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Pruett Gives Team Boost in Michigan Qualifying

Scott Pruett, who drives for Arciero-Wells Racing of Rancho Santa Margarita, produced the best starting position for his car owners and the Toyota champ car program when he qualified his Reynard fifth at last Sunday’s U.S. 500 at the Michigan Speedway.

Pruett, who joined Arciero-Wells this season after four years with Patrick Racing, has been a big part of Toyota’s rise in the CART ranks. The week before Michigan, he qualified 11th at the Indy race in Toronto, which was the four-year program’s best starting position on a road course.

Pruett’s race ended unexpectedly after brushing the wall on Lap 183. Pruett, who finished 14th, said he’s still not sure what happened.

“We’re looking into that right now,” Pruett said. “I was playing that race really conservative. I went down into Turn 1 and, all of a sudden, the front end gave way.”

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Pruett’s teammate, Cristiano da Matta, also failed to complete the 250-lap race, despite an early surge that pushed him all the way to sixth. Da Matta was forced out by electrical problems after 126 laps and finished 17th in the 26-car field.

Former Orange County resident Max Papis ran out of fuel just two turns from the finish line, despite holding a lead of just over three seconds going into the final lap.

Tony Kanaan shot into the lead when Papis went dry. Papis’ Ford Reynard was strong all afternoon and he led a race-high 143 of 250 laps in his bid for a first career victory. Papis, who had never led a lap in his four-year career before Sunday, settled for a seventh-place finish.

INDY RACING LEAGUE

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* San Juan Capistrano’s Roberto Guerrero has been sitting idle at home since finishing 25th in the Indianapolis 500. The Indy Racing League has raced three times since then, and continues Sunday in Dover, Del.

Guerrero would rather be sitting in an idle race car, but Cobb Racing owner Price Cobb has struggled with sponsorship.

“He had some good prospects for next year, and we’re hoping to do a few more races this year, but there’s nothing concrete, unfortunately,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero, 40, is the victim of timing. In midseason, most open-wheel race teams aren’t adding cars or changing drivers.

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He didn’t go to Atlanta over the weekend, or to the two races before, because it would do little good.

“I’ve gone to a lot of races when I’m not driving, and it’s total misery,” Guerrero said. “People say you need to go and talk and show your face. People are so busy on race weekend. For me, going to the races just hanging around is definitely not my favorite thing to do. I don’t think it does a lot of good.”

* Now it can be told.

Dana Point owner Dick Simon said that when Stephan Gregoire failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, stopping a streak of 29 years of involvement with the race, it proved quite the character builder.

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“All the media wrote about was Dick Simon’s failure,” Simon said. “It made a stronger individual out of me. We were entertaining 305 people in our tent next to Gasoline Alley, and we had to stay there the rest of the week.”

IRWINDALE

Friday racing will disappear for more than two months at Irwindale Speedway after tonight’s race. The track has revised its schedule, combining the best of its Friday and Saturday cards into one. Only three non-Saturday events remain on the schedule: Friday, Oct. 15 (Silver Bullet Series, TQ Midget and Sprint cars); Friday, Nov. 12 (American Race Trucks National Finals); Thursday, Nov. 25 (the 59th Turkey Night Grand Prix for USAC midgets).

FUNNY CAR

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Yorba Linda’s John Force has a 251-point lead over Cruz Pedregon in his pursuit of a ninth Winston championship in Funny Car, but he’s still engrossed in a cross-category battle with Pro Stock points leader Warren Johnson for the title of winningest driver.

Force and Johnson are currently tied for second on the all-time list with 77 victories apiece going into this weekend’s Northwest Nationals in Seattle. Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden has the most wins in NHRA history (85).

STAR MAZDA SERIES

Mission Viejo’s Tim Enoch finished fourth at Saturday’s Star Mazda Series West Division Championship at Sears Point. The victory went to Joey Hand, who moved ahead of Enoch in both the Best Western and West Division championship point standings.

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In the series championship points race, Hand now leads Enoch, 159-155. In the West Division championship point standings, Hand leads Enoch, 231-221. The fourth round of the championship series is Saturday at Portland International Raceway.

Staff writer Martin Henderson contributed to this story.


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