PORTLAND, Ore. (June 22, 2001) - Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, who was dominant in winning from the pole last weekend at Detroit, continued without missing a beat Friday when he paced the testing for...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 22, 2001) - Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, who was dominant in winning from the pole last weekend at Detroit, continued without missing a beat Friday when he paced the testing for Sunday's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway (4 p.m. ET, live, ESPN).
Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) put together a lap of 121.547 miles per hour (58.318 seconds) on the 1.969-mile road course to lead 26 drivers competing in this weekend's eighth round of the FedEx Championship Series. He will be seeking his second consecutive pole position at Portland when qualifying begins Saturday at 4:45 p.m. ET.
Castroneves launched this stretch of four consecutive road/street course events with a victory last weekend at Detroit, where he won from the pole and led every race lap. The 22 championship points he earned for that accomplishment pulled him within five (74-69) of series leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal, who was fourth fastest Friday at 120.950 mph (58.606 seconds).
Between the two championship frontrunners were Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, who was second at 121.103 mph (58.532 seconds), and Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) of the Pacwest Racing Group, who was third at 121.080 mph (58.543 seconds).
Brack's best time of the day came in the morning session, while the top three drivers all recorded their top times in the afternoon.
Castroneves teammate, two-time defending Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, was eighth fastest at 120.543 mph (58.804 seconds).
The Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco is Round 8 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "This is definitely a great course. Since 1999, I've been starting from the front row here, so I'm feeling very comfortable. Today was up and down, because we had a lot of problems with the [pop-off] valve. We're pretty lucky because our tires lasted longer today. The car was handling well in the afternoon, and it looks like we found a good way to keep speed in the turns, but we're still down on horsepower on the straights. It's amazing to think of what we could do if we had the full horsepower. But everybody's going to be working hard tonight, and we're going to keep working hard to stay up with the other guys. You've just got to do what you've got to do."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Kmart Toyota Lola: "Basically, we tried a lot of different solutions in the car to try to make me happy. I was reasonably happy with the car. We tried a bunch of different stuff in the afternoon, which is why I wasn't up there for most of the session, but we finally got it together. I'm pretty confident. We run pretty good at this place. I would love to be starting first, but if we start in the top four, top six, we've got a shot at winning this race."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN, Nextel PacWest Toyota: "This place is quite unique. There's only one or two hard stopping places, one at the end of the front straightaway, and one at the back. This place has a good rhythm to it. It has been a difficult start to the season, with my accident [at Texas] and most of you know I had some personal things. But we're motivated, and I'm the best I've ever been in terms of physical and mental preparation. It took some time to get both teams working, and because I'm the veteran on the team, I had a lot of the newer guys on my team to help them get experience. I'm very happy working with a new engineer this year. We're really starting to come together, it just takes time to get everything together."
* Defending Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco polesitter Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) will be seeking his eighth career pole position, and his second at Portland, when qualifying begins 4:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Three of his poles have come this season, at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit.
* Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) is chasing the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career on a road or street course. His only previous pole came at Rio de Janeiro in 1999. His best start at Portland is third in 1997.
* Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) is seeking a season-best start, topping 12th at Detroit, and his best overall since starting third at Cleveland last year. He owns three career pole positions, at Rio de Janeiro, Road America and California Speedway, all in 1997.
Qualifying for the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco will air 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.