CLEVELAND (June 29, 2001) -- Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing positioned himself for a run at the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career Friday when he headed the speed charts for this weekend's Marconi Grand Prix of...
CLEVELAND (June 29, 2001) -- Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing positioned himself for a run at the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career Friday when he headed the speed charts for this weekend's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke Lakefront Airport (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola), who owns two victories - including one this season at Mexico -- but no pole positions in his three-year FedEx Championship Series career, posted a quick lap of 130.932 miles per hour (57.905 seconds) on the 2.106-mile temporary road circuit constructed on the airport runways. He will be seeking his first career pole when qualifying for the ninth round of this year's FedEx Championship Series championship begins 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday.
A practice session is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, prior to qualifying.
Da Matta, in his first season with the Newman/Haas team, owns a career-best start of second, established at Toronto last year and matched at Mexico and Portland this season. He enters the weekend in fourth place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 49 points.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was second fastest at 130.805 mph (57.961 seconds). Castroneves, who stands second in the championship with 69 points, will be chasing his fourth pole of the season during qualifying, following previous pole-winning performances at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit.
FedEx Championship Series points leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal was third fastest at 130.036 mph (58.304 seconds). Like Castroneves, he seeks his fourth pole of the season Saturday to go with earlier poles at Mexico, Texas and Milwaukee.
Brack holds a 76-69 lead over Castroneves in the FedEx Championship Series championship entering Saturday's qualifying session, for which a championship point will be awarded.
Team KOOL Green teammates Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti filled out the top five spots on the speed sheet. Tracy was fourth fastest at 129.871 mph (58.378 seconds) followed by Franchitti, at 129.640 mph (58.482 seconds).
The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland is Round 9 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "The car was pretty good out of the box. We're still trying to make a few areas on the car better. The car was better this morning than it was this afternoon because we made some changes in the afternoon, and we didn't really have time to change the car back to what we had in the morning. But today is a learning day, and you don't get any points for today. We should have a good car, but we'd better be ready for tomorrow."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "We started off pretty poorly here. This morning wasn't really a true reading. We put new tires on the car and went fourth quickest, but we should have been 12th or somewhere like that, because the car was''t very good. We made the car pretty good this afternoon. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good. We've got a lot of work to do. We tried a lot of different things with the car, and I think we got a good setup now. I think we've got the car pretty much sorted out for tomorrow."
* Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) has made all three of his career-best FedEx Championship Series starts on road or street courses, at Toronto (street) last year, and at Mexico (road) and Portland (road) this season.
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) has qualified fifth or better for all seven of his FedEx Championship Series starts to date in 2001. He earned poles at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit, an outside pole at Milwaukee and started third at Portland, fourth at Mexico and fifth at Nazareth.
* FedEx Championship Series Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) seeks his best qualifying performance since an outside pole at Nazareth. He did, however, start on the pole at Milwaukee, where the grid was based on championship points due to a rainout of qualifying.
Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.