CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana: Tony Kanaan wins CART Fontana pole

Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan races to CART FedEx Championship Series pole at Calfiornia Speedway. FONTANA, Calif. - (November 2, 2002) - Rolling off last during a qualifying session where some drivers sandbagged to grab an earlier spot for ...

Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan races to CART FedEx Championship Series pole at Calfiornia Speedway.

FONTANA, Calif. - (November 2, 2002) - Rolling off last during a qualifying session where some drivers sandbagged to grab an earlier spot for qualifying at California Speedway, Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) used putting his foot on the floor as his only strategy to take the pole for Sunday's The 500 Presented by Toyota.

Kanaan had the advantage of seeing what he had to beat after everyone else had taken their best shots at the 2.029-mile Fontana oval, then went out and got the job done with a best lap of 31.483 seconds (232.011 mph), taking his second pole of the 2002 season and second in the last three events.

The Mo Nunn Racing squad showed speed early in the day, leading the morning practice after turning the fastest lap of the weekend (31.006sec/235.580mph), putting the team last in the qualifying queue as the rest of the field made their pole runs. The pole changed hands three times before series champion Cristiano da Matta (#1 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) snared the top spot with an orbit of 31.679 seconds (230.575 mph), a time that would stand up for only the next 10 minutes.

As he has done for most of the year - on those rare occasions that da Matta has been caught - Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would upend his Belo Horizonte, Brazil neighbor with a top circuit of 31.601 seconds (231.145 mph) to take the pole. The pole time would hold up through the next five drivers before Kanaan rolled off and vaulted to the high point on the scoring pylon, earning his second oval-track pole and the fourth of his career.

Australia winner Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would take one final shot at Kanaan, withdrawing his primary car for a one-lap shot in his backup machine, but would not improve his position as Kanaan locked up the pole for Sunday's 250-lap event.

Junqueira would hold on to the second spot marking the fifth time that he has started in the front row this season, but only the first time on an oval since winning the pole at Motegi earlier in the year - a race he would go on to win. Defending California winner Da Matta slotted his championship-winning car into the third spot, marking the third consecutive oval-track race in which he has started in the third spot. The previous two oval events in which he has started third were successful ones for him and his Newman/Haas Racing squad as he won in Chicago and finished second in Rockingham.

Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) snapped off a lap of 31.685 seconds (230.532 mph) to earn a grid spot on the outside of the second row, starting in the first two rows for the third time in six California Speedway events, but is still looking for his first top-five finish at the two-mile oval.

Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five with a trip of 31.734 seconds (230.176 mph), earning him his seventh top-five start of the year while Friday's Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge winner Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would settle for a sixth-place performance. The run was among the best for the Team Rahal organization this year as Vasser qualified sixth for just the second time since winning the pole at Long Beach.

Friday practice leader Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) prophesied his own performance yesterday when he reminded the media that he had led practice in Rockingham only to qualify ninth. Saturday he went out and bettered his Rockingham performance by two but still had to settle for seventh after carding a lap of 31.737 seconds (230.154 mph). The two Player's cars will comprise the fourth row for Sunday's race as Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) finished just .003 seconds behind his teammate and will grid eighth.

Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would place ninth in the session while Max Papis (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. Papis is sitting in for the injured Adrian Fernandez and is looking to reprise his runner-up finish from a year ago at California, where he followed da Matta to the finish line.

The 500 Presented by Toyota will take place Sunday afternoon, starting at 12:30 local time (3:30 p.m. Eastern Time) and will be shown live on SPEED Channel.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES

TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):  "Well to begin with, this was a payback to Bruno [Junqueira] for Japan earlier this year. But what can I say? I'm almost a mile an hour quicker so I can't complain. I knew I could do a high 231 [mph]. I did a 232 so that's fine, too. It feels good to be on pole, but by turn one I'll be in third or fourth, but then first again by turn four. It's open for everybody. Anyone can win." (On the race) "I think there is going to be lot of passing for sure. I don't want to predict anything, but I think you'll see a lot of lead changes."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone):  "We improved a little bit from yesterday. It's good to qualify second of course. We didn't expect to be up here and qualify this high. Tony [Kanaan] was real strong. We tried to get the pole, but Tony was just faster."

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#1 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone):  "It's good to be in here with these two guys [Kanaan and Junqueira]. It's like the same [top three] thing we had when we were in Australia last week. Of course it's a 500-mile race so it's important to have a consistent car. But third is not too bad at all. We should be very strong fort the race tomorrow. Nobody has to worry about the fuel economy issue anymore, which is great. You want to be in the front of the pack late, but not leading."

NOTEWORTHY

* Max Papis earned his best starting spot of the season with a 10th-place run Saturday, marking his first top-10 start of the year. Papis has finished second at California Speedway on two occasions in his CART career.

* Mario Dominguez pulled his qualifying time after his first attempt, bringing out his backup car for a one-lap run to set his spot on the grid. He improved his time with the second run but would fail to move up the ladder and will start 17th.

* Today's pole was the fifth of the year for Honda, getting polewinning performances from Adrian Fernandez (2), Kanaan (2) and Dario Franchitti.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mario Dominguez , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn