LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 10, 2001) - Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves continued Marlboro Team Penske's recent run of success at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Friday when they posted the two fastest speeds of the day during testing for Sunday's...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 10, 2001) - Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves continued Marlboro Team Penske's recent run of success at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Friday when they posted the two fastest speeds of the day during testing for Sunday's Miller Lite 200 (Noon ET, live, ESPN).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) and Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) started on the pole and outside pole, respectively, for last year's Champ Car event at Mid-Ohio, then finished in inverse order during the race. Friday, they picked up right where they left off, as de Ferran topped the speed chart with a lap of 122.883 miles per hour (1 minute, 6.151 seconds), followed by Castroneves, at 122.729 mph (1:06.234).
A morning practice session begins 9:45 a.m. ET Saturday on the 2.258-mile permanent road course, with qualifying scheduled to begin 1:45 p.m. ET.
De Ferran's time was less than a second off the track-record clocking of 1:05.347 (124.394 mph) he recorded while winning the pole last year. That gave him a share of the track standard established by Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green while winning the 1999 pole at Mid-Ohio.
De Ferran will be seeking his 13th career pole position, which would tie him with Paul Tracy for second place among active drivers, when qualifying begins Saturday.
Castroneves, meanwhile, will be chasing his fourth pole of the FedEx Championship Series season, and the eighth of his career. He enters this weekend's 13th of 21 rounds in the 2001 championship ranked second in the drivers' standings with 82 points, 22 behind series leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal.
Brack (Shell Ford Lola) was 15th-fastest Friday at 120.370 mph (1:07.532).
Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing was third fastest Friday at 121.711 mph (1:06.788). He seeks a career-best start at Mid-Ohio, improving on second in 1996 and '98.
Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing was fourth at 121.516 mph (1:06.895) followed by rookie Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who was fifth at 121.336 mph (1:06.994).
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It was kind of smooth all day here for us. The car unloaded fast, and it's working well. The engine is working better than it has in the past few races. Typically, the track speeds up a lot as the weekend goes on. We're significantly down on straight-line speed because of the boost reduction. We're a little faster in the turns, but it's hard to say if we're going to go faster than the track record tomorrow. I think to be honest, we managed not to screw up. We had a good car here last year, and we managed not to mess it up. We remembered what was good here last year and massaged it a little bit and got it a little bit better."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "The car so far is good, the setup was good right off the bat. It's great competition inside the team. I'm really having a lot of fun. Since we started this morning, we tried a lot of things, and everything we tried made the car better and better. We'll see what the weather does tomorrow, but if it's going to be nice, let's go for it."
JIMMY VASSER, Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard: "I guess it's better than not being third, but we're still not as good as the Penskes. They're really hooked up, and they were hooked up here last year. They're doing something, but I think it's something in the trailer that's helping them to figure out how to go faster than everybody else. But our car is good, and like I said, it's good to be third, so we'll see what happens tomorrow."
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) is seeking the 13th pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career, and his second pole of the season. His earlier 2001 pole came at Toronto. Of his 12 previous poles, only one has come on a permanent street circuit, at Mid-Ohio last year.
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) will be after his seventh front-row start of the season. Castroneves, the defending Miller Lite 200 champion, owns pole positions at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit and outside poles at Milwaukee, Toronto and Chicago.
* Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) is after his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1999 at Michigan and his first on a road or street course since 1998 at Cleveland. None of Vasser's seven career poles have come on a permanent road course.
* The PacWest Racing Group entries of Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) and rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) did not participate in Friday's practice, due to what was termed a "contractual issue" by a Toyota source. The parties reportedly resolved the issue on Friday afternoon, and the PacWest entries are expected to participate in Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions.
Qualifying for the Miller Lite 200 will air 1 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.