Nazareth Practice Dominated by Fittipaldi

24 April 1998

Round Four of the Federal Express Championship arrived today for the
Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix presented by Toyota. The Championship Cars
took to this north eastern Pennsylvania oval today for the first round
of practice in preparation for Saturday's single-car qualifying.  The
all-important starting position at this "bullring" track is magnified
by the fact that no one starting lower than 12th has ever won at
Nazareth.

An interesting bit of news was turned out of the CART media machine
today.  Omega Timing, the official timing and scoring provider for
CART, measured the Nazareth Speedway and discovered that the one-mile
oval is really .964 miles. So, a new track record will be established
this week-end.

Last year's winner Paul Tracy surmised the first practice session as
"getting the cobwebs" out of the system. Tracy further commented that
"my car is just a little off.  Hopefully, between now and tomorrow we
can find the set-up for pole position."  This is the first one-mile
oval that the Championship Cars have visited this year. Early in the
practice session Marlboro Team Penske driver Andre Ribeiro made heavy
contact with the second turn wall. Riberio was able to exit the car
under his own power.  Doctors cleared Ribeiro to race in the infield
medical center, but he will have to do so in a back-up car.

Hometown favorite Michael Andretti in the Newman-Haas K-Mart Havoline
Special was in the top five early in the session and will no doubt be
a contender on Sunday.  His last two outings at Long Beach and Motegi,
Japan were considerable efforts. Running out of fuel while leading at
Japan was a heart-breaker, and then to follow that up with a blown
left-front tire at Long Beach has only added to the pressure on his
team. The team has decided to rely a little less on the computer and
more on human instinct for strategic-decisions. At Motegi, the pit
computer informed the team that the car had plenty of fuel. At Long
Beach, the tire sensor on the left front reported no imbalance.  The
delamination was so evident on the television monitors that one had to
wonder who was making the calls to stay out.  Regardless of the past
the Newman-Haas team has arrived to Nazareth with one
mission---Victory.

The practice session ended with Christian Fittipaldi leading the way
with a lap of 179.167mph (19.008 sec.) followed by Michael Andretti
178.491mph (19.080sec.) and rounding out the top three was Paul Tracy
with a speed of 178.164mph (19.115 sec.)

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel

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