FRANCHITTI GRABS PROVISIONAL POLE FOR MOLSON INDY; EYES THIRD IN A ROW AT TORONTO VENUE

TORONTO (July 16, 1999) - Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti, looking to become the first FedEx Championship driver since 1994 to win three consecutive poles at the same venue, moved a step closer Friday at the Molson Indy (3 p.m. ET Sunday, tape delay, ABC-TV) as he earned the provisional pole by blistering the track record at Exhibition Place.

Franchitti, who became the first back-to-back pole winner in the history of the Toronto event last year, recorded a lap of 109.023 miles per hour (57.951 seconds) on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit. The effort shattered his 1997 track record of 105.694 mph (58.618 seconds), which came on a 1.721-mile layout.

He will be seeking his first pole of the season and seventh of his career when final qualifying begins 12:45 p.m. ET Saturday. The pole would allow him to become the first driver to win three in a row at the same venue since Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy accomplished the feat at Road America from 1992-94.

Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) qualified second at 108.760 mph (58.091 seconds). He is positioned for his fourth consecutive top-three start, which includes a pole a Japan, outside pole at Cleveland and third at Portland.

Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) was third at 108.410 mph (58.279 seconds). He comes to Toronto off a pole-winning effort and runner-up finish at Road America last weekend. His only two poles since 1995 have come at Road America the past two seasons, but remains in position to add one outside of that venue.

Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) was fourth at 108.228 mph (58.377 seconds) and was followed by Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) at 108.220 seconds (58.381 seconds). Honda-powered drivers, including sixth-place Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) filled five of the top six spots on the provisional grid.

The top 16 drivers were separated by less than a second.

FedEx Championship Series points leader Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) was eighth at 107.731 mph (58.646 seconds). He holds a 113-95 lead over Andretti entering this weekend.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "The track has changed a little from last year. They've widened it at certain points. I was 12th this morning, but I wasn't too concerned. We made a couple of changes to the car for qualifying and the car got better. It was nice to do a quick time, but I don't think it counts for too much, unless it rains tomorrow, which would be quite nice. We've still got a lot of work to do. Michael is pushing hard, and Gil is pushing hard and we definitely can't stand still."

GIL de FERRAN, Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard: "It was a very good day for us. In the morning, we were working mostly on race setup and I was very happy with the car and confident for qualifying since the car was handling quite well. In qualifying, we were lucky to get a clear lap on each set of tires. I was a little bit disappointed that Dario was able to beat me on his second set of tires, since I had the pole on the first set, but that's what he's supposed to do. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift: "The credit for the [track record] speeds has to go to the tires. They're really quick and very grippy. We ran pretty well this morning. I was happy with the car and we made some changes for qualifying, which made it better yet. Late in the session, I got a little sideways on the straightaway and lost three-tenths [of a second]. I think it kept us from getting the pole. But I think we have a car capable of getting the pole and we'll go back out and go after it tomorrow."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) is seeking his sixth top-five start of the season, He currently owns outside pole positions at Long Beach and Rio de Janeiro; third at Nazareth, fourth at Milwaukee and fifth at Gateway. He has qualified on the front row for nine of the past 13 FedEx Championship Series events contested on road or street courses, dating to his outside pole at Portland last year.

* Walker Racing team member Chuck Matthews, who collapsed in the team's pits during the morning practice session, was released from St. Michael's Hospital Friday afternoon. Matthews underwent tests under the supervision of Dr. Ross Blondell at St. Michael's and results revealed the problem as heat exhaustion, according to Blondell. Matthews returned to the team hotel and is resting comfortably. His status for the remainder of the week is uncertain at this time. Matthews is a vehicle dynamics engineer who handles the team's fuel calculation.

* Payton Coyne Racing named Dennis Vitolo to campaign the #71 Tang Car Ford Reynard in this weekend's Molson Indy. Vitolo, who normally drives the #34 Team Nicoderm CQ-Nicorette Ford Reynard at FedEx Championship Series oval events, is in line to make his first road-course start since last year at Australia. He replaces Luiz Garcia Jr., who has made seven starts this season with a top finish of 14th at Cleveland.

WHAT'S ON TAP

Qualifying for the Molson Indy will air 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.

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