FONTANA, Calif. (November 1, 2002) - Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Player's/Forsythe Racing paced today's practice for Sunday's CART FedEx Championship Series The 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway. Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal finished second, followed by Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Mo Nunn Racing.
With a fast time of 31.252 seconds at a blistering 233.726 mph, Tagliani remained atop the speed chart after two hours and 45 minutes of combined practice. It was no surprise for the Canadian, who earned the pole position here a year ago with a time of 31.935 seconds at 228.727 mph.
With temperatures hovering around the mid-60s on an overcast California afternoon, the Ford-powered machine of Jimmy Vasser recorded the day's second fastest lap at 31.351 seconds at 232.988 mph to give the blue-oval marque the top-two positions heading into tomorrow's third and final practice session before qualifying. No stranger to the high speeds of the California superspeedway, Vasser is the author of three top-five finishes here, highlighted by a victory in The 500 in 1998. In addition, he qualified on the outside pole in 1997 and '98.
Tony Kanaan's fast time of 31.364 seconds at 232.891 mph from the morning session proved fast enough to hold on to the third fastest spot. Kanaan will look to improve tomorrow at a track where his career-best starting spot is 11th (1999).
CART FedEx Championship Series action from California Speedway kicks off tomorrow with practice from 11:30 -12:30 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying for The 500 Presented by Toyota (SPEED Channel, Live 2:30 p.m. ET).
THE 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA FRIDAY QUOTEBOARD
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think we're getting very different readings than what Paul discovered in his test at Michigan International Speedway, in fact I think Paul, Michael and I all noticed it. We worked on race stuff all day and the Honda engine feels very strong. The car wasn't that great this morning, although we ended up second at the end of the session. We worked on things and made it more like a race car and we're pretty happy with it right now. I think Team KOOL Green should do alright out there."
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "There was a tow involved in my lap for sure. We were working with the downforce throughout the session and we were pretty trimmed out there. I was fast in practice at Rockingham and we qualified ninth so we tried a lot of things with the downforce to try and free the car up for qualifying. I think the times are representative of how we'll do in the race."
PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "We had a pretty big struggle today handling wise and we had some things happening on the car that we didn't at our test. (Paul tested at Michigan International Speedway in September.) The car was pretty unstable early on and I wasn't able to drive it very well. We made some changes to the KOOL car right at the very end of the afternoon session and I was able to move from the back to the top seven. If we can improve the car tomorrow we should be right up there."
KENNY BRACK (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It's pretty slippery out there, but it's the same for everybody. You just have to adjust for it. They put a sealer on the track and I think that caused some of the marbles on the track. All in all, it was a good day for us. Hopefully, we can find some more time in the car tomorrow and move up a few places."
TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): ""It's obviously a long race, I'm not too worried about qualifying or anything like that, we're just working on having a good race car. The car has a little too much understeer in traffic but there are ways to work that out and that's what we'll be working on."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I just over-revved the engine out there. I thought I was in sixth gear but I was in fifth, so when I downshifted it just over-revved. Even a Honda can't take as many revs as I gave it. The car feels pretty good. Team Motorola worked on its race set up most of the day and our Honda engine was giving us some good power."
MICHEL JOURDAIN (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "We had some trouble this morning with the car and we just had to try a lot of different settings. It really isn't that many settings. You have to have them all going together. It's the combination that makes it right. We had a little trouble with the steering this morning. That set us off in the wrong direction. Then we got going the right way again on the settings. It doesn't take a lot of changes to make the car feel right. Just the little things. I don't really care about qualifying that much for this race. It's all about the race on Sunday. We need a good car for the race. The Ford Cosworth was fast and we thought that be case. The job the crew did this week is unbelievable with all of the crash damage from Australia. Both teams - Gigante and Shell - really did an amazing job to get four cars ready for us this morning. I came to the track Wednesday and the cars were back together. It looked like the crews had worked for a month. But two days and everything was close to being ready. Just unbelievable. A great job by the crew."
JIMMY VASSER (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It's getting better but there's something about the car that I still don't like. The engine seems good, I don't think power is a problem here but running in traffic that car isn't as stable as I'd like it to be."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "The car is pretty good, but it took us a while to find the right balance. In the morning, the car had a lot of push. As the day went on, Team Target kept making adjustments and by the end of the day, it was good. Qualifying is not all that important here, although it helps to start up front. The key is to have a balanced car for the race."
SCOTT DIXON (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "We were pretty far off this morning on the setup. But we made some big changes and they produced a big improvement on the car. The Target machine is really good in race setup. It's very comfortable in traffic. We're going to work on our qualifying setup in the morning tomorrow and see what we can find there."
SHINJI NAKANO (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "It was essentially a learning day today. It was our first time on a superspeedway this year. We changed a few things on the car, but I couldn't find the setup that I want. It was getting better and we just have to keep working hard. I basically have no grip front and rear. The car is very neutral in some places with understeer at some points. We learned a few things, and I think we can find a better setup for tomorrow."
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon/Patrick Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I was quite happy with the Visteon/Patrick Racing car in the morning session. We were not extremely quick, but I was very happy with the way the car handled. In the afternoon session we had a funny balance where the car has a lot of understeer and pushes a lot in the middle of the corner, but then on the exit it has oversteer and is loose. That is exactly the situation you do not want. You want one of the two so you can go in one direction or the other. When you have both problems in different parts of the turn, it makes it difficult to fix because as you correct one problem it makes the other one worse. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team has to sit down and review the data and find out what is causing this combination of problems. We need to bring the car together and I am confident that we will before qualifying tomorrow.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It really is good fun driving at these speeds - this is the kind of experience that brings a race car driver the most joy. I have raced here before in Indy Lights and you think that you know what to expect but it's really different! Every ten miles per hour increase is a completely different experience. The car is really good. Our Chief Engineer Tom Brown is so talented at setting up a car for an oval. He knows just what to do to make the car fast. That gives me a lot of confidence. I still have a lot to learn - I guess right now I'm taking an intensive course in super speedway driving! I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow for qualifying!"
MAX PAPIS (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "When we started this morning, the car was not to my liking. We ran very similar settings to the settings I used to run here, and the car was far from the feeling you want to have. I pretty much know what I need and what I want here. The first session, we made it better. The second session, we got it closer. We still have to work to find some more speed, but I would say that we are 80 percent of our true potential right now. I have a lot of hunger and a lot of fire, and I wish I had a bit more time. I don't have enough time to do all the things I want, and I am trying to be really focused and precise on doing things and working with David and the team to get the best out of the car. The guys are doing a great job because it is very easy to make changes and not get the car as good as you want. Overall, I wish I had a little bit more time but I am going to take the time I have in my hands and make it the best. I want to win this one."