Tracy uses special
Honda qualifying engine to nip Andretti and Fittipaldi in Michigan
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Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green blazed to a new Michigan Speedway track record Saturday while winning his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1997 for Sunday's Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota (ABC-TV, live, 1:30 p.m. ET).
Tracy's record effort bumped Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) from the pole, but Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader, starts second after a lap of 234.627 mph (30.687 seconds). Andretti will make a season-best start, improving on third at Toronto last week, a position from which he drove to his 40th career triumph.
Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) allowed Newman/Haas and Team KOOL Green to sweep the two front rows by qualifying fourth at 233.176 mph (30.878 seconds). It marks his sixth consecutive top-10 start, dating to an outside pole at Milwaukee. Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske qualified fifth at 232.980 mph (30.904 seconds) for his ninth top-five start in 11 events this season.
Substitute driver Memo Gidley ran the
fastest laps of his career in this morning's practice, but a blown engine
late in the session forced him to qualify in his backup car without the
benefit of Toyota's single-sided-turbo qualifying motor. The Della Penna
team successfully transferred Gidley's chassis setup to the backup car, but
the lower horsepower of the non-optimized race motor permitted a qualifying
speed of only 224.628 miles per hour, good enough for 20th position.
PacWest Racing’s Mark Blundell will lead the Mercedes-Benz runners.
Heclocked a time of 31.789 seconds at an average speed of 226.558mph on the first of his two flying qualifying laps and will start 17th on the grid – the highest placed of the five Mercedes-Benz runners in the field.
Mauricio Gugelmin, driver of the #17 Nextel PacWest Mercedes-Benz, set a time of 31.909 seconds at 225.559mph on his first qualifying lap and will start from 20th on the grid.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"I am very happy with the car. We had some small mechanical problems so I didn't get to run a lot either day but we knew we were happy with the car anyway. We had to keep switching the cars in the practice but we knew we were in good shape. I feel very optimistic about the race. We just need to stay toward the front until the last 20 or so laps and then go for it. It will be a long day tomorrow in the office. I think there will be a lot of passing tomorrow and a lot of dicing through the whole race. If you don't win and finish second, it is still a good result in a 500-mile race. We all just want to get out of here in one piece."
"The car felt good the whole weekend. When we came and tested before [the race in] Detroit, we only ran for a couple of hours because the car was already good. The car was good when we got here, but we had a few little problems in practice yesterday and again this morning. I wasn't worried about the lap, I just wanted to be in the top five. I didn't think the pole would be that quick. Tomorrow it's going to be a long day in the office. You just have to be patient. You could be running at the front in the beginning or in the middle and it doesn't say anything. The last ten laps are when it counts."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, “Before the session the Team KOOL Green engineers and I were debating about how much wing to put in the car due to it being a little warmer this afternoon. I think they did a pretty good job because it was pretty near perfect. It’s a long race, so qualifying isn’t as important as it usually is. But it’s always good to be up near the front. We’ll put the setup back on that we used in practice, which I’m very happy with, and we should be in great shape for the race. “A 500-mile race is very mentally taxing. For three-and-a-half hours you can’t make any mistakes. You can’t be an inch off line, you can’t get your car in the wrong position behind someone and you’re averaging laps of 230 mph – it’s pretty hard work.”
MEMO GIDLEY, "The car is a lot better than it was yesterday- literally a night and day difference," explained Gidley. "It's fast, I can run in traffic, and I can race it. I ran with a lot of people this morning, trying different lines. I think people were a little surprised, they saw the red car and either thought they could pull up and pass me or they were going to pull away. Neither of those things happened, and [my competitors] were a little stunned at that. It was a good moment for the team." In pursuit of a full-time ride for the 2001 season, Gidley is eager to have the benefits of an ongoing relationship with a team. "I'm ready to get into a situation where I am with a team all year long and we can work together during a full schedule of testing." "For example, this Della Penna team is capable of an excellent result," Gidley continued. "Remember, this team has never tested the 2000 car at Michigan Speedway. This weekend we developed a setup in two-and-a-half hours of track time that put us top-ten during this morning's practice. So if we could have rolled off the trailer with that baseline we would be so much farther ahead." “We had a great car this morning, but then we lost the motor,” Gidley said. “The guys did an incredible job trying to get the primary car but out here for me, but we ran out of time and had to go with the backup. The backup was balanced real well, but it just wasn’t freed up enough to get the speed out of it that we were looking for. We certainly had the possibility of being in the top-ten. We’ll just have to pick them off tomorrow in the race.” “I found out about the ride (for this weekend) early in the week, which is pretty good by Gidley standards,” he said. “I brought my own seat into the shop, we made some pedal adjustments, and we’re off.”
TONY KANAAN “It’s very important for this race to have a good race car and I can safely say that we do. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find the speed to qualify further up the grid. But, above all, I’m feeling very comfortable in the car. It’s very neutral, and I’m able to go flat out all the way around the track. The car is very good in traffic. It’s a very long race, so the key will be to be patient and make the right changes as the conditions change during the race. You have to stay on the lead lap, and then go racing the final 50 laps and hope for the best. That’s what I did here last year and it worked out really well. It’s really good to be back, not only from my injury, but back at the track where I won my only (Champ Car) race. I’m feeling very good, physically. The arm is fine and the ribs haven’t been a problem. We just have to get through 500 miles safe and sound.”
MARK BLUNDELL - “I think that is probably the best we could have expected,” said Blundell. “I don’t really think there was much left in it. “I think we have a reasonable car for the race and we seem to run OK in traffic. “Tomorrow is a going to be a long, long day and we just have to ensure we are there at the end.”
MAURICIO GUGELMIN “My car was actually handling pretty well,” said Gugelmin. “It was glued to the ground all the way around the course and the set-up was fine. “We were flat out for the entire lap and I got as much out of my car as possible.”
Oriol Servià, “The car felt good, we had a little push, but the engine felt strong. I thought we would be much faster than we were. I think I have a better racecar than I do a qualifying car, so I am confident for tomorrow. This weekend has been a very good learning experience for me. I have never run a 500-mile race before, and certainly not in a Champ Car, so everything is new to me. I have really been studying, in order to be ready. I have been watching tapes and working with my engineer a lot. I want to make sure I am ready mentally, that is very, very important.”
Cristiano da Matta, “I am a little disappointed, because I thought we would be much faster, and of course I wanted to qualify much higher, especially after this morning’s practice. However, we have a very long race tomorrow, anything can happen in a 500-mile race. I don’t like to qualify 14th, but if it is going to happen, this is the right type of place for it. I think we might have been a little to conservative on the down on the downforce. We will look at the data, and make a few changes. I think we will have a very good race car for tomorrow.”
· Coyne Racing rookie driver Takuya Kurosawa, airlifted earlier to Foote Hospital in Jackson for precautionary x-rays following an incident in Turn 3 during qualifying, was transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor for further evaluation. Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, said that Kurosawa was moved for additional tests to determine if he incurred any internal bruising. Olvey said Kurosawa is expected to be held overnight at St. Joseph's. Kurosawa, who was briefly unconscious following the incident, will not compete in Sunday's race.
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