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Auto racing briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


Schumacher makes most of technology

BARCELONA, Spain -- Michael Schumacher took full advantage of Formula One's new electronic traction control to win the pole in his Ferrari for today's Spanish Grand Prix.

Mika Hakkinen of McLaren switched off his traction control to take the No. 2 spot in qualifying Saturday. McLaren's David Coulthard was third-fastest and didn't know if his new high-tech electronic gizmos were on.

"There are so many things available to us and so many variations," Coulthard said. "There's no way you can possibly understand it, because we don't."

Basically, the system reduces wheel spin.

Three-time and defending series champion Schumacher claimed his fourth pole in five tries this season, covering the 2.938-mile course in 1 minute, 18.201 seconds.

Hakkinen, who won the race the past three years, came through in 1:18.286 on his final lap. Coulthard, tied with Schumacher for the points lead, got over the line in 1:18.635.

Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello was fourth, followed by the Williams of Ralf Schumacher, the winner two weeks ago at the San Marino Grand Prix. Next came the Jordan of Jarno Trulli.

Traction control returns to Formula One today for the first time since 1993, largely because FIA, the world motorsports governing body, could not police which teams were already using it.

zMAX 500: Greg Ray, winner of last year's Atlanta race, avoided a fiery 11-car crash on the 53rd of 200 laps and held off Scott Sharp and Buzz Calkins in the night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his fifth IRL win. Results were unofficial.

Al Unser Jr. and Sarah Fisher were among those caught up in the crash, which involved a pack of cars coming through Turn 4 on the high-banked, 1.54-mile track. Jack Miller, whose car virtually disintegrated, was flown by helicopter to Atlanta Medical Center for treatment of a possible concussion. "He was awake, alert and his vital signs are stable," said Dr. Henry Bock, the IRL's medical director.

Cory Witherill, racing in his first IRL event, sparked the crash when he slowed with engine problems. Unser slammed on his brakes and was hit from behind, causing the wreck.

FIRESTONE FIREHAWK 600: Kenny Brack, the only CART driver with racing experience at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, earned the pole for the inaugural race.

Brack ran a qualifying lap of 233.447 mph to take his second CART pole but insisted his five Indy Racing League races at the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track from 1997-99 gave him no edge. He was just a little bit faster than everybody else.

"If it's a good car, it's fairly easy to figure out where to run," Brack said.

Patrick Carpentier will start on the outside of the front row today after a qualifying run of 233.345. Oriol Servia (232.978), who got one qualifying lap in before blowing his engine, and Bryan Herta (232.663) will start in the second row. All four have Ford-powered cars.

AUTO CLUB 300: Hank Parker Jr. gambled and won, running the final 62 of the 150 laps in the Busch Series race on a tank of gas to beat Jeff Purvis by 5.458 seconds in Fontana, Calif. Parker, son of a bass fishing pro, had just enough gas to celebrate his first victory in 72 starts by spinning a couple of doughnuts on the banked track before his engine died.

THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS: Funny Car journeyman Gary Densham earned his first No. 1 qualifying effort in the inaugural NHRA event in Bristol, Tenn. Densham, a 31-year independent campaigner who recently joined John Force's Funny Car stable, set a Bristol Dragway record, covering the quarter-mile in 4.870 seconds at 303.71 mph in a Ford Mustang to lead the 16-car field. Kenny Bernstein (Top Fuel) and Bruce Allen (Pro Stock) also claimed top qualifying honors in the $1.9-million event.

* * *

TODAY ON TV: F1, Spanish GP, 7:30 a.m., Speedvision; CART, Firehawk 600, 3 p.m., ESPN; NHRA, Thunder Valley Nationals, 5:30, ESPN2.

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