MONTOYA CHARGES TO PROVISIONAL POLE FOR TEXACO GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON; EYEING ANOTHER CART ROOKIE RECORD HOUSTON (September 24, 1999) - Rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, moved a step...
MONTOYA CHARGES TO PROVISIONAL POLE FOR TEXACO GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON; EYEING ANOTHER CART ROOKIE RECORD
HOUSTON (September 24, 1999) - Rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, moved a step closer to tying the CART rookie record for pole positions Friday by capturing the provisional pole for the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) recorded a lap of 91.797 miles per hour (59.884 seconds) to lead 27 drivers who posted qualifying times on the 1.527-mile temporary street circuit. Montoya, who already owns the CART rookie record with seven race victories, would tie the rookie pole record of seven set by Nigel Mansell in 1993 if he maintains his position during final qualifying, which begins 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday. By maintaining the pole, Montoya would add a PPG Cup point to his current 199-171championship lead over Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard).
By exiting Houston with a lead of 44 points, Montoya would clinch the championship, making Target/Chip Ganassi Racing the first team in FedEx Championship Series history to win four consecutive championships.
Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) made a remarkable return to competition following a five-race absence by qualifying second at 91.673 mph (59.965 seconds). Fittipaldi has missed the past five FedEx Championship Series events due to a subdural hematoma sustained in an Aug. 2 testing accident at Gateway International Raceway.
Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) stands third on the provisional grid at 91.471 mph (1:00.098). He arrives in Houston coming off a victory in the most recent FedEx Championship Series event, the Sept. 12 Shell 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Rounding out the top five were Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Mercedes Reynard), fourth at 91.169 mph (1:00.297), and Naoki Hattori (Alpine Honda Reynard), fifth at 91.101 mph (1:00.342).
Franchitti qualified sixth provisionally at 91.060 mph (1:00.369).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "When we went out this morning, the car felt pretty good, then the track started coming in, and we changed the car and changed the car and changed the car and it didn't get any better. We finally got going in the right direction late in qualifying, so I'm pretty happy. It's pretty difficult to clinch the championship this weekend. I need to get some points, and I need to finish in front of Dario [Franchitti]. That's the most important thing. I'm just going to go for it. My goal is to get good points and finish ahead of Dario, then maybe change my mentality when we go to Australia."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "This morning, obviously, I had to start a little slower and go from there. I was a little bit rusty and I had to shave a little here and there. Obviously, the track was better in the second session, but not more than two or three tenths [of a second]. Hopefully, we can improve for tomorrow and fight with these two guys and the others for the pole. I realize I was a little lucky in St. Louis, but it went the way it went, and I'm happy to be back in the car."
BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "This morning was pretty uneventful, nothing dramatic. I made a couple of improvements to the car and it was quite good for qualifying. I'm pretty pleased. The track got better and I think the car will be better tomorrow. I wanted to give myself a good spot [today], but tomorrow will be the important day for qualifying. Lap time is just a relative number. I don't really care what it is as long as we have the lowest one. We've got the car working better. We kind of lost our way this year; we lost our confidence, and when that happens, it's hard to find your way back, so we said, 'Let's go back to ground zero, to what we know will work,' and now we've gotten it turned around."
* Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) will be chasing his seventh pole of the season when final qualifying gets under way at 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday. His previous poles have come at Nazareth, Gateway, Portland, Cleveland, Detroit, and Vancouver.
* Montoya's poles at Cleveland, Detroit and Vancouver give him pole positions at three of the five temporary street circuits contested thus far in this year's FedEx Championship Series. Other temporary street circuit poles have been won by Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) at Toronto.
* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) is seeking his second front-row start of the season. Fittipaldi won his first FedEx Championship Series career pole position at Rio de Janeiro in May.
* Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) has made three top three-starts this season: third at Long Beach, second at Mid-Ohio and the pole at Laguna Seca.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston will air 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.