CART Postpones Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer Due to Unprecedented Physical Demands on Drivers

Apr 30, 2001, 01:00 ET from Championship Auto Racing Team

    FORT WORTH, Texas, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Championship Auto Racing Teams
 announced Sunday that it was postponing the Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented
 by Pioneer at Texas Motor Speedway due to extensive concerns over the
 unprecedented physical demands being placed upon its drivers.
     This weekend's event would have marked CART's first-ever appearance on the
 1.5-mile, 24-degree banked oval located in Fort Worth.  The event has not been
 rescheduled at this time.
     "We are postponing the Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer due to
 concerns over the physical demands placed on our drivers when traveling at
 speeds of more than 235 miles per hour on this 1.5-mile oval," CART
 President/CEO Joseph Heitzler said.  "We offer our sincerest apologies to the
 fans and our associates at Texas Motor Speedway, but I will tell you that as
 CART's President and CEO, I am confident that we have exhausted every
 available option to find a suitable resolution to these concerns at this
 time."
     The concerns became magnified following Saturday morning's practice
 session, after which several drivers reported lightheadedness or dizziness
 when spending stints of 20 or more laps in the cockpit.  The morning's fastest
 practice speed was recorded by Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team
 Rahal, at 236.9 miles per hour.
     That was over three miles per hour faster than the fastest practice speed
 registered by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) on Friday afternoon (233.785 mph),
 and some 20 miles per hour faster than the unofficial speeds posted by Brack
 during an evaluation test at the speedway in December.  Brack earned the pole
 position Saturday at an average speed of 233.447 mph.
     With the increased speeds came an attendant increase in the amount of
 gravitational force, both lateral and vertical, experienced by the drivers
 while in the cockpit.  On the 1.5-mile oval, drivers sustained loads of up to
 51/2 Gs for 18 of the 22 seconds it took to complete a single lap.
     Twenty-one of the 25 drivers in the starting field reported disorientation
 as a result, and given the potential for a driver "grey out," or loss of
 consciousness, according to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs,
 the decision was made to cancel the event in the best interests of driver
 safety.
     "A situation developed on Friday afternoon that in my 25 years of working
 in motorsports, I had never experienced," Olvey said.  "Two drivers pulled off
 the race track after long stints at over 230 miles per hour.  They pulled in
 because they were dizzy and disoriented and felt that they could no longer
 control the racecar.
     "On Saturday, a driver who came into the CART Mobile Medical Facility for
 another reason said that he couldn't walk for up to five minutes after getting
 out of his car.  We brought in all of the drivers to explain this to them and
 found that all but four of them had experienced similar symptoms.  We really
 couldn't send the drivers into a situation which was totally unknown with the
 risk of having them become unconscious, sick or disoriented."
     Team Motorola driver Michael Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader with
 40 wins, and Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing driver Bryan Herta said that the
 decision was staunchly backed by FedEx Championship Series drivers.
     "I must say that in my 20 years of auto racing, I've never experienced the
 kind of forces I experienced here this weekend," Andretti said.  "At this
 point, I've got to really applaud CART for standing up for drivers and safety
 and trying to find a solution and not going ahead with the event at this time.
 This isn't something we could predict.  This was a problem we weren't aware of
 until 4 p.m. yesterday [Saturday] afternoon ...  I want to say that on behalf
 of all the drivers, we are truly sorry for the fans."
     "This was a great decision," Herta said. "I applaud CART as all the
 drivers do.  We look forward to finding a possible solution so we can come
 back and put on a proper show for these fans because they deserve it."
     Firestone, title sponsor of the event and Official Tire of CART, also
 backed the decision, as did presenting sponsor Pioneer.
     "It was an extremely difficult decision for CART to make," said Al Speyer,
 Motorsports Director for Bridgestone/Firestone, "but we understand and support
 that decision 100 percent. Obviously, we have mixed emotions as the race's
 title sponsor.  But it is always best to err on the side of safety for both
 the participants and the spectators.  This is unequivocally the right thing to
 do. Firestone will continue to work with CART, the drivers, Texas Motor
 Speedway and everyone involved to further analyze the situation and proceed in
 a practical manner."
     The last time a CART event was postponed due to safety concerns was 1985
 at Michigan Speedway, when the race, scheduled for July 21, was postponed
 after qualifying due to concerns over tires.  The event was completed on
 July 28 and was won by Emerson Fittipaldi.
     Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE:   MPH) owns, operates and
 markets the FedEx Championship Series.  Champions Gil de Ferran, Alex Zanardi,
 Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are among the drivers who battle for the
 FedEx Championship Series title on oval circuits as well as temporary and
 permanent road courses.  CART also owns and operates its top two development
 series, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the Toyota Atlantic
 Championship.  Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at
 http://www.cart.com.
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -- Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X49187815
 
