LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 13, 1999) - Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti celebrated his first-ever event as the FedEx Championship Series points leader by setting a track record Friday to earn the provisional pole Friday for the Miller Lite...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 13, 1999) - Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti celebrated his first-ever event as the FedEx Championship Series points leader by setting a track record Friday to earn the provisional pole Friday for the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, one-hour tape delay, ESPN). Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) recorded a lap of 124.394 miles per hour (1:05.347 seconds) to claim the provisional pole on the 2.258-mile permanent road course. The effort shattered the track qualifying record of 123.766 mph (1:05.679) set by Franchitti while winning the pole here last year. Though Franchitti brings a five-point championship lead, 136-131, over Juan Montoya into Sunday's 14th of 20 rounds in the FedEx Championship Series, he will be chasing his first pole position of the season when final qualifying begins 12:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) qualified eighth Friday at 122.840 mph (1:06.174). Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) qualified second at 123.493 mph (1:05.824). He will be looking for a season-best start, improving on third at Long Beach. Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) was third fastest at 123.336 mph (1:05.908). He seeks his second consecutive front-row start after qualifying second at Detroit last weekend. Rounding out the top five provisional qualifiers were Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard), fourth at 123.190 mph (1:05.986), and Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard), fifth at 122.994 mph (1:06.091). The top-10 qualifiers were separated by 1.005 seconds.
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We've spent four days testing here over the last couple of months, and the track didn't feel as good today. To do a 5.3 (1:05.3) was a bit of a surprise. I looked at the dashboard and saw '5.3' and I thought, 'Where the hell did that come from?' I think the times tomorrow are definitely going to be better. At certain points the car felt as good as it did during the test, at others, it felt a little worse. The car feels great on the straightaways to be honest. It's very quick."
BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "Patches of the track were slippery, then it would dry out. It [the track] was a little slippery early in the session, and everybody was trying to bang one in [turn a fast lap] in case it rained. When the sun came out, that made it better. It's always good to see you guys [the media, in the post-qualifying press conference] at the end of the day. It's good to have a good weekend going for a change."
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) will be seeking his first pole position since last year at Australia during Saturday's final qualifying session. He has qualified on the front row for 10 of his last 16 starts on road or street courses, dating to last year's outside pole Portland.
* Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) is chasing his first pole since last year at Laguna Seca, site of his first career FedEx Championship Series victory. He owns six career poles, one of which came at Mid-Ohio in 1997.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) has started on the outside pole three times at Mid-Ohio (1992-94). He will be seeking his first pole since 1997 at Milwaukee.
* Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) was disqualified from his provisional second-place grid position after his car failed post-qualifying technical inspection. Blundell's car failed to maintain the required two inches of clearance between the bottom of the car and the pavement.
* A stroll through the camping areas that are a significant part of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course reveals that Champ Car fans from locations near and far are on the premises for this weekend's Miller Lite 200. A check of license plates on the vehicles situated in the campgrounds Thursday afternoon found a majority of Ohio tags. But other states represented included Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Oregon, Georgia, California, Nevada and even Alaska. Campers from Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec also were present. All campers were seen Thursday afternoon, prior to the official start of the weekend. "We have 1,500 camping spaces and we expect they will all be filled by Saturday night," said Michelle Trueman, president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, who added that sales of her weekend spectator tickets are up when compared to a year ago. "It's difficult to say how many people are actually camping on each site but we believe camping represents roughly 10 percent of the crowd we get this weekend. The motorhomes began lining up last weekend, and we let the first one onto the grounds first thing Thursday morning. We see a pretty diverse group in the camping areas - lots of families camping, as well as couples and groups of young people. It's really a great bunch of people who love Champ Car racing." CART estimates that the camping crowd at Mid-Ohio is the largest on its 20-race schedule.
Qualifying for the Miller Lite 200 will air 8 p.m. ET Saturday and 12 a.m. ET Sunday (late Saturday) on ESPN2.