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CART: Montoya Continues to Amaze Fans, Veteran Racers

26 June 1999

By David Treffer
The Auto Channel

CLEVELAND, OHIO -- Some of the CART veterans must be shaking their heads wondering when "the kid" is going to show some signs of cracking under pressure. Unfortunately for those veterans and the rest of the CART competitors, "the kid", rookie-driver Juan Montoya appears to be something akin to a well-made Swiss watch or at the very least a Timex. Does the phrase "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking" have a familiar ring to it? Montoya took his licks by discovering the turn 8 wall during Friday morning practice. None the less, Montoya switched to a back-up car and set the fifth fastest time during Fridays qualifying. Fast forward to todays final day of qualifying for the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland. Montoya took pole position with a fast lap of 56.813 seconds over the 2.106 mile temporary airport circuit. Montoyas time turned out to be two-tenths of a second quicker than second quickest Gil de Ferran. Not too bad for a driver who had never seen this flat airport circuit until this week-end. Montoya commenting on the Cleveland facility quipped "I think I have a new favorite track." after taking pole position.

Gil de Ferran, the 1996 winner of the Cleveland Grand Prix, was on Fridays provisional pole with a lap of 57.745 seconds for a speed of 131.294mph. Obviously carrying some momentum from his victory last week in Portland, de Ferran eclipsed Paul Tracy by 40/100ths. "It was a really good qualifying run but I think that the track will continue to pick up grip for tomorrows session." Some parts of the track have been repaved and the search for grip has been an on-going affair for all of the teams. No doubt de Ferran expected that his times would pick-up but no really expected Montoya to come bolting out of the blue. Many of the drivers were expecting the times to drop today as the newly paved section gained more rubber. Bryan Herta was absolutely prophetic when he commented that "their will be a big jump in times tomorrow, a half second to maybe even a second." How right he was.

Taking third place in final qualifying was Michael Andretti who improved from Fridays time of 57.853seconds to 57.238 seconds. Andretti, using only nine laps during the qualifying session seemed happy but certainly not satisfied with his effort. "Starting third is not great but Cleveland is an interesting place and I think I have a few things to work on for tomorrow." Fourth place was taken by Bryan Herta with a lap of 57.414 seconds. Herta could only improve by four-tenths of a second from his Friday time of 57.822seconds. Fifth place was a bit of a surprise with the venerable Roberto Moreno displaying his magic with a time of 57.478 seconds. Moreno, improving from Fridays time of 58.173 seconds was understandably happy with his effort on Saturday. "Cleveland has a lot of bumps, finding the right ones can be tricky. Hopefully tomorrow I will find the right ones."

So what does it look like for tomorrows race? Well for starters, there are concerns over the weather. A front is supposed to arrive sometime during Sunday morning. The chances for a wet race are fifty/fifty. Rain. The great equalizer. Maybe the CART drivers will find out if Montoya works well under water. It should be a great time...err show.

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