CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago qualifying report

by David Reininger - motorsport.com Chicago, IL (July 29, 2000) - Juan Montoya captured his fifth pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's Target Grand Prix at the Chicago Motor Speedway. Montoya set a new track record when...

by David Reininger - motorsport.com

Chicago, IL (July 29, 2000) - Juan Montoya captured his fifth pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's Target Grand Prix at the Chicago Motor Speedway. Montoya set a new track record when he drove his Target Ganassi Racing Toyota-powered Lola around the 1.029 mile speedway at an average speed of 167.567 mph, breaking Max Papis' year-old record by over five mph.

Last in the qualifying order, Montoya knew he needed to run faster than 269.298 mph to knock Castroneves from the pole. It took him just one lap. "We knew what we needed to do and I think there was a little more speed left in the car. I thought I could have run a bit faster if I had to, but the first lap was good enough. The car has been awesome all weekend, and I think we've got a strong car for tomorrow."

All four engine manufacturers in the CART FedEx Championship Series are represented in the first two rows of Sunday's grid. Starting next to Montoya's Toyota will be the Honda-powered Marlboro Team Penske of Helio Castroneves. The second row will consist of Tony Kanaan's Mercedes Benz-powered Hollywood Reynard on the inside, with Kenny Brack's Ford-powered Team Rahal Shell Reynard.

Helio Castroneves earned his season best starting position on an oval with his lap at 167.370 mph. Castroneves, whose previous best on an oval was a third place start at Nazareth, missed the pole position by .026 seconds.

"We're in a good starting position for tomorrow's race, which is important because there is really only one racing line which makes it difficult to pass," Castroneves said. "We spent the morning doing some long runs and working on our race setup. We made a few adjustments for qualifying which fixed the vibration problem we were having yesterday. I'm feeling good about tomorrow, we just need to be smart and hang in there and hopefully our hard work will pay off."

Tony Kanaan will start from the inside of the second row after posting his best qualifying effort of the season with a lap at 167.340 mph. He missed a front row starting position by four one-thousandths of a second.

"We knew we had a good car, but we definitely got the most out of it to get the result that we did," said Kanaan. "I figured we had a top-five car. When I got a 22.4 (165 mph) on the first lap, I decided I would go for it on the second lap even though Morris (Nunn) told me to be happy with a top-six spot. So when I finished the second lap, I told him that I went for it, but that I'm still here in one piece, and he was very, very happy."

Kenny Brack drove the fastest Ford entry today. His lap, at 166.602 mph, puts the Team Rahal Shell car on the outside of the second row. "We were expecting a little bit more today but the car was good," said Brack, who set the fastest lap in both of Friday's practice sessions. "That's as fast as we could go today. But we're stating up front and that's important here on this track. Passing is very difficult. Lapped traffic will be a big factor on Sunday. The guy that gets through it will be the winner."

Christiano da Matta qualified fifth today. It's the fourth time he's qualified in the first six rows in the last six races. Da Matta, driver of the Pioneer Electronics WorldCom Toyota-powered Reynard, has earned some impressive finishes lately with a second, two fifths and a sixth in the last six races.

"I would like to be starting higher than fifth, but I am happy to be in the top-five," said da Matta. "It is important to start well here, and we have accomplished that. I had some push in one and two and I was a little loose in four, so that is something we will need to make a few small changes for. Nothing major though, because I feel we have a pretty good car and it will be good for the race, just some fine tuning."

Series points leader Michael Andretti qualified a disappointing 16th after struggling for most of the weekend. The two-car Kmart Newman Haas team, based in nearby Lincolnshire, IL, is down to one entry as Andretti's teammate, Christian Fittipaldi crashed in practice yesterday and has subsequently withdrawn from the event.

"It wasn't a good day for the home team," said Andretti. "I wish we knew what would make the car better. We have struggled since we got here which is in contrast to Michigan where we were fast all weekend. The good news is that my qualifying lap was quicker than I had gone all weekend but the bad news is we will start in 16th place. That's two places higher than last year but at this point, we had a better race car last year than now."

Fittipaldi suffered a mild concussion in yesterday's accident and has returned to his home in Key Biscayne, Fla. He is expected to return at the next round of the CART FedEx Championship at the Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports car Course August 11-13.

Seventeen drivers broke the track record of 162.559 mph set by Max Papis last year.

Tickets are still available for the Target Grand Prix, which takes the green flag at 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Tickets can be purchased at the Chicago Motor Speedway or by calling 773-242-CARS (2277).

Notes: PPI Motorsports announced today it will phase out its two-car Atlantic team at the close of the 2000 racing season. PPI's CART operation will move from its current location at Rancho Santa Margarita to Hickory, NC, joining the team's NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Grand National operations.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing