HOUSTON (October 6, 2001) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske trimmed a point off his six-point deficit to current championship leader Kenny Brack Saturday when he captured the pole position for ...
HOUSTON (October 6, 2001) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske trimmed a point off his six-point deficit to current championship leader Kenny Brack Saturday when he captured the pole position for Sunday's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston (2 p.m. ET, live, ESPN).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) claimed his fourth pole of the season and his second consecutive at Houston with a lap of 92.513 miles per hour (59.421 seconds) on the 1.527-mile temporary street circuit. The pole brought de Ferran a championship point, bringing him to 142 for the season, five behind Team Rahal's Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who enters Sunday with 147 points.
Brack qualified third at 91.701 mph (59.947 seconds), just behind second-place Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who earned the outside pole at 91.707mph (59.943 seconds).
De Ferran's pole was the 15th of his career, moving him into sole possession of seventh place on the CART career list. He had been tied with Bobby Unser and Juan Montoya at 14 career poles entering the weekend. It is also de Ferran's sixth consecutive top-four start, dating to a pole at Mid-Ohio.
Junqueira's outside pole matches the best start of his rookie season on a road or street course, established at Detroit. Brack, meanwhile, will make his 11th top-three start of the season, including a series-high six poles.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske qualified fourth at 91.524 miles per hour (1 minute, 0.63 seconds), followed by Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, who was fifth at 91.329 mph (1:00.191).
Castroneves stands fourth in the championship with 123 points, while Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola stands third at 125. Andretti qualified 12th Saturday at 90.675 mph (1:00.625)
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "I have to say, the car has really been good since yesterday morning. We've been trying to make changes here and there, and it has been working. This afternoon was a matter of getting my lap together, trying to get the tires to the right temperature, and avoid trouble. I'm very pleased about today, but today is finished. Now we have to start working on tomorrow. Since the beginning of the year, we've finished well at this type of track, and [teammate] Helio [Castroneves] has won two races on this type of track. We certainly didn't expect to be out to lunch here, but it's hard to measure how you will be against the competition prior to your arrival."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA, Target Toyota Lola: "This morning started pretty strange for me. My teammate ran into the back of my car and we had a big crash on the straightaway. We went to the backup car and the setup wasn't quite right, and we ended up 14th. We did a big change with the car before qualifying, and the car was much better. But even so, we made another big change for the second set of tires [in qualifying], and the car was better. I was really happy to get a good lap, especially after the way the day started. I think to improve the car Team Target did a good job. It's good to be on the front row, but it's not that good to be half a second off the pole."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "I can't say we had a really good balance in the car when we came here, but we worked hard on the car. We were really good in the rain yesterday, and we left the car with that setup for this morning. We went another way for qualifying, and what can I say? It worked. I have to thank Shell, Ford, and Team Rahal for doing a great job. I can't really worry about what Gil is doing, I have to worry about what we're doing. I think Ford and Team Rahal are doing a great job. That's all we can do, and all we can control, and what will be, will be."
* Gil de Ferran's (Marlboro Honda Reynard) pole position is his fourth of the FedEx Championship Series season. His earlier poles came at Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Germany, where the starting grid was based on championship points. Of his 15 career poles, nine have come on temporary street circuits, including the last three at Houston.
* De Ferran's pole was the third in a row for Honda at Houston, the earlier two having come from Juan Montoya in 1999 and de Ferran last year. It is also Honda's fourth pole in six events on temporary street circuits in 2001. The others were earned by Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Detroit and de Ferran at Toronto.
* Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) is making his third front-row start of the season, consisting of a pole at Nazareth and an outside pole at Detroit.
* FedEx Championship Series leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal is making his fourth top-four start of the season on a temporary street circuit. Included are starts of second at Long Beach, third at Toronto and fourth at Vancouver.
* Three-time FedEx Championship Series champion and four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears has announced a plan to raise up to $100,000 for the Twin Towers Fund and the Alex Zanardi Foundation. Mears, an adviser for Marlboro Team Penske, will make donate to the funds based on laps completed by the team's two drivers, Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves, as well as by Mears' nephew, Casey Mears, who has been selected by Mo Nunn Racing to drive for the injured Zanardi. "Like many Americans, I want to honor the victims and heroes of the tragedy that occurred September 11," Mears said. "With 498 laps scheduled in CART's remaining four races, I will contribute $100 a lap to the Twin Towers Fund based on the highest total laps completed by a Team Penske driver." Mears will also donate $100 for every lap completed for Mo Nunn Racing by his nephew. "Because CART's Safety Team was instrumental in saving Alex's life, the monies raised will go directly to the Alex Zanardi Foundation and will be donated in the name of the Safety Team - the unsung heroes of our sport," Mears said. "Alex and his wife, Daniela, are in our thoughts and prayers, and, while no one can ever replace Alex, the Mears family can certainly pay tribute to a great champion."
Qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houstoin will air 2:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 2 p.m. ET. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website at www.cart.com.