CICERO, Ill. (July 29, 2000) - Defending race champion Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing clobbered the track record while earning his fifth pole position of the FedEx Championship Series season Saturday at the Target Grand Prix...
CICERO, Ill. (July 29, 2000) - Defending race champion Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing clobbered the track record while earning his fifth pole position of the FedEx Championship Series season Saturday at the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) put together a lap of 167.567 miles per hour (22.107 seconds) on the 1.029-mile oval located in suburban Chicago to earn the right to lead 23 fellow competitors to the green flag for Sunday's 12th of 20 rounds in the championship. His effort crumbled the track record of 162.559 miles per hour (22.788 seconds) established by Max Papis of Team Rahal at last year's inaugural Target Grand Prix.
Montoya went on to win that event en route to the FedEx Championship Series championship. He will be looking for his second victory of this season Sunday, having scored a win from the pole last month at The Milwaukee Mile.
Saturday's pole position brought Montoya a championship point and pulled him into a tie with Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske for fourth place in the championship, with 75 points each. The pole, the 12th of Montoya's career, allowed him to complete a sweep of poles on one-mile ovals this season, after winning earlier poles at Nazareth and Milwaukee.
Starting alongside Montoya on the outside pole is Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, who qualified second at 167.370 mph (22.133 seconds). It is his best oval start of the season, improving on third at Nazareth.
Tony Kanaan (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing was third fastest at 167.340 mph (22.137 seconds). It is a season-best start for Kanaan, and comes in his second event back after missing three races due a broken left forearm and four cracked ribs sustained in a qualifying accident at Detroit.
Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal was fourth fastest at 166.602 mph (22.235 seconds) followed by Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports, who starts fifth after a lap of 166.266 mph (22.280 seconds). Twenty-one of the 23 qualifiers were separated by less than one second.
FedEx Championship Series points leader Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing qualified 15th at 163.477 mph (22.660 seconds). He holds a 104-90 lead over Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing entering Sunday's event. Moreno qualified 13th at 164.100 mph (22.574 seconds).
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "We need to get some points to win this championship. We were very unlucky at the beginning of the year with some failures, but we knew it was going to be that way with the new engine and chassis. Now, we've got those sorted out and we know we need to score as many points as possible. We made a lot of changes from yesterday to today because yesterday was a bit of a struggle. We picked up a lot of grip, and that really helps. Traffic is going to be difficult, but I think you're going to see some overtaking here."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "We did a long run this morning, because yesterday we weren't very happy with the car. Today we focused more on the race setup, and it was good. Toward the end, we focused more on the qualifying setup and it was good. I said, 'Don't change the car, it's very good.' I'm very happy. We still have tomorrow to go, but I'm very happy with the team. I think it gives us something to build on."
TONY KANAAN, Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard: "This morning, we ran the primary car for five laps, then we ran most of the practice with the 'T' [secondary] car. I felt pretty confident when we did a 22.7 [second lap] in the 'T' car. We took the most we could out of the car, I think it's the best car we've ever had on an oval. When I saw a 22.4, which was my first lap, and I knew I had a good car, I just went for it. About my arm, you can see improvement day by day. The biggest problem right now is the swelling in my hand. It bugs me a bit, but it doesn't make any difference in my driving."
Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) has qualified on the front row in seven of 12 FedEx Championship Series this season. The run is comprised of poles at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago and outside poles at Homestead and Rio de Janeiro.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) qualified second to earn his fifth top-three start in the past eight events, including poles at Portland and Toronto and third at Detroit, in addition to Saturday's second-place effort.
Tony Kanaan's (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard) third-place qualifying effort is the best oval track start for a Mercedes-powered driver this season, and equals the overall season-best start of third for Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel Mercedes Reynard) at Cleveland.
Saturday's top-four qualifiers represented four different engine manufacturers, as Montoya took the pole for Toyota, followed by Castroneves for Honda, Kanaan for Mercedes and fourth-place Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) for Ford.
Three of Saturday's top-five qualifiers were graduates of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship, the final rung on CART's "Ladder System" of driver development. Helio Castroneves, who qualified second, was runner-up in the 1997 Indy Lights championship to Tony Kanaan, who qualified third. Cristiano da Matta, the 1998 Indy Lights champion, rounded out the trio by qualifying fifth.
"CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast slated to begin 4 p.m. ET.
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