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Dario Franchitti nips Michael Andretti and Kenny Brack for the provisional Marconi GP of Cleveland pole
by Mark Cipolloni

6/30/00


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Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti and Kenny Brack meet the press following qualifying
(Click on any photo to see enlargement)

CLEVELAND (June 30, 2000) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green continued a recent run of strong FedEx Championship Series qualifying performances Friday when he captured the provisional pole position for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke Lakefront Airport (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV). 

Flying over the bumpy runways of Burke Lakefront Airport, Dario Franchitti earned the provisional pole in preparation for the 100-lap Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. Franchitti powered his #27 KOOL car around the 2.106-mile temporary circuit in 57.961 seconds, averaging 130.805 mph. 

Franchitti edged Michael Andretti by 0.014 seconds, as Andretti posted a time of 57.975 seconds (130.774 mph). Franchitti and Andretti were the only two drivers below the 58-second mark. Kenny Brack was third quickest with a time of 58.049 seconds (130.607 mph). Of the 25 qualifiers on track, 16 drivers were within a second of Franchitti’s time. 


2nd fast qualifier, Michael Andretti,  in his office

Franchitti, runner-up in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series, enters the weekend ranked 10th in this year's championship, with 44 points, 24 behind leader Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing (68). Moreno was seventh fastest on Friday's provisional grid, at 130.293 mph (58.189 seconds).

Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing was second fastest Friday at 130.774 miles per hour (57.975 seconds). He seeks a season-best start, improving on sixth in the season-opener at Homestead. 

Rookie Kenny Brack of Team Rahal qualified third at 130.607 miles per hour (58.049 seconds). Brack (Shell Ford Reynard), who leads the chase for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award, is seeking to match or improve on his season-best qualifying effort of second at Japan. 


Although it was Kenny Brack's first time at Cleveland, he posted the days third best time.

Rounding out the top five drivers were Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), fourth at 130.432 mph (58.127 seconds) and Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), fifth at 130.398 mph (58.142 seconds).

Defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), who won last year's event here from the pole, qualified 10th at 130.132 mph (58.261 seconds).

Paul Tracy was among the first 13 cars in the split session of qualifying, but will move into the faster second group tomorrow. Tracy stood atop the timesheet before the second group went faster, taking advantage of more rubber build-up on track. Tracy’s time was 58.260 seconds (130.134 mph), 0.001 seconds better than Juan Montoya in 10th. Qualifying was tight, as Tracy was just nine-thousandths behind Cristiano da Matta in 8th. 

The top 16 drivers were separated by less than one second on the provisional grid.

It was a day of high hopes for the Project Racing Group and driver Luiz Garcia Jr. 

Unfortunately for the Brazilian and his team, the expected highs did not reach high enough as Garcia had throttle problems and an unexpected spin today during the first day of qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of 
Cleveland. 

Garcia recorded a fast time of 65.036 seconds in qualifying, but could not improve on it due to a spin exiting the final turn of the 2.106-mile temporary road course. Garcia's Hollywood-Embratel-Tang-Reynard/Mercedes-Benz spun into the infield grass and stalled the engine. As a result, CART stopped qualifying to remove Garcia's car and he was penalized the mandatory eight minutes. By the time Garcia's penalty was over, there were only three minutes of the 30-minute session left, and he could not lower his time. 

Garcia was also hindered by what team owner Andreas Leberle described as an "intermittent misfire" in the car. He explained they were not sure whether it was chassis or engine related. The team will have one more chance to improve on the time Saturday, during final qualifying, which begins at 1:45 p.m. 

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING


First session qualifiers Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin stand by the 1st turn braking area checking out the braking points of the 2nd session drivers.

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We're just getting it together. As soon as we got on the track at Japan something clicked. Apart from my mistake at the start of the Nazareth it's been pretty good lately. We're still learning the car and I'm still learning to work with my engineers, but they made some good changes to the car after the morning session and we're right there. It takes a while to get used to how a new engineer works with the car and the fact that I had the accident at Homestead and (engineer) Steve (Challis) had a stroke, it makes it really hard. It felt at one point that people were chucking obstacles at us, but we're getting better."

“It wasn’t a perfect lap, but it was better than the other guys managed. The track is so bumpy that half the time you get a good lap by missing some of the bumps. The bumps are consistently bad. So, we’re working on the car. The car isn’t what we need yet, but it’s obviously not too bad. We’ll keep working, trying to improve the KOOL car because the rest of the guys will be trying to catch up. I’m sure that tomorrow will be a lot faster. When the rubber gets down, the track just gets faster and faster. I think the fastest lap tomorrow will be the last lap.” 

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola: "It's been pretty good. This morning we were second quick and we didn't put on new tires and it felt pretty good. We got in a pretty good lap this afternoon, but then Dario went out and got us by a hundredth of a second, but it's pretty good. We're still working on it, the same as everybody else right now. The conditions are a little slippery but it's the same for everybody, plus the pressure's on and we're all going for it."  "This morning we were the quickest so we were pretty confident about qualifying. We put new tires on at the beginning of qualifying and I had a hard time getting a clean lap. The car was okay but not good. In the middle of the session we just worked on the setup and them put new tires on at the end. We made two big changes and the car was much better. Doggoned Dario had to get by us by about one-hundredth of a second. We've been right there in terms of competitiveness but haven't been able to pull better finishes off. A lot of people can say that. Nobody has grabbed this Championship and 
ran with it. If we keep doing our job and the breaks go our way, we should be able to stay in there for the Championship. This is a unique racetrack. This series is about the versatility of tracks. The Midwest is the heart of auto racing. The fans are great here. You can see the whole track from the grandstands which makes it even more unique as a road course.   (On whether the series should cut the engine horsepower to make the racing closer:) "It might make racing better. It's hard to alter the downforce with the level of horsepower we have now. The Handford Mk II made the car feel better to drive but it made a big wake behind you, which made it hard to pass. If you were able to reduce both, it might make racing closer. If the cars are also slower, and something goes wrong, you won't hit something as hard." 


Mario Andretti, back from LeMans, follows the progress of his son Michael.

KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard : "It's been an interesting day. It's my first time at this track and it's a very nice track. I think we've done a good job today. The Shell/Ford Team Rahal team did a good job today. I'm still learning the course and there's a few bumps out there if you're looking but I think we're doing better and better. It's one of the most bumpy circuits I've ever been on, but the layout is very nice. A lot of tracks have a lot of hairpins and chicanes an stuff like that, so it's nice to have a track like this that's wide and has some slow corners and some fast corners."  "This place is bumpier than the front straight at Indy," said Brack. "It is a flat track and an enjoyable course to drive. The curves are very fast and that is a nice change from the tight curves and sharp chicanes that so many of the newer tracks have. I spent some time with Bobby [Rahal] this morning driving around the track and I picked his brains for tips and tricks. It obviously paid off." 

PAUL TRACY, #26 TEAM KOOL GREEN  “The car is a lot better this weekend than it was last week in Portland. And this is a track I’ve always done fairly well at. The KOOL car wasn’t that good early in this morning’s practice. But we’ve been able to make steady improvements with the car every time we go out. We should be able to qualify well here this weekend. The difference is we’ve been able to get the rear of the car stable. That has been our problem. We can get rid of understeer, but at the sacrifice of getting big oversteer. We haven’t been able to get the two ends (front and rear) closer together in terms of balance. We’re a lot closer to it now.” 

Max Papis - "We didn't have good balance today with the car," said Papis. "We had over steer and the rear was just too loose. With the bumpy track the rear end wants to hop around a lot. I know the track was getting better as the day went on so being in the first qualifying session hurt us. I think we can get the car settled down and have a competitive car on Saturday." 

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI,  "We definitely went backward from being second fastest this morning. I can't put the power down. The car slides all over the place. We have no grip. We either went the wrong way on the setup or something is wrong with the car. The Big Kmart/Route 66 car will be back out tomorrow and hopefully we will have learned something overnight. The worst part is that we will be in the slow group for qualifying. The track gets better as the rubber gets laid down and the second group always goes quicker. Now we are in the first group, which is not the ideal situation. We will have our work cut out for us but I am confident we will figure it out." 

PATRICK CARPENTIER -32- Player's Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 19th - "The car just dives down when I hit the bumps and creates a huge push. I tried pushing it really hard and had a decent lap going but I went off. I'm giving everything I have, but we're not even close. The car is very bad over bumps, and it's not going where we want it. We also changed the suspension today with a totally different geometry and it's not working very well, so tomorrow we're going to switch it back and hope we do better." 

ALEX TAGLIANI -33- Player's Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 20th - "It seems that we are suffering a lack of grip. I don't have a lot of experience in these cars, but I'm driving hard, and it seems like Patrick (Carpentier) is also suffering from the same problem. We're suffering from a lack of grip in the corner. We cannot drive very aggressively in the car because we reach the limit of the car very quickly, and it makes our life very, very difficult. We are struggling with this setup, and I think we need to change it for road courses. We seem to have a very fast car on the ovals, but on road courses we are really fighting the car and are unable to get any grip."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 6th - "We were fourth-fastest this morning and sixth-fastest this afternoon, so we just need to work more over the bumps, but I'm sure that everybody else is struggling over them as well. We just need to get a better feel over them." WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOUR SPIN LATE IN QUALIFYING?: "I was just trying to go to the next level. I knew my lap time and knew that I needed to improve in that part of the track, and the car got loose and I kept my foot down and unfortunately the car just overrotated on me."

ROBERTO MORENO -20- Visteon Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 7th - "We changed setups from this morning to this afternoon so we still had to fine-tune the car. We were able to do that between the first set of tires and the second set during qualifying. We started on the second set of tires with the pressures too low and they wouldn't come up. I lost the best edge off the tire, but the pressures eventually came up and I was able to squeeze a lap at the end. I had to work extra hard to try and get that lap out of the older tires. We know what we need to do for tomorrow to go to the next level and I think we are going to be okay."

TARSO MARQUES -34- Panasonic Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 22nd - "Unfortunately we lost all of this morning's session, so we didn't do too much to improve the car. The car worked much better during the qualifying session, but still we have a lot to do for tomorrow."  HOW ARE THE TRACK CONDITIONS? "The track is very bumpy, and that's very bad for us. The car is not good over the bumps right now, so it makes it even more difficult for us."

Norberto Fontana: “I think it was a good first day. When we put new tires on the car late in the qualifying session, we also made a change that wasn’t right. I went off-course a couple of times struggling with the set-up. We’ ll go back on that change for the morning and go from there.” 

Luiz Garcia Jr.  "We're having the same problems we had in Portland during the race. The throttle's not responding like it should. The track and conditions are good, but we'll have to improve a lot tomorrow." "The tires were a bit cold and I was pushing hard. When that happens sometimes you slide and I happened to fishtail on that one. I tried to correct it, but I didn't have throttle response. It hurt as we lost time because of the penalty, and I'm not sure how many laps completed. The spin wasn't a big deal as there was no damage to the car." 


CART President and CEO, Bobby Rahal, checks out the first turn action at Cleveland

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

· Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green will be seeking the ninth pole position of his career and his first since last year at Australia when final qualifying begins Saturday. His best career start at Cleveland is second in 1998.

· Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing won the 1989 pole position at Cleveland and has started among the top three drivers six times in 14 career starts at Burke Lakefront Airport, including third last year.


Juan Montoya was not too happy after qualifying down in an uncustomary 10th position.

· Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has started seventh or better in seven of eight FedEx Championship Series events to date in 2000. Included are road or street-course starts of seventh at Long Beach and Detroit and fifth at Portland.

· Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, who qualified a provisional fifth, earned his first FedEx Championship Series career pole position at Cleveland in 1995. He also owns a victory in 1996 and runner-up finishes in 1997 and last year.

WHAT'S ON TAP

Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.



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TOP QUALIFIERS

Pos Driver Car#       Lap Speed Speed B. Leader B. Next
Engine Chassis Tires Time Mph Kph    
1 Dario Franchitti 27   Honda Reynard Firestone 0:57.961 130.805 210.596 0.000 0.000
2 Michael Andretti 6   Ford Lola Firestone 0:57.975 130.774 210.546 0.014 0.014
3 Kenny Brack 8   Ford Reynard Firestone 0:58.049 130.607 210.277 0.088 0.074
4 Helio Castroneves 3   Honda Reynard Firestone 0:58.127 130.432 209.996 0.166 0.078
5 Gil de Ferran 2 X Honda Reynard Firestone 0:58.142 130.398 209.941 0.181 0.015
6 Adrian Fernandez 40   Ford Reynard Firestone 0:58.180 130.313 209.804 0.219 0.038
7 Roberto Moreno 20   Ford Reynard Firestone 0:58.189 130.293 209.772 0.228 0.009
8 Cristiano da Matta 97   Toyota Reynard Firestone 0:58.251 130.154 209.548 0.290 0.062
9 Paul Tracy 26   Honda Reynard Firestone 0:58.260 130.134 209.516 0.299 0.009
10 Juan Montoya 1   Toyota Lola Firestone 0:58.261 130.132 209.513 0.300 0.001
11 Mauricio Gugelmin 17 X Mercedes Reynard Firestone 0:58.273 130.105 209.469 0.312 0.012
12 Jimmy Vasser 12 X Toyota Lola Firestone 0:58.389 129.846 209.052 0.428 0.116
13 Bryan Herta 55 X Honda Swift Firestone 0:58.398 129.826 209.020 0.437 0.009
14 Christian Fittipaldi 11 X Ford Lola Firestone 0:58.576 129.432 208.386 0.615 0.178
15 Max Papis 7   Ford Reynard Firestone 0:58.726 129.101 207.853 0.765 0.150
16 Oriol Servia 96   Toyota Reynard Firestone 0:58.860 128.807 207.379 0.899 0.134
17 Mark Blundell 18   Mercedes Reynard Firestone 0:59.143 128.191 206.388 1.182 0.283
18 Norberto Fontana 10   Toyota Reynard Firestone 0:59.265 127.927 205.962 1.304 0.122
19 Patrick Carpentier 32   Ford Reynard Firestone 0:59.296 127.860 205.855 1.335 0.031
20 Alexandre Tagliani 33   Ford Reynard Firestone 0:59.314 127.821 205.792 1.353 0.018
21 Shinji Nakano 5   Honda Reynard Firestone 0:59.822 126.736 204.045 1.861 0.508
22 Tarso Marques 34   Ford Swift Firestone 0:59.924 126.520 203.697 1.963 0.102
23 Michel Jourdain Jr. 16 X Mercedes Lola Firestone 1:00.073 126.206 203.192 2.112 0.149
24 Takuya Kurosawa 19 X Ford Lola Firestone 1:01.639 123.000 198.030 3.678 1.566
25 Luiz Garcia Jr. 25   Mercedes Reynard Firestone 1:05.036 116.575 187.686 7.075 3.397

 

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