LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 12, 2000) - Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske collected his third pole position of the FedEx Championship Series season and moved into sole possession of 13th place in CART career poles Saturday during final qualifying...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 12, 2000) - Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske collected his third pole position of the FedEx Championship Series season and moved into sole possession of 13th place in CART career poles Saturday during final qualifying for Sunday's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (4 p.m. ET, tape delay, ABC-TV).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) claimed his ninth career pole when no one bettered the speed of 124.394 miles per hour (1 minute, 5.347 seconds) he established during provisional qualifying Friday afternoon. The pole speed equaled the track record set last year by Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green, who was tied with de Ferran for 13th in CART annals with eight poles.
De Ferran's pole joined previous pole-winning performances at Homestead and Long Beach and continued a run which has seen him qualify among the top five drivers for 10 of 13 FedEx Championship Series events. He earned a championship point, bringing his season total to 90 and cementing his hold on third place in the championship.
Keyed by de Ferran's effort, Marlboro Team Penske ended up sweeping the front row, as teammate Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) earned the right to start alongside de Ferran with a lap of 124.366 mph (1:05.362), also established during provisional qualifying. Castroneves has now qualified among the top three drivers for six of the past nine FedEx Championship Series events, including poles at Portland and Toronto.
The joint effort by Marlboro Team Penske marked the second time this season that the team has swept the front row for a FedEx Championship Series event. It also occurred at Portland, where Castroneves led the field.
Rounding out the top three drivers was Franchitti, who was the only one of Friday's top three drivers to improve his speed on Saturday. Though he remained third on the grid, Franchitti bettered Friday's speed of 123.218 mph (1:05.971) with a lap of 123.792 mph (1:05.665). He was second fastest Saturday to de Ferran, who led the field with a lap of 124.043 mph (1:05.532) without bettering Friday's time.
Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal qualified fourth fastest at 123.527 mph (1:05.806). Like de Ferran and Castroneves, his speed was established on Friday afternoon. Rounding out the top five drivers was Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, who qualified fifth at 123.235 mph (1:05.692), also recorded Friday.
FedEx Championship Series points leader Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing qualified eighth at 122.536 mph (1:06.338). He owns a 120-98 championship lead over Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing entering Sunday's 13th of 20 rounds.
Moreno qualified 15th at 121.721 mph (1:06.782) while defending FedEx Championship Series and Miller Lite 200 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing qualified 10th at 122.411 mph (1:06.406).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
GIL DE FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "I'm fine. It's great to be here sitting on the pole. It would have been better without the accident, but there you have it. The track was a little slippery today and it was difficult to get a good lap in. When I went to go for my lap, the rear tires seized up, we're not really sure what happened there, and from there I was into accident-control techniques. I thought it was going to be a big hit, but the tire barrier did its job. When I was upside down I was very calm, because I knew the Safety guys were going to be there and I wasn't afraid of fire or anything else. I just want to say that, with the Safety guys here, we know we're going to be okay. I wasn't afraid because I knew they were going to take care of me, and I just wanted to thank them publicly."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "This whole week was really rough. I felt very weak, and I just knew I wasn't 100 percent. We had to cancel a test at St. Louis to rest up for Mid-Ohio. Yesterday was pretty rough, but I got a lot of rest and I'm feeling much better now. This morning was great and I had a chance to improve my time from yesterday [in qualifying]. Unfortunately, the red flag came out before I could run my hot lap on the first set. They put the second set on and I got a lot of traffic when I first went out. I got the tires cooled down and got ready to go and then the red flag came out again. I didn't know at first that my teammate was upside down, but I found out that he's okay, so that's good. I'm a little disappointed because I was feeling a lot better today, and I thought I could go quicker today, but now I have to look at the positive. I'm on the front row and I want to go for the points tomorrow. Of course, it would be better to get on the podium."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I wasn't on my hot lap when the red flag was displayed. The first red flag that I saw was when I came under the bridge, so as far as I'm concerned, the time should stand. [The race] will be interesting for sure. I've had some interesting starts here, that's for sure. Last year, I had a big jump and got out to a big lead, and then I had a puncture, so I don't know what's going to happen. It's a weird place."
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) earned his third pole of the season Saturday, adding to an outstanding qualifying run which has seen him qualify among the top five drivers for 10 of 13 events. Also included are starts of second at Portland and Cleveland, fourth at Milwaukee and Detroit, and fifth at Japan, Nazareth and Michigan. His top previous start at Mid-Ohio is fourth in 1997.
* De Ferran's pole was the sixth of the season for a Honda-powered driver, a series high. The others came from de Ferran at Homestead and Long Beach; Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Portland and Toronto and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Michigan. It was also Honda's fourth in the past five events at Mid-Ohio, following poles from Alex Zanardi in 1996 and Dario Franchitti in '98 and '99.
* By qualifying second, Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) has earned his sixth top-three start in nine FedEx Championship Series events, including poles at Portland and Toronto, an outside pole at Chicago and third-place starts at Nazareth and Detroit.
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) will make his third consecutive top-three start at Mid-Ohio, following pole positions in 1998 and 1999.