MADISON, Ill. (September 15, 2000) - Max Papis of Team Rahal led a closely packed field of competitors Friday by recording the fastest time during the opening day of practice for the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET ...
MADISON, Ill. (September 15, 2000) - Max Papis of Team Rahal led a closely packed field of competitors Friday by recording the fastest time during the opening day of practice for the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN2).
On a day when 23 of 35 cars were separated by under one second, Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) averaged 176.805 miles per hour (25.859 seconds) to pace the field for Sunday's 17th of 20 rounds in the championship. He will be seeking his first pole of the season and the second of his career when qualifying begins 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
Papis' season-best start to date is fifth at Detroit. His season-best on an oval is sixth at Chicago, where he won his first career pole position last season. He posted his fastest lap time during the morning practice session.
Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Reynard) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and defending Motorola 300 polesitter, was second-fastest Friday at 176.737 mph (25.869 seconds). His fastest speed came during afternoon practice.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was third fastest at 176.083 mph (25.965 seconds). He seeks his eighth top-three start of the season, his fourth pole of the campaign, and his first on an oval.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Tony Kanaan (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), fourth at 175.880 mph (25.995 seconds) and Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard), fifth at 175.853 mph (25.999 seconds).
FedEx Championship Series leader Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was 10th at 175.018 mph (26.123 seconds). He leads Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, 132-126, in the championship standings heading into qualifying Saturday afternoon, which will award a point to the polesitter.
Andretti qualified 20th at 171.390 mph (26.676 seconds).
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Reynard: "I didn't really learn a lot when we tested here because it rained, but the Ford engine is really good. Today doesn't really count. Our achievements have been lower than our expectations this year, but in the Miller team there is a lot of will to succeed. This is something I'm very proud of. Overall, our performance has been better on the ovals than the road and street courses. We had some good runs, like at Detroit, but on an overall basis, we've struggled to find the setup on the road or street courses. When we come to the ovals, we're a lot more comfortable with what we have in our hands. As far as our performance, it's disappointing, but I'm still a happy person. To enjoy a good day, you have to endure the bad days."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "The car's been good on the ovals. We didn't really test here, but the car was good this morning. Then, this afternoon I went out and spun. I just got too close to Max on the back straight. That was not very nice. But I went to the spare car and went quick and then we went to full tanks so it was good. It's going to be very important to qualify up front."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It's a big transition from the road courses to the ovals. You have to adapt a little bit. It's definitely interesting. I didn't have the opportunity to test here because I was sick that week, but we started with Gil's [de Ferran] setup this morning and it was good. It was tough in the second session because of all the yellows and track inspections. We did full tank runs like pretty much everybody else, and my car was kind of a handful, so we still have some work to do. The car was bad in traffic, so I'm hoping that everybody else is having the same problems."
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) will be looking to bring Ford its first pole since Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) at Cleveland in Round 9. Ford's only oval pole this season came from Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) at Ro de Janeiro.
Defending Motorola 300 polesitter Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is chasing his eighth front-row start of the season. Included are poles at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske is seeking his fourth pole of the season, but his first on an oval since last year at Milwaukee. His poles this season have come at Portland, Toronto and Laguna Seca.
Qualifying for the Motorola 300 will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.