David Reininger - Motorsport News International Fontana, Calif. (October 31, 1998) - Scott Pruett led the way in qualifying today at California Speedway, where Ford powered cars captured four of the top five qualifying positions. Pruett's...
David Reininger - Motorsport News International
Fontana, Calif. (October 31, 1998) - Scott Pruett led the way in qualifying today at California Speedway, where Ford powered cars captured four of the top five qualifying positions. Pruett's took the pole with a lap at an average speed of 233.748 mph, earning $10,000 in the process. Should Pruett win tomorrow's race from the pole, he stands to earn an extra $45,000 bonus in the Marlboro Pole Award program.
Although Pruett had set some of the fastest trap speeds in practice, he was not favored to take the pole. "My car was a handful," said Pruett. "It was walking all over the place. I was right on the edge. We were running a very low amount of downforce to get as much speed as possible. Tomorrow we will put in much more gurney, add some front wing and put some stability into the car."
Favored to take the pole after setting the fastest speed in yesterday's practice was Adrian Fernandez. Fernandez took the pole at the last superspeedway race at Michigan. Using the same set up at Michigan and Fontana enabled Fernandez to run fast right off the transporter yesterday.
But Fernandez ran out of luck today as he spun coming off turn two while making his qualification attempt. "The car got loose on me at the exit of turn two," Fernandez reported. "From the beginning I felt the car was loose. I tried to do some things there but unfortunately it didn't work."
Fernandez will start from the back of the field, on the inside of row fourteen.
Starting second, with the only Honda powered car in the top five will be Jimmy Vasser. "We didn't have that great of a morning session. We tried some things but we tried to put the car back. But we couldn't get it back," said Vasser. "So we still had a balance problem at the end of the session.
"We were confident enough to know what to do with the car, I just told my engineer, you know what to do. He did a magnificent job. He nailed the set up. The car was great, no wicker and flat."
Michael Andretti sits third on tomorrow's grid which matches his season best start on an oval. Andretti also started third at Nazareth this past spring. "The wind messed us up a bit," said Andretti. "We didn't know quite how much to compensate for the wind as it picked up."
Starting alongside Andretti on the second row will be Richie Hearn. This Hearn's third top-five start this season. "I was flat out the whole way," said Hearn. The wind hurt a little on the back straight. I couldn't really accelerate through there, but I'm happy with this speed." Hearn averaged 232.795 mph in taking fourth on the grid.
Bobby Rahal will start fifth in his 41st 500 mile race, the most by any driver in CART history. "The car felt a little positive (loose) in turns one and two but it was solid in turns three and four. I was flat through there," said Rahal. "We made a change with the aerodynamics going into qualifying and I don't know if that affected the car or it was the wind. It was blowing pretty hard."
The Marlboro 500 takes the green flag at 12:30 P.M. PST.