ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 17, 2001) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran added to Marlboro Team Penske's impressive recent record of success on permanent road courses when he topped Friday's speed charts during testing for...
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 17, 2001) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran added to Marlboro Team Penske's impressive recent record of success on permanent road courses when he topped Friday's speed charts during testing for this weekend's Motorola 220 at Road America (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who earned the pole position and finished runner-up to Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves on the permanent road course at Mid-Ohio last week, put together a lap of 144.207 miles per hour (1 minute, 41.055 seconds) on the 4.048-mile road course to lead all drivers posting test laps for Sunday's 14th round of the championship.
De Ferran will be chasing his third pole of the season, his second in a row, and his third in the past five events when qualifying begins 2:45 p.m. ET Saturday. A 75-minute practice, beginning 11 a.m. ET, precedes the qualifying session.
Marlboro Team Penske and drivers de Ferran and Castroneves have claimed four pole positions and four race victories in the past seven FedEx Championship Series contested on permanent road courses, dating to last year at Portland.
Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) was ninth fastest Friday at 143.050 miles per hour (1:41.872).
Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing posted Friday's second-fastest lap at 143.881 mph (1:41.284). He will be seeking his first pole position since 1999 at Michigan when qualifying begins Saturday afternoon.
Defending Motorola 220 champion Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green was third fastest at 143.837 mph (1:41.315). He will be looking to become the fifth back-to-back pole winner in Road America history when qualifying begins Saturday afternoon.
Rounding out the top five practice speeds were Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola, who was fourth fastest at 143.791 mph (1:41.347), and Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who was fifth on the speed chart at 143.654 mph (1:41.444).
FedEx Championship Series leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal, who holds a one-point (104-103) lead over Castroneves in the championship, was 11th fastest at 143.026 mph (1:41.889). Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced Friday that it had procured Brack's driving services for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season.
Defending Motorola 220 champion Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green was 24th at 140.561 mph (1:43.676).
The top 14 drivers were separated by less than one second on the 4.048-mile permanent road course.
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "The car is handling very well here, as it was at Mid-Ohio. We had a smooth day, the car was good straightaway, but it's only Friday. We've got to keep working hard. Weekends like Mid-Ohio [where Marlboro Team Penske dominated virtually every session] are very rare, they're certainly not the norm. I always expect it to be tight here. For example, I knew Dario was going to be quick here, and here he is."
JIMMY VASSER, Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard: "All credit to the engineering staff at Patrick Racing. They haven't been out to lunch, but they're starting to understand the tires and everything. I've got all the respect in the world for [technical director] Ed Nathman and the whole team. They really know what [teammate] Roberto [Moreno] and I need. Roberto's running very well this weekend too, and he's going to be a contender. It's just Friday. Sometimes on our team we have science projects [on Fridays] and I'm sure other teams do that, too. However, there are a lot of cars that are very competitive. Thirteen cars within a second is indicative of that."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "This morning was a very rough session. It was a very tough start, but we got a reasonable balance. We made some changes for this afternoon and the car got better straightaway, and we're quite happy with the car. You're not going to win the championship unless you win some races. I'm just thinking about winning races on Sunday. Today, I was just enjoying driving 'round here. This place is just awesome to drive, I still get a buzz every time I come here."
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) will be seeking his 14th career FedEx Championship Series pole position when qualifying begins Saturday afternoon. He has earned two of his previous 13 career poles on permanent road courses, at Mid-Ohio in 2000 and 2001.
* Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) will be looking for his eighth career pole position and his first on a road or street course since 1998 during Saturday's qualifying session. Vasser's last road- or street-course pole came at Cleveland in 1998. He has not won a pole position on a permanent road course in his nine-year career.
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) is looking to become the fifth back-to-back pole winner in Road America history. He won last year's pole at a track record average speed of 145.924 mph (1:39.866). Previous Champ Car drivers to have claimed consecutive poles at Road America are Mario Andretti (1983, '84), Danny Sullivan (1988, '89, '90), Paul Tracy (1992, '93, '94) and Michael Andretti (1998, '99). Franchitti owns 10 career pole positions in his FedEx Championship Series career, three of them on permanent road courses, at Mid-Ohio (1998, '99) and Road America last year.
* Target/Chip Ganassi Racing announced Friday that current FedEx Championship Series points leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal has signed a contract to drive for the team in 2002. As part of the deal, Brack will also compete for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at the 2002 Indianapolis 500. "Kenny has quickly become one of the dominant drivers in the CART series, and his skills, goals and attitude are perfect fits for Team Target," said Chip Ganassi, owner of the only team ever to win four consecutive CART championships (1996-1999).
"The addition of Kenny in 2002 will help our team stay on track for a fifth championship. We plan to wait until the end of the season to make a decision on our second driver. The team is now focusing on the rest of the 2001 season and getting to Winner's Circle with [current drivers] Bruno [Junqueira] and Memo [Gidley]." Said Brack: "Team Target is one of the most highly respected team in all of motorsports, and they've proven they're capable of winning championships. I'm thrilled to join this team next year look forward to working with them to accomplish their goals."
Qualifying for the Motorola 220 will air 1:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2.