 

SOURCE Championship Auto Racing Team
    FORT WORTH, Texas, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Championship Auto Racing Teams
 announced Sunday that it was postponing the Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented
 by Pioneer at Texas Motor Speedway due to extensive concerns over the
 unprecedented physical demands being placed upon its drivers.
     This weekend's event would have marked CART's first-ever appearance on the
 1.5-mile, 24-degree banked oval located in Fort Worth.  The event has not been
 rescheduled at this time.
     "We are postponing the Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer due to
 concerns over the physical demands placed on our drivers when traveling at
 speeds of more than 235 miles per hour on this 1.5-mile oval," CART
 President/CEO Joseph Heitzler said.  "We offer our sincerest apologies to the
 fans and our associates at Texas Motor Speedway, but I will tell you that as
 CART's President and CEO, I am confident that we have exhausted every
 available option to find a suitable resolution to these concerns at this
 time."
     The concerns became magnified following Saturday morning's practice
 session, after which several drivers reported lightheadedness or dizziness
 when spending stints of 20 or more laps in the cockpit.  The morning's fastest
 practice speed was recorded by Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team
 Rahal, at 236.9 miles per hour.
     That was over three miles per hour faster than the fastest practice speed
 registered by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) on Friday afternoon (233.785 mph),
 and some 20 miles per hour faster than the unofficial speeds posted by Brack
 during an evaluation test at the speedway in December.  Brack earned the pole
 position Saturday at an average speed of 233.447 mph.
     With the increased speeds came an attendant increase in the amount of
 gravitational force, both lateral and vertical, experienced by the drivers
 while in the cockpit.  On the 1.5-mile oval, drivers sustained loads of up to
 51/2 Gs for 18 of the 22 seconds it took to complete a single lap.
     Twenty-one of the 25 drivers in the starting field reported disorientation
 as a result, and given the potential for a driver "grey out," or loss of
 consciousness, according to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs,
 the decision was made to cancel the event in the best interests of driver
 safety.
     "A situation developed on Friday afternoon that in my 25 years of working
 in motorsports, I had never experienced," Olvey said.  "Two drivers pulled off
 the race track after long stints at over 230 miles per hour.  They pulled in
 because they were dizzy and disoriented and felt that they could no longer
 control the racecar.
     "On Saturday, a driver who came into the CART Mobile Medical Facility for
 another reason said that he couldn't walk for up to five minutes after getting
 out of his car.  We brought in all of the drivers to explain this to them and
 found that all but four of them had experienced similar symptoms.  We really
 couldn't send the drivers into a situation which was totally unknown with the
 risk of having them become unconscious, sick or disoriented."
     Team Motorola driver Michael Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader with
 40 wins, and Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing driver Bryan Herta said that the
 decision was staunchly backed by FedEx Championship Series drivers.
     "I must say that in my 20 years of auto racing, I've never experienced the
 kind of forces I experienced here this weekend," Andretti said.  "At this
 point, I've got to really applaud CART for standing up for drivers and safety
 and trying to find a solution and not going ahead with the event at this time.
 This isn't something we could predict.  This was a problem we weren't aware of
 until 4 p.m. yesterday [Saturday] afternoon ...  I want to say that on behalf
 of all the drivers, we are truly sorry for the fans."
     "This was a great decision," Herta said. "I applaud CART as all the
 drivers do.  We look forward to finding a possible solution so we can come
 back and put on a proper show for these fans because they deserve it."
     Firestone, title sponsor of the event and Official Tire of CART, also
 backed the decision, as did presenting sponsor Pioneer.
     "It was an extremely difficult decision for CART to make," said Al Speyer,
 Motorsports Director for Bridgestone/Firestone, "but we understand and support
 that decision 100 percent. Obviously, we have mixed emotions as the race's
 title sponsor.  But it is always best to err on the side of safety for both
 the participants and the spectators.  This is unequivocally the right thing to
 do. Firestone will continue to work with CART, the drivers, Texas Motor
 Speedway and everyone involved to further analyze the situation and proceed in
 a practical manner."
     The last time a CART event was postponed due to safety concerns was 1985
 at Michigan Speedway, when the race, scheduled for July 21, was postponed
 after qualifying due to concerns over tires.  The event was completed on
 July 28 and was won by Emerson Fittipaldi.
     Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE:   MPH) owns, operates and
 markets the FedEx Championship Series.  Champions Gil de Ferran, Alex Zanardi,
 Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are among the drivers who battle for the
 FedEx Championship Series title on oval circuits as well as temporary and
 permanent road courses.  CART also owns and operates its top two development
 series, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the Toyota Atlantic
 Championship.  Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at
 http://www.cart.com.
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -- Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X49187815
 
 SOURCE  Championship Auto Racing Team