Cleveland, July 1, 2000 - Walker Racing rookie driver Shinji Nakano performed well today at the Burke Lakefront Airport during qualifying for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar. Nakano, in the #5 Avex/Honda, posted a fast lap of .58.985 seconds around the 2.106-mile temporary road course, 1.5 seconds behind the time of polesitter Roberto Moreno. The field for this race is so close that the time put Shinji in 21st starting position in the field for Sunday's on the temporary course at the lakeside airport in downtown Cleveland.
Nakano is coming off his best road/street course finish to-date at Portland International Raceway. Last weekend the former Formula 1 veteran finished 11th at the racetrack. He is also the recipient of the "Hard-Charger" award, for moving up the most places in the field at Portland. Shinji also started the Portland race in 21st place, and advanced 10 positions to finish 11th. Nakano is almost halfway through his rookie season in the CART FedEx Championship Series.
Team owner Derrick Walker commented about his driver's progress in the CART series to-date.
"Progress so far has been slower than we had hoped in part due to the Milwaukee accident (a private testing accident that occurred on March 31) which set us back quite a mile. So we've been basically playing catch up from where we left off before Milwaukee. The one thing that has been hurting us is we have to try and catch up at the racetrack. With the CART rules and limited testing, and going to races every week, that has been making our progress slower than we would have liked.
"In addition, this is whole new arena for Shinji - a whole new car to learn, new tires and new racetracks every weekend -- it a huge challenge for him. Unlike a few years ago when testing was readily available, including tire testing, with the new limits, it's twice as difficult now. We've learned to accept that progress is going slower than previous years.
"We made a major change in the car today after we qualified, and during the final warm-up tomorrow morning, Shinji will have another big change to adjust to. This change to the car will really be a change for the Toronto race. Even if the car is good during the race here, we won't be able to benefit from the changes here, we're starting far back in the field, and there are so few yellows at these tracks, that fuel mileage and pit strategy don't really come into play."
Shinji fans will have a chance to vote for him in the "WorldCom Most Popular Driver Award Sweepstakes beginning today. To register, log on to www.cart.com and complete the official entry form on-line. Entry blanks can also be found in Champ Car Magazine, Racer and in all CART race programs from now through Sept. 17. Fans who enter the sweepstakes will have a chance to win a trip for two to Los Angeles to attend the 500 presented by Toyota on Oct. 29 at the California Speedway. The weekend includes round-trip airline tickets, three nights' hotel accommodations, car rental and tickets to the race. The winner will also attend the 2000 FedEx Championship Series award banquet to present a $25,000 check in the name of the winning driver to that driver's charity of choice.
The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar will be broadcast live on ABC, Sunday, July 2 at 1 p.m. (ET).