De FERRAN ADDS TO FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH POLE POSITION AT TEXACO/HAVOLINE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON HOUSTON (September 30, 2000) - Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske added a small bit of breathing room to his slim FedEx ...
De FERRAN ADDS TO FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH POLE POSITION AT TEXACO/HAVOLINE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON
HOUSTON (September 30, 2000) - Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske added a small bit of breathing room to his slim FedEx Championship Series points lead Saturday when he captured the pole position for Sunday's Texaco Havoline Grand Prix of Houston (4 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).
De Ferran secured his fourth pole of the season with a lap of 93.558 miles per hour (58.757 seconds), which brought him a championship point and increased his lead over second-place Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) to nine points (138-129) entering Sunday's 18th of 20 rounds in the championship. Moreno, who qualified 14th, leads a closely bunched group of five pursuers who were separated by a mere 19 points (137-118) heading into the weekend.
De Ferran's pole position was the 10th of his career, tying him for 10th place in CART history with Tom Sneva, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Juan Montoya. He will be seeking his third victory of the season Sunday, following earlier triumphs at Nazareth and Portland.
Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green qualified on the outside pole at 93.421 mph (58.843 seconds). He also started on the outside pole for the inaugural Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston in 1998, when he led all 70 laps en route to victory.
Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) qualified third at 93.420 mph (58.844 seconds) in his secondary car after bending the suspension in his primary car during a brush of the wall early in the session. It marked his fourth top-three qualifying effort of the season and his second in a row, following an outside pole at Gateway.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), de Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, qualified fourth at 93.417 mph (58.846 seconds). He was followed by Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco Havoline Ford Lola) at 93.317 mph (58.909 seconds). Andretti stands third in the championship with 127 points heading into Sunday's event.
The fourth-through-sixth place championship contenders face steady climbs upward from midway through the grid. Defending Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix champion Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), who stands fourth with 122 points, qualified ninth at 98.822 mph (59.223 seconds).
Fifth-place Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing qualified 16th at 92.045 mph (59.723 seconds). He brings 121 points into Sunday's event. Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal, sixth with 118 points, qualified 13th at 92.822 mph (59.223 seconds).
The top 17 of 25 qualifiers were separated by less than one second.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It was a pretty exciting qualifying session. We managed to get two clear laps on the first set of tires so I was able to put one in the bank and push harder. That's when I managed to do the 58.7 [second lap]. Then, we decided we would wait until the last ten minutes because I knew the track would get better. But there was a lot of traffic, and I wasn't able to get quite the same speed out of the second set of tires. Then, it was just a matter of waiting to see if anybody would go quicker. You've got to be careful not to let thoughts about the championship get in your mind. I wasn't thinking about anything other than, 'I've got to brake here, I've got to throttle here,' I wasn't thinking about getting another point. I'll worry about that later."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "The amount of time separating me and Gil [de Ferran] and me and Jimmy [Vasser], and even Helio [Castroneves] shows me that the pole was there for any of us. I had a lot of understeer for some reason, and almost went into the tires in Turn 1. We knew we had limited time, and most of the time was spent trying to get out of traffic. The Firestone tires were good for three or four laps, which is a lot longer than in the past. They've got a harder compound and the tires really go a long time. It wasn't what I would call a good qualifying car today. I had to really drag it around to get a good qualifying lap. But it's a good race car, and that's what matters."
JIMMY VASSER, Target Toyota Lola: "I hit the wall and bent the suspension. I thought it was a little unusual that the left front tire was locking up. I went into Turn 1 under normal speed and it just locked up and I went into the tires pretty hard. We contemplated changing the wishbones, but it took me two or three minutes to get the car back around to the pits and the guys made the right call in going to the backup car. The guys had the car ready to go. I put us in a bad spot, and the guys dug us out of it. I give all the credit to my guys and Ricky Davis, my crew chief. They really did a great job. I think I've got a good car to win the race, which I haven't done in far too long."
* Gil de Ferran's (Marlboro Honda Reynard) pole position was his fourth of the season, following pole-winning efforts at Homestead, Long Beach and Mid-Ohio. He has qualified among the top five drivers for 14 of 18 events this season.
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) has qualified among the top four drivers for the past six FedEx Championship Series events, including poles at Road America and Vancouver. He has qualified fifth or better for 11 of 13 events.
* Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) has recorded two of his top four qualifying efforts of the season on temporary street circuits. He was second at Long Beach before qualifying third Saturday.
* With three races remaining in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season, and a maximum of 66 championship points available in those events, there are still 13 drivers who retain a mathematical chance to win the FedEx Championship Series title. That is the largest number of drivers to stay in contention for the title with three races remaining since CART's current scoring system was adopted in 1983. Only 51 points (138-87) separate first-place Gil de Ferran from 13th-place Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) entering Sunday. The previous high total of contenders with three races left was 12, established in 1985. Only twice in the other 16 seasons has the number reached double figures - 10 in 1986 and 11 in 1996.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast slated to begin 4 p.m. ET. The race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .