CHAMPCAR/CART: Vasser, Moreno Cleveland qualifying

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 2001 -- Round ...

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 2001 -- Round #9 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Mother Nature decided to play a cruel joke on half of the field during qualifying for tomorrow's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar on the temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.

The first or "slow group" qualified in almost ideal conditions, slightly cooler then it has been the last two days and with plenty of rubber on the track providing outstanding grip. As a result the entire group ran times considerably faster than they had in practice. However, just as the second, or "fast group", including both Visteon Patrick Racing drivers, was taking to the track rain began to fall. Teams started the session switching between rain and dry tires as weather conditions changed. Eventually, the storm intensified and became a full-fledged tropical thunderstorm, forcing postponement of the second qualifying session due to lightening. When action resumed all the rubber had been washed from the track making it much slicker and impossible to run times even remotely as fast as those in the first group.

The day began with things looking very good for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. In morning practice both Visteon/Patrick Racing entries made dramatic improvement. Vasser in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard began the day 14th on the combined practice report following Friday's twin practices with a quick time of 59.117 seconds (128.247 mph). In Saturday morning practice he was consistently in the top-six and held down the number one spot for an extended period. He ran his fast lap of 58.064 seconds (130.573 mph) late in the session putting him sixth overall on the speed charts.

In qualifying, Vasser went out with the second or "fast group" based on being tied for ninth in the championship standings. As mentioned before the entire second group struggled as a result of the rain and different track conditions. Vasser got in just a couple of laps at the outset of the session, running on both wet and dry tires. Unfortunately, when he switched to the dry tires in preparation for a fast lap the rain came again this time accompanied by the lightening. Just prior to CART halting the session for lightening Vasser was able to record a lap of 66.323 seconds (114.313). He ran only one lap when qualifying resumed after the postponement, because no one in the group was running faster times after the delay. Vasser will start 24th lining up on the outside of row #12.

"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was very quick this morning and I think we had a shot to qualify in the top-five or even go after the pole," Vasser said. "It is very unfortunate that the rain took away any chance of us qualifying up front. I think we have a good race car, but it is going to be a long and difficult day. Stay tuned."

This is Vasser's lowest starting position of the season and snaps a streak of three consecutive top-10 qualifying efforts. It is also his lowest starting position at Cleveland in nine attempts. In eight previous contests at Cleveland, Vasser has started in the top-10 twice taking the pole both times (1996 and 1998). He has finished in the top-10 four times with a best showing of third in 1995. The 35-year-old native of California is looking for a top finish here in Cleveland as he tries to halt a string of three consecutive showings out of the points. Vasser opened the season with four consecutive top-six placements (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth). He is currently tied for ninth in the championship standings with 40 points.

The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has started 93 CART road/street races placing in the points 55 times with 48 top-10 finishes including 24 top-five showings, 14 podium appearances and four victories. He has finished 90 of his last 110 races placing in the points 85 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).

Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, started the day 27th on the combined practice report after Friday practice with a fast time of 59.599 seconds (127.210 mph). During Saturday morning's session he showed tremendous improvement running a fast lap of 58.356 seconds (129.920 mph). The time vaulted him 12 spots on the speed charts to 15th overall.

In qualifying, Moreno, who had finally earned his way into the second or fast qualifying session based on his performances over the last two weeks, instead found himself once again in the "slow group" as a result of the rain. Using the same tactics as his teammate, Moreno had a fast lap of 66.963 seconds (113.221 mph) during the first part of qualifying, and like everyone else, was unable to improve on that time during the continuation of the session. Moreno will grid 25th and line-up in the last row next to Paul Tracy.

"I think overall that the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a great day today as far as making the car really good for the race," Moreno said. "We really improved the car from yesterday. Unfortunately, for the first time this year, since Mexico, I was going to qualify in the quick session and the quick session happened to be slow because of the rain. So it was unlucky for us and unlucky for half of the field. It is going to be a tough race. The Visteon/Patrick racing team is going to have to come from the back of the field. More than ever I am going to have to rely on strategy and good pit stops to be competitive in the race. Fortunately, I have Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee calling my race and they have proven to be the best in the business. Also, the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew has done an outstanding job in the pits all year, so we should be in pretty good shape."

This is also Moreno's lowest starting position of the season and snaps a streak of two consecutive starts in the top-10. It is his lowest starting position at Cleveland in five attempts. Moreno, who captured his first career CART pole and win last year at Cleveland, has qualified in the top-10 twice at Burke Lakefront Airport and finished in the top-10 twice placing eighth in 1999 along with last year's victory.

The native of Brazil is looking for another strong effort here in Cleveland as he tires to move into the top-10 in the championship race. Moreno is coming off his best finish of the season a second place showing at Portland. It was his second consecutive podium showing (third in Detroit). The two podium finishes have moved Moreno to within four points of tenth place. He is currently 12th in the standings with 36 points. Moreno has finished in the points in five of his last six races and five of the seven races this season (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Portland - second).

The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 in 21 of his last 40 CART starts and in the points 27 times. He has finished in the points in 14 of his last 23 road/street course starts with 11 top-10 placements, seven top five showings and five podiums including the victory in Cleveland.

The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar will be run on Sunday, July 1 at 1:00 PM (ET) and will be televised live on ABC.

-Partick Racing

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy