By Paul Omichinski
The day began sunny, hot and humid, and stayed that way throughout the day. A continuous light breeze made things bearable though.
New configuration for the Pocono South course:
15 turns, 1.24 miles, fresh pavement and real road course curbing. Allowed for passing on the speedway turn 1 high banks as well as a short chute between turns 6 and 7 in the infield.
CART chose to run the course Indy / NASCAR fashion in the counterclockwise direction. 9 turns left, 6 turns right. That allowed everyone their “Andretti” moments turning left on the steep 19 degree banking of Turn 1. Some great photo ops with the “Pocono Turn 1” lettering on the wall as background.
Rookies & Novices:
6 rookies and low track time drivers ran in their own run group with instructors coaching them throughout the day. Instructing took the form of discussion sessions, in car 1:1 and a “Follow the Leader” session to be certain the new drivers were understanding the basics of being safe on a road race track as well as the precision of the ballet that develops good lap times.
Practice sessions & time:
Practice sessions were divided into 3 run groups based on skill and experience of the drivers. Before the noon lunch break everyone had the opportunity for over an hour of time on track broken into 3 sessions.
Following the lunch break passing was allowed on the infield straight and the track was opened for all for an additional hour before clearing the track for the Time Trials at 2:00.
The Time Trials were run off in groups of 3 cars, spaced to avoid catching another car. No passing is allowed during the Time Trials and a couple of drivers were sent out a second time to get a clear run after they had caught a slower car. As drivers leave the pit lane start they have a full lap to get up to speed and warm up tires (not much need for that on this day). The lap start line was established about 100 feet before the turn onto the speedway front straight. As drivers crossed the line the first of 2 timed laps began. Crossing that line for the 3rd time ended the timed laps and they had a cool down lap before returning to pit lane. See the results for details
Team Relay: The highlight of the day
At Pocono, due to the room available CART runs a unique event called the Team Relay.
Teams of 5 drivers are established. Some are long standing teams who have run together often, and some are pick-up teams of individual drivers put together by the organizers. Either way, rivalries are established as quickly as the teams are, and strategies around what run order might create an advantage are argued.
The timing and scoring group establish a team handicap time based on the best time trial lap time for each car on a team. That time is multiplied by 5 and added to the times for the other drivers on the team. The totals represent the time it should take the 5 cars on the team to run 5 laps each. The handicap then allows the team with the longest time (the slowest) to be the first to start. The next longest team starts next, delayed by the time difference to the first and so on to the quickest team leaving last. The teams are lined up across the front straight, aimed at turn 1 with the team members in their run order. As a team driver completes 5 laps and turns into pit lane, the next car in the team leaves the line. The first team to complete their 25 laps total wins.
5 teams were formed and competed. The fastest team gave up a handicap of 172 seconds to the team that left first. The first to finish was the team of Bob Doiron, Bill Spargo, Mark Eastwood, Guy Deutermann and Ray Wilson, and the driver that completed that last run was Bob Doiron in a Fiero. Only one driver managed to miscount the laps, running a couple extra before realizing he should have come in earlier. Either the heat of the day, or having too much fun, his fellow team members weren’t amused. He got the hint when the black flags were put out. Afterwards there was the usual grumblings about people sandbagging the runs. The last team to leave was nearly 3 laps down at the start to the eventual winners.