FONTANA, Calif. (November 3, 2001) - Alex Tagliani of Player's Forsythe Racing emerged from mid-pack Saturday to claim the pole position for Sunday's $1 million FedEx Championship Series season finale, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at ...
FONTANA, Calif. (November 3, 2001) - Alex Tagliani of Player's Forsythe Racing emerged from mid-pack Saturday to claim the pole position for Sunday's $1 million FedEx Championship Series season finale, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway.
Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), the 11th driver of 26 drivers to attempt a qualifying lap, put together a lap of 228.727 miles per hour (31.935 seconds) to capture his second pole of the season and the third of his two-year career. He will lead the way to the green flag for the 21st and final round of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series, which gets under way at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday (12:30 p.m. local time).
Sunday's race winner will collect $1 million, courtesy of a partnership between CART, Marlboro, Toyota and California Speedway.
Tagliani's pole was his first on a superspeedway and his second on an oval, joining his first career pole at Rio de Janeiro last season. His other pole came on the temporary street circuit at Vancouver in September.
The outside pole went to Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, who qualified at 228.198 mph (32.009 seconds). The effort matches a career-best start established at Toronto last year and equaled at Mexico and Portland this season.
Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal qualified third at 227.835 mph (32.060 seconds). It marks his 11th top-three starting position of the season, including a series-leading six pole positions. Brack has already clinched the runner-up spot in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series championship, entering Sunday with 163 points, 28 behind two-time and reigning champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, whose 191 points have clinched his second consecutive championship.
De Ferran qualified 16th at 225.173 mph (32.439 seconds), ending a streak of eight top-four starts and four pole positions, dating to a pole at Mid-Ohio.
Bryan Herta (Forsythe-Indeck Ford Reynard) of Forsythe Championship Racing qualified fourth at 227.551 mph (32.100 seconds), equaling a season-best established at Texas and equaled at Cleveland. Defending event champion Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing rounded out the top five by qualified fifth at 227.431 mph (32.117 seconds).
Twenty-four of 25 qualifiers were separated by a less than one second during qualifying on the 2.029-mile oval.
* ALEX TAGLIANI, Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard: "I'm very pleased with the Player's team. Between this year and last year was a tremendous change, and we've been qualifying very well in the second half of the year. My guys are pretty happy. It's going to cost me a lot of money in beer. I expect this race to be a big drag festival. You don't want to be running by yourself or you could lose a lap easily. You need to stay near the front and not lose the draft. I'd be surprised if I'm in the lead in Turn 3. You need to take care of the cars. You need to go with the flow and watch what's going on, and you just want to stay on the lead lap. There's so many things that can happen, it's difficult to predict."
* CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "The speed was about what I was expecting for the pole. I didn't know how fast we could have been going this morning because the air rotates and things like that. As a driver, there's not much you can do in qualifying on a track like this. You pretty much put your foot down and whatever you have for downforce is where you're going to be. We tried but didn't quite have the overall speed. But the car is comfortable and stable, and I'm pretty confident for tomorrow."
* KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "I think the Shell Ford was good in qualifying. We didn't have all the speed. The car feels good, but we didn't have quite enough today. But we'll be in good shape for tomorrow. I think this race will be very similar to Michigan. I think it'll be very much bunched up. That'll be very exciting for everybody. It's always tough when it's your last race with a team, but we're still going to be on the same grounds, so you're still going to see your friends. Things change rapidly, you move on, but you see people in the pits, and you may work with them in the future. [On performing with RPM and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony] It's going to be exciting. I think it's going to be a lot of fun having him in there. With him and Rick Downey [of Player's Forsythe Racing, who used to be the drummer for Blue Oyster Cult], having two professional musicians makes a big difference. Now, if only they could get rid of the guitar player, they'll be good."
* Alex Tagliani's (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) pole position is the ninth of the season for Ford, equaling Honda for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series lead. Ford claimed five of the top seven qualifying positions Saturday. Other Ford-powered qualifiers in the top seven included Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who qualified third; Bryan Herta (Forsythe-Indeck Ford Reynard), fourth; Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola), sixth and Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Ford Lola), seventh.
* Cristiano da Matta's (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) outside pole position is a career-best start on an oval, topping third at Milwaukee this season.
* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) will be making his 11th top-three start of the season, including poles at Mexico, Milwaukee, Michigan, Road America, England, outside poles at Long Beach, Nazareth and Germany and third-place starts at Toronto and Houston. He also earned a pole position at Texas.
* A.J. Allmendinger of Hollister, Calif. and Bryan Sellers of Centerville, Ohio have been selected as recipients of the Team USA Scholarship for 2002, joining a long list of talented American drivers including current Champ Car stars Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta and Memo Gidley. As part of the award, Allmendinger and Sellers will contest the New Zealand International Formula Ford Championship, a series of eight events which will take place over four weekends in January and early February. Allmendinger currently stands second in the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by Racer and also competes for Paul Tracy Karting in major 125cc shifter kart events.
"For me, this is a really big accomplishment," Allmendinger said. "It means a lot to my career and I hope it will lead to more opportunities to follow in the footsteps of drivers like Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Memo Gidley and [current Toyota Atlantic competitor] Joey Hand." Said Sellers who has spent this season competing in the U.S. Formula 2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision, "The Scholarship is the greatest award I've ever received in my racing career. It is more meaningful than anyone can ever imagine. I'm very excited to represent my country in the best way possible." Team USA Scholarship winners have taken advantage of a variety of prize drives since the programs inception. For the past two years they have contested - and won - the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in England. "Formula Ford has been a fantastic proving ground for almost 35 years," said Team USA Scholarship coordinator Jeremy Shaw. "The series in New Zealand ... is extremely competitive and comes at the perfect time of year, since it gives our drivers an opportunity to hone their racing skills during a traditionally quiet time on the North American calendar." Supporters and sponsors of the Team USA Scholarship include CART, the Tasman Motorsports Group, Craig Company LLC, Klein Tools, Road Racing Drivers' Club, Skip Barber Racing School, Jim Russell Racing Drivers' School, and Buttonwillow Raceway Park. Additional funding is still being sought for the program.
* Miller Brewing announced Saturday that it will continue its long-standing relationship with FedEx Championship Series competitors Team Rahal under terms of a multi-year agreement. Under the Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft brands, Miller Brewing will return as a Team Rahal sponsor for the 11th season in 2002. Team Rahal is wrapping up the most successful FedEx Championship Series season in its 10-year history at this weekend's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, as drivers Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) and Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) have combined for six victories, seven pole positions and 789 laps led. "Our relationship with Miller Brewing is on of the finest in motor racing in this country," said Team Rahal co-owner and three-time FedEx Championship Series champion Bobby Rahal. "Miller's involvement in this sport is now legendary, and we at Team Rahal are very pleased to continue our long association with a sports leader like Miller Brewing." Said Mike Welsh, Director of Event Marketing for Miller, "Miller is very happy to continue our great association with Bobby, David (Letterman, entertainer and team co-owner) and Team Rahal. We have had a tremendous relationship with them for a decade. Team Rahal is one of the top operations in all of motorsports and we look forward to working with them again."
Qualifying for The 500 Presented by Toyota will air 1:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 3:30 p.m. ET. Sunday's race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .