CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca Saturday qualifying report

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 9, 2000) - Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske retained the pole position for the Shell 300 (3 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN), featured event of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway, when his ...

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 9, 2000) - Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske retained the pole position for the Shell 300 (3 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN), featured event of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway, when his track-record provisional qualifying effort of Friday held up during final qualifying Saturday afternoon.

Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) collected his third pole of the season and the fourth of his FedEx Championship Series career at a new track standard of 118.969 mph (1 minute, 7.722 seconds), established during provisional qualifying Friday. His effort keyed a one-two sweep by Marlboro Team Penske, as Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) qualified second at 118.792 mph (1:07.823), also Friday afternoon.

It marked the fourth consecutive time that Honda-powered drivers had swept the front row, dating to a de Ferran-Castroneves one-two effort at Mid-Ohio last month.

Castroneves' earlier poles came at Portland and Toronto. He will be chasing his third victory of the season in Sunday's 16th round of the championship, following earlier triumphs at Detroit and Mid-Ohio.

De Ferran will make his seventh front row start of the season and has qualified among the top five drivers in 13 of 16 starts this season. Like Castroneves, he seeks his third victory of the season, following earlier victories at Nazareth and Portland.

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green retained third place on the starting grid with his Friday effort of 118.225 miles per hour (1:08.148). He makes his fourth consecutive start among the top three drivers, including back-to-back poles at Road America and Vancouver.

Two-time defending Shell 300 champion Bryan Herta (Forsythe Championship Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Forsythe Championship Racing, who did not post a speed Friday due to a fuel pickup problem, qualified fourth at 117.995 mph (1:08.281 mph). Herta has collected both of his FedEx Championship Series career victories in the past two events at Laguna Seca and was a three-time defending polesitter at Laguna Seca entering the weekend.

Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the top five drivers at 117.542 mph (1:08.544). Like the top three drivers, he established his speed Friday afternoon.

FedEx Championship Series points leader Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing qualified 11th at 117.074 mph (1:08.818). He holds a 126-120 lead over Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green entering Sunday's Shell 300.

Tracy qualified 13th at 116.938 mph (1:08.898). The top nine drivers were separated by less than a second.

HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Since nobody asked me about it yesterday, I'd like to start by saying it was a really good battle with my teammate. I knew it was going to be tough to go quicker today, especially on my first set of tires. On my second set of tires, I was going very quick, but then I got traffic. Marlboro Team Penske has been working very hard throughout the year. People ask, 'What do you have?' We're just working very hard, and Honda's been working very hard, so I'm glad to be up here for them. We've just got to keep working hard tomorrow."

GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Qualifying today was quite a bit warmer today that it was yesterday. But I thought it was still achievable to go quicker. It was very difficult because you'd get a red flag or something and I never really got a lap together. But I'm very happy to be starting up front. We did long runs this morning, and the car was pretty good, so I think we've got a good chance for tomorrow. Obviously, we're sitting in a good position, but you can't discount any of those guys [in the championship battle]. Paul [Tracy] has driven from no-so-good qualifying positions to the front before, and Michael [Andretti]'s always a tough cookie. It's going to be tough for [Roberto] Moreno and Adrian [Fernandez], but I'm taking nothing for granted."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It was frustrating today. On my first set [of tires], I was a tenth up going into the last turn and then I spun it. I thought I could give these guys a run if they didn't go quicker today. I thought their times were doable. But every time I got going, I got traffic or a red flag. It was frustrating. I felt I had a car today to be quicker. I'll be pushing hard tomorrow, and we'll see what happens. We're not that far off, it we are [off] at all."

*Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) is making his fifth front-row start in the last nine events. Included are poles at Portland and Toronto and outside poles at Chicago and Mid-Ohio.

*Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) qualified on the front row for the seventh time this season. The run consists of poles at Homestead, Long Beach and Mid-Ohio and outside poles at Portland, Cleveland and Road America.

*Castroneves and de Ferran extended a streak of four consecutive front row sweeps for Honda-powered drivers in FedEx Championship Series competition. De Ferran and Castroneves started the streak by qualifying first and second, respectively, at Mid-Ohio. Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) and de Ferran swept the front row at Road America, while Franchitti and Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) qualified in the top two positions at Vancouver.

*Dario Franchitti qualified among the top five drivers for the ninth time in 11 events. He will make his fourth consecutive top-three start, including poles at Road America and Vancouver and a third-place result at Mid-Ohio.

*Mercedes-Benz announced Saturday that it was withdrawing from the FedEx Championship Series, effective at the end of the current season. Mercedes won 19races and 19 poles during its tenure in the series, and won the 1997 CART Manufacturer's Championship. "We had a good time in CART, and experienced highlights in winning the 1994 Indy 500 and 1997 CART Manufacturers' Championship," said Jurgen Hubbert, DaimlerChrysler board member responsible for Mercedes-Benz cars and motorsport activities. "Mercedes-Benz expresses its gratitude to its teams, PacWest, Mo Nunn, Bettenhausen and Arciero Project - and wishes them all the best for the future."

Said Hal Whiteford, CART President of Racing Operations, "We are disappointed to see Mercedes- Benz leave the FedEx Championship Series following the close of this season because the engine manufacturer has been an outstanding partner. We recognize their years of support, dedication and performance and wish them the best in the future. In view of this announcement, we are currently in exploratory discussions with other engine manufacturers, who I wish not to want identify at this time due to the nature of the discussions."

*Two-time defending Shell 300 champion Bryan Herta (Forsythe Championship Racing Team Ford Reynard) of the Forsythe Championship Racing Team joined 30-year karting veteran Hollis Brown on Saturday to announce the inaugural Championship Auto Racing Teams Stars of Tomorrow program to identify and showcase the future stars of the FedEx Championship Series. The inaugural "Stars of Tomorrow" challenge will be held November 3-5 at the Las Vegas Karting Center. Entrants aged 16 and up will compete in the Pro 125 Gearbox, Pro 80 Gearbox and Pro Superbox classes, and a combined five drivers from those classes - the three race winners and two at-large picks - will participate in a three-day Skip Barber Racing School, culminating in the test of a Team Rahal Champ Car. "The 'Stars of Tomorrow' will be an excellent extension of our development series ladder," said interim CART President and CEO and Team Rahal co-owner Bobby Rahal. "It allows us to reach the grass-roots level of our sport, which is the background of many of our current drivers. Having Bryan, as well as some of the other stars of our series, lending assistance and advice to these young drivers will prove invaluable to their learning experience." Herta is a four-year veteran of karting (1985-88) and finished runner-up in the World Karting Association's 1985 season championship He also received karting's 1985 "Sportsman of the Year" award.

*William "Giff" Swayne, president of Holmatro Corporation, was honored with the Championship Drivers Association's sixteenth annual Nick Sanborn Award for Excellence in the Field of Safety during a dinner Friday night for members of the CART Safety Team at the Chateau Julien wine estate in Carmel, Calif. Swayne was honored for his efforts in making Holmatro an innovator and pioneer in the manufacturer of safety and rescue equipment. The award, an engraved plaque and wristwatch, was presented by CDA President Mauricio Gugelmin. Recipients of previous awards have included retired CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach, CART Vice President of Competition Kirk Russell, and Safety Team members Greg Passauer, Lon Bromley, David Hollander, John Mull, Liz Friede and Sue Dunham. As part of the evening program, Ina Broeman of Marlboro announced separate awards of $10,000 to the Jeff Krosnoff Foundation, the Gonzalo Rodriguez Foundation and the Greg Moore Foundation, all in the name of the CART Safety Team.

Qualifying for the Shell 300 will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ESPN's live race broadcast slated to begin 3 p.m. ET. The race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at .

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Skip Barber , Chip Ganassi , Jeff Krosnoff , Mo Nunn , Gonzalo Rodriguez
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing