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By David Reininger - FONTANA, Calif., (November 3, 2001) – Alex Tagliani earned the pole position for Sunday’s Marlboro 500 after averaging 228.727 mph around the 2.029-mile California Speedway. With pole positions at Rio last...

By David Reininger -

FONTANA, Calif., (November 3, 2001) – Alex Tagliani earned the pole position for Sunday’s Marlboro 500 after averaging 228.727 mph around the 2.029-mile California Speedway. With pole positions at Rio last year and one earlier this season at Vancouver today’s achievement marks the Canadian’s third career pole.

Tagliani, who was 11th in the qualifying order, posted a time that withstood challenges from 15 drivers. “I was keeping an eye on the weather,” said Tagliani, “there was not a lot of change, maybe a few clouds.

I thought Kenny was going to do it,” replied Tagliani when asked if he thought the time would stand up. “The cars are on the edge, the pedal is on the floor, and our time held up, so I’m happy.”

After attempting to simulate qualifying in this morning’s practice session, Tagliani thought he would post a qualifying speed just above 230 mph.

“This morning I was trying to run by myself, which is very difficult,” with all the traffic. “I was trying to evaluate the speed of the car on our own. My time this morning (230.474 mph) was done in a draft, so I was expecting to run a little bit slower,” in qualifying.

Tagliani’s pole marks the ninth time this season a Ford-powered car will lead the field to the green flag.

Ford-powered cars took five of the top seven starting spots for Sunday’s race with Toyota taking the other two spots, including the outside front row with Brazilian driver, Cristiano da Matta. “The speed that Alex went was more or less what I was expecting for pole,” said da Matta, driver of the Toyota-powered Newman Haas entry.

Da Matta qualifying speed, at 228.198, was just a tick slower than he expected. “I knew I was going to do a 28.5 or 229. In the morning, with the draft and everything, the car goes a little faster, so I didn’t know what my speed was going to be. We knew it would be close.”

Da Matta ended up missing the pole by seven one-hundredths of a second.

“There’s not much a driver can try once you start a qualifying run here, you just hold the pedal to the floor and wait until you see the lap time on your dash,” da Matta said. “But the car feels very stable, it is quite comfortable to drive. We did a couple of long runs yesterday so I am very confident for the race tomorrow.”

Kenny Brack qualified third, with his teammate Max Papis sixth.

“The Shell Ford was good in qualifying,” said Brack. “We didn’t have the ultimate speed. We came close, but not quite enough. It feels really good and solid for the race, so I think we’ll be good for tomorrow.”

Bryan Herta will start fourth followed by da Matta’s teammate, Christian Fittipaldi in fifth. Papis will start sixth with Michel Jourdain, Bruno Junqueira, Jimmy Vasser and rookie sensation Scott Dixon rounding out the top ten.

Newly crowned CART FedEx Series Champion Gil de Ferran will start sixteenth. “We’ve been struggling a little bit this weekend and we were just trying to put it in the show,” said de Ferran. “Since the championship is wrapped up, we have an extra degree of freedom tomorrow in the race. This is one of the most difficult and unpredictable races, but if we get to the end, there’s a good chance we’ll be fighting for the win.”

With the Handford device keeping the cars close together, Kenny Brack summed it up when he said; “It’s going to be a real crapshoot to the line Sunday.”

Notes from the Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota at the California Speedway:

Miller Brewing Company announced today that it would continue its longstanding sponsorship of Team Rahal in the CART FedEx Championship Series. The agreement will mark the 11th year Miller Brewing has been involved with a Bobby Rahal owned team. Team Rahal has enjoyed six victories, seven pole positions and 789 laps led, all new team records for a single season.


Interested spectators at the California Speedway this weekend include Indy Racing team owners Tom Kelley and Fred Treadway. Also walking pit lane this afternoon were Arie Luyendyk, Rick Treadway and newly signed Team Kelley driver, Greg Ray.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Greg Ray , Arie Luyendyk , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Rick Treadway , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain