By Chris Speigner - Motorsport.com Houston, TX - Final qualifying for CART should have been called trading places as the major players in this year's Houston Grand Prix garnered their starting spots for Sunday. This session saw Gil de Ferran...
By Chris Speigner - Motorsport.com
Houston, TX - Final qualifying for CART should have been called trading places as the major players in this year's Houston Grand Prix garnered their starting spots for Sunday. This session saw Gil de Ferran bump Dario Franchitti from the pole and the surprise of Tarso Marques. Marques blasted from eighteenth to eleventh. It also saw rookie Kenny Brack plummet from fourth to thirteenth.
Gil de Farren failed to break the track record with his fast lap of 58.757sec at 93.558mph. This is de Farren's fourth pole of this season. That's the most held by any driver this year. Gil will receive one point for his pole today. That will increase his lead to nine over Roberto Moreno. "It was a pretty exciting qualifying session, I think any of the top four or so of us could have ended up on the pole today. Fortunately, I was able to get a clear lap on my first set of tires and 'put one in the bank' so to speak." This is Honda's tenth pole and the company's fiftieth since joining the series and '94.
Dario Franchitti fell off the top spot, but only by one hundredth of a second. Dario got the job done early, as he had to serve a penalty that was held over from yesterday. Franchitti finished first here two years ago at the inaugural event, and second last year. "It's disappointing not to be on the pole, but that's all the KOOL car had. I was pushing it to the absolute limit. We're fighting with the car for sure." Dario will not only be fighting with his car but with the other twenty-four drivers in the field. "Team KOOL Green has always given me a good car for the race and hopefully that will be the case for tomorrow. We've got a few things we need to address, but we should be able to run up front."
Jimmy Vasser dropped a spot due to an early incident involving a tire wall. Vasser had to go to his Team Ganassi Target back up car. " The credit for today goes to Ricky Davis and the guys on Team Target to have the back-up car ready to roll. Now we're in a great position to win a race-these guys really do a great job." "We had only run one lap in the back-up car prior to today's qualifying but we have just been on the money all weekend." Vasser is looking forward to tomorrow. "We went back to what was successful in Long Beach and that was a good race for us so let's hope that tomorrow is just as good." Vasser has a strong position less than one tenth behind pole sitter de Farren.
Helio Castroneves rounds out the front two rows for Sunday's race. Castroneves gained a spot over Friday's initial qualifying session. "I had an eight minute penalty.so we were making the most of the twenty-two minutes we had to qualify today. I had improved my time from yesterday by more than eight tenths and was going for one more fast lap. Unfortunately on the last turn of the last lap I got caught in traffic and wasn't able to improve my time." When asked what the strategy for tomorrow "I started on the second row in Detroit and won the race so tomorrow we'll go for it."
One of the best gainers on the day was Tarso Marques. He moved forward in the pack from eighteenth to eleventh. Tarso was the fastest qualifier to run in the first session of today's round. "It felt really good. We improved the balance of the car a lot. I think we're a little bit down on the level of grip, but the car is really fast." Team strategy has been an issue with many of the teams this week, and the Panasonic team is no exception. "We're not sure yet about the race. We'll have to see what kind of fuel mileage we can get so we can plan on the number of pit stops we'll have to make.tonight we'll concentrate on setting the car up for the race."
Rookie Kenny Brack found himself on the decline at the end of today's round. Brack fell from the fourth spot to thirteenth position. "It was very frustrating out there today. I couldn't get a clear lap in qualifying." " I was pretty disappointed because we were fourth on Friday and I expected to be right up there again today. We didn't have a fast enough car when it counts. I think we can do better for the race."
It all comes down to the race tomorrow. There are seventeen drivers that are within one second of the pole time. When the teams take the track it could be any bodies race