FONTANA, Calif. (November 2, 2001) - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, the dominant oval driver in the FedEx Championship Series this season, continued his run of success Friday when he paced testing for this weekend's season finale, the Marlboro 500 ...
FONTANA, Calif. (November 2, 2001) - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, the dominant oval driver in the FedEx Championship Series this season, continued his run of success Friday when he paced testing for this weekend's season finale, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway.
Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who owns four victories and six podium finishes in seven oval starts this season, put together a lap of 230.597 miles per hour (31.676 seconds) during afternoon practice to set the pace in testing for the final event of the FedEx Championship Series season. Brack will be chasing his series-high seventh pole position of the season when qualifying begins 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday.
A prize of $1 million awaits the winner of Sunday's event, which takes the green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Brack has already clinched the runner-up spot in the 2001 championship, thanks to fifth-place finish at Australia last weekend. With 163 points, he holds a 22-point lead over Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who are tied at 141 points, with a maximum of 22 points remaining in Sunday's event.
Brack would keep second place on tiebreakers should Andretti or Castroneves score the maximum 22-point sweep this weekend for winning from the pole and leading the most race laps.
Rookie Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was second fastest on Friday's speed sheet at 230.292 mph (31.718 seconds), followed by Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who was third at 229.908 mph (31.771 seconds). Junqueira will be seeking his second pole of the season during qualifying Saturday, while Tracy will be seeking his first, and the 14th of his career.
Two-time and reigning FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was 25th fastest at 225.751 mph (32.356 seconds). De Ferran, who clinched his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series title by finishing fourth at Australia last weekend, established a world closed-course speed record of 241.428 mph (30.255 seconds) while winning the pole here last year.
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "I think our package has been strong on ovals all year long, and we unloaded pretty fast today. We didn't do much running. This morning, we blew the engine in one car and crashed the other one.
"Then in the afternoon, we had problems with an oil line in the primary car, so we didn't run much. But the car is good. I think the racing is going to be very exciting. This race is going to be very good for the fans, that's for sure."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA, Target Toyota Lola: "Michigan was my first time on a superspeedway apart from Indianapolis, which was very different. Today, I was much more comfortable, and I knew what I needed to get from the car. This place looks a lot like Michigan, but it's a little bit different. The car is very well balanced and it's good in traffic. I'm very pleased with the car. My car was very comfortable today. I could run high, low, anywhere I wanted. If I can do that in the race, I'll be in good shape."
PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I think the car was good today. We came off the track with pretty much my race setup from Michigan. We started trimming it out and running in traffic and the car showed pretty good speed. We're pretty pleased with the overall balance of the car. I think the cars have an extreme amount of drag. The speeds were 230 today, but by yourself you'll qualify at 225 or 224. I think it's a step in the right direction, and it makes for a good show. I'm very comfortable in the car."
* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) will be seeking his series-high seventh pole of the season when qualifying begins 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday. His earlier poles have come at Mexico, Texas, Milwaukee, Michigan, Road America, and England. Brack poles at Milwaukee and England were based on championship points due to a rainout of qualifying, while his pole at Michigan was based on practice times after qualifying was rained out there as well. Brack has scored a series-high 116 points on ovals this season, including victories at Japan, Milwaukee, Chicago and Germany.
* Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) is the only FedEx Championship Series rookie to win a pole position this season. It came at Nazareth in Round 4.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) will be seeking the 14th pole position of his career when qualifying gets underway Saturday. His most recent FedEx Championship Series pole came at Michigan Speedway in 2000.
* Mo Nunn Racing announced Friday that Tony Kanaan will return for a third season with the team in 2002, when he will pilot the Pioneer/WorldCom sponsored entry in the FedEx Championship Series. Kanaan, a veteran of four Champ Car seasons, owns one victory and two pole positions in 73 career starts heading into this weekend's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota. He has made 35 starts for Mo Nunn Racing during the past two seasons, with 17 top-10 finishes, including 11 this season. "I'm very happy to be back with Morris, so we can take care of some unfinished business and start winning races," Kanaan said. "We are still a relatively young team, but we've been knocking on the door more often than not this season. It's been a little frustrating because we have been so competitive, but I think a third season together is going to push us over the top, and I'll be very proud to do it wearing the colors of Pioneer and WorldCom." Said team owner Morris Nunn, "A key to success in the racing business is continuity. Tony is a hard-charging young driver who was an ideal candidate to be our first driver. And we've developed an excellent working relationship the past two seasons. We exercised our option on the final year of his three-year contract with hopes that we can contend for the CART championship next season."
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for The 500 Presented by Toyota will air 1:30 a.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.