CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Saturday qualifying notes

Today's qualifying order will be determined by the Championship Points that each driver possesses with the lowest point total going out first. The drivers will have up to four times by the flag stand before starting their first of two timed ...

Today's qualifying order will be determined by the Championship Points that each driver possesses with the lowest point total going out first. The drivers will have up to four times by the flag stand before starting their first of two timed laps.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:45 a.m. to start the two-hour qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 69 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 62 degrees F. at the start of the session. A heavy cloud cover still exists here at California Speedway but the sun is starting to shine through to the east. There is little or no wind present at the moment. The drivers will be chasing the track qualifying record of 240.942 mph set in 1997 by #17 MAURICIO GUGELMIN.

#91 MEARS' top speed: 233.382 mph; 31.298 seconds; second lap. MEARS sits on the Provisional Pole.

#19 BARRON's top speed: 231.504 mph; 31.552 seconds; second lap.

#34 MARQUES' top speed: 226.037 mph; 32.315 seconds; second lap.

#25 GARCIA Jr.'s top speed: 222.363 mph; 32.849 seconds; second lap.

#5 NAKANO's top speed: 226.044 mph; 32.314 seconds; second lap.

#16 JOURDAIN Jr.'s top speed: 227.963 mph; 32.042 seconds, first and only lap. JOURDAIN Jr. only receives one timed lap instead of two due to a Pit Road speed violation that the driver committed at Pit Out as he drove on-track for his qualifying attempt.

#18 BLUNDELL's top speed: 230.845 mph; 31.642 seconds; second lap.

#10 GIDLEY `s top speed: 232.936 mph; 31.358 seconds; second lap.

#55 KANAAN's top speed: 234.861 mph; 31.101 seconds; second lap. KANAAN takes over the Provisional Pole from MEARS.

#17 GUGELMIN's top seed: No time. GUGELMIN detected a mis-fire in the engine and shut it off on the first warm-up lap. GUGELMIN will take the last place in the qualifying order for any further attempt at qualifying and will only receive one timed lap instead of two as a result of falling out of order in the qualifying line.

#33 TAGLIANI's top speed: 235.633 mph; 30.999 seconds; second lap. TAGLIANI takes the Provisional Pole from #55 KANAAN.

#96 SERVIA's top speed: 232.965 mph; 31.354 seconds; second lap. SERVIA is fourth-best at the time.

#11 FITTIPALDI's top speed: 239.073 mph; 30.553 seconds; first lap. FITTIPALDI's takes over the Provisional Pole from #33 TAGLIANI.

#7 PAPIS' top speed: 234.521 mph; 31.146 seconds; first lap. PAPIS sits fourth-fastest at the time.

#27 FRANCHITTI's top speed: 237.194 mph; 30.795 seconds; first lap. FRANCHITTI sits second at the time.

#32 CARPENTIER's top speed: 234.959 mph; 31.088 seconds; second lap. CARPENTIER is now fourth on the Provisional Grid.

#97 da MATTA's top speed: 231.952 mph; 31.491 seconds; second lap. Da MATTA's is presently tenth on the Provisional Grid.

#1 MONTOYA's top speed: 237.688 mph; 30.731 seconds; second lap. MONTOYA is currently second on the Provisional Grid.

#3 CASTRONEVES' top speed: 239.011 mph; 30.561 seconds; second lap. CASTRONEVES is currently second on the Provisional Grid, missing the Provisional Pole by .008 seconds.

#6 ANDRETTI's top speed: 239.097 mph; 30.550 seconds; first lap. ANDRETTI takes the Provisional Pole from teammate #11 FITTIPALDI.

#12 VASSER's top speed: 237.217 mph; 30.792 seconds; second lap. VASSER currently sits fifth on the grid.

#20 MORENO's top speed: 231.672 mph; 31.529 seconds; first lap. MORENO is currently 15th on the Provisional Grid. MORENO needed to win the Pole and the one Championship Point that goes with it as well as winning the race tomorrow to maintain a chance at winning the CART Championship. As he did not win the Pole, MORENO's chance at the CART Championship has now disappeared.

#8 BRACK's top speed: 236.297 mph; 30.912 seconds; second lap. BRACK is currently seventh on the Provisional Grid.

#26 TRACY's top speed: 236.213 mph; 30.923 seconds; first lap. TRACY is currently eighth-fastest.

#40 FERNANDEZ's top speed: 233.659 mph; 31.261 seconds; first lap. FERNANDEZ is currently 13th-fastest.

#2 de FERRAN's top speed: 241.428 mph; 30.255 seconds; first lap. De FERRAN shuts off the engine on the second lap as no further qualifying is needed. De FERRAN's lap wins the Pole for Sunday's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota as well as sets a new track qualifying record! This lap is also a new world speed record for a closed-course (oval) track. In addition, de FERRAN wins one more Championship Series point in his quest to win the Vanderbilt Cup and the one million dollars that goes with it. De FERRAN is one of only five drivers to improve their top speeds over draft-aided practice speeds, the others being VASSER, CARPENTIER, TAGLIANI, and GARCIA Jr.

#17 GUGELMIN's top speed: 230.365 mph; 31.708 seconds; first lap. GUGELMIN winds up 22nd on the grid.

GIL de FERRAN wins the Pole for Sunday's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota in his Marlboro/Team Penske Honda Reynard with his world and track record speed of 241.428 mph (30.255 seconds), breaking MAURICIO GUGELMIN's 1997 record of 240.942 mph. This is also de FERRAN's fifth Pole of the season and the 11th of his career. This is also de FERRAN's tenth front-row start of the season.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI is second on the grid in his Kmart/Texaco Havoline Ford Lola by virtue of his 239.097 mph (30.550 second)-lap. This matches ANDRETTI's best start of the season as ANDRETTI also started second at the other 500-mile race on the circuit, the Michigan 500 at Michigan Speedway.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI is starting third tomorrow in his Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola after his 239.073 mph (30.553)-effort. FITTIPALDI has started third in both 500-mile races on the CART circuit this season, again the other being the Michigan 500. FITTIPALDI has started sixth of better in six of his last seven oval appearances this year. FITTIPALDI missed the Chicago race due to a practice accident.

De FERRAN's Pole win today represents the series-leading 11th win for Honda, including a sweep of both 500-mile Poles of the 2000 season, but the first at Fontana.

Quotes from today's top three qualifiers follow:

GIL De FERRAN: I am very pleased to be in the position I'm in now. The most important thing to me is the extra point that we earned. You never know if you're going to need it or not, but it gives us a little bit of a cushion for tomorrow. The (record-setting) lap was not that difficult, really. The car wasn't sliding around much at all and there was no understeer. I felt the car was very solid underneath me and thought there was no way it was going to soon as I crossed the line Roger came over the radio and said "OK, we're done."

(On qualifying in reverse order of point standings) "I think it was a great move. I think some drivers were taking some chances in practice to improve their qualifying order and I, and some other drivers, thought it was getting a little out of hand, especially in Michigan. This move eliminates the need to get a good tow in practice."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "It would've been nice to have the pole here. I haven't had a (superspeedway) pole I think since '92. I thought we had a good shot at it at Michigan (this year) but we just lost it on the last car qualifying, and the same thing happened here. Normally it's pretty hot here. This weekend's it's been cool and not a lot of wind. It's a dream. It really helps the downforce and that's why I think we saw the record fall."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: "I learned in Michigan that you don't learn anything if you're in practice getting a big tow. The car was almost as good as our car was in Michigan, it was a little more neutral. We just came up a little bit short. We have one more race to go to try and get a win in's a long race and we'll just have to see what happens."

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske