Motorsport.com -- Qualifying at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca took on a predictable air this afternoon as the 'red and white' Reynard's of Marlboro Team Penske once again took top positions. Instead of first and fourth as at Houston, last week,...
Motorsport.com -- Qualifying at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca took on a predictable air this afternoon as the 'red and white' Reynard's of Marlboro Team Penske once again took top positions. Instead of first and fourth as at Houston, last week, this time they took the first and second positions. Gil de Ferran led the way with a time of 1:08:596 on the 11 turn road course. Helio Castroneves was just a fraction of a second back of his team mate at 1:08:678 for the 2.238 mile course.
Scott Dixon (#18 Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), who led the morning practice session, came within 0.294 of Castroneves. Fourth was Roberto Moreno (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) was a hair's behind Dixon for fourth. Bryan Herta (#77 Forsythe Indeck/Ford-Cosworth/Reynard) rounded out the top five. But his time was disallowed and he will have to start from the back of the field tomorrow.
Today's pole is the fifth of the season for de Ferran, and his fourth in the last seven races. He gains one crucial point toward his second CART FedEx Championship. This is also the third sweep of the from row this season for Marlboro Team Penske, Toronto and Mid-Ohio being the others. The team last year held the front row for this event.
"Today's qualifying session was actually very difficult," said de Ferran. "I knew Helio (Castroneves) would be fast so I needed to have a great car. We had a good practice session this morning and I knew we'd be right there this afternoon. I was a lot happier with the Marlboro car today than I was yesterday."
Castroneves was beginning a final qualifying run when the course was red flagged for a spin by de Ferran. "We tried a number of things this morning that didn't work so we went back to our set-up from yesterday. The Marlboro car was really good in qualifying," commented Castroneves. "It was very consistent, especially on old tires, and was handling well. Unfortunately, the red flag at the end of the session really hurt us. I'm disappointed, but I guess it's 'good when second is not good' because we knew we had a car that could qualify on the pole."
Dixon said that his car had improved for qualifying, but he also was caught out by the red flag ending the session. "I do think we could have improved a little had the late red flag not come out; but to improve enough for pole would have been difficult. Tomorrow we'll try to conserve fuel and open up our pit windows and hope for that dream yellow flag to fly at the right time. It's still going to be tough to beat the two Penske cars but we'll do our best to try."
Qualifying for the Shell 300 will air 2 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET.