VASSER CONTINUES SUPERSPEEDWAY SUCCESS WITH POLE FOR U.S. 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 24, 1999) - Jimmy Vasser of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing upstaged his FedEx Championship Series-leading teammate, Juan Montoya, Saturday by ...
VASSER CONTINUES SUPERSPEEDWAY SUCCESS WITH POLE FOR U.S. 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA
BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 24, 1999) - Jimmy Vasser of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing upstaged his FedEx Championship Series-leading teammate, Juan Montoya, Saturday by claiming his first pole position of the season for the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET Sunday, live ABC-TV).
On a day when 21 of the 26 qualifiers were separated by less than one second, Vasser's lap of 229.606 miles per hour (31.358 seconds) in the Target Honda Reynard brought him his third pole position in his last five starts at Michigan Speedway. His other poles at Michigan came in 1996 at The Inaugural U.S. 500 and the Marlboro 500. It was the seventh pole of his career and first since last year at Cleveland.
Vasser, the 1996 FedEx Championship Series champion, earned a PPG Cup point, taking him to 40 for the season. He is 10th in the championship as the series heads into Round 12 of 20.
Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) qualified second at 229.438 mph (31.381 seconds) to match a season-best start established in the season opener at Homestead. He makes his second front-row start at Michigan in as many years, after winning his first career pole there last season.
Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) qualified third at 229.321 mph (31.397 seconds) to earn his seventh top-three start in the past nine events. Montoya enters Sunday with a 113-106 lead over Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) in the championship.
Franchitti qualified ninth at 227.790 mph (31.608 seconds). He and teammate Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) recorded identical qualifying times, but Tracy was awarded the eighth starting spot based on having the faster speed during his other qualifying lap per CART rules.
Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) qualified fourth at 229.168 mph (31.418 seconds) and was followed by Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) at 228.593 mph (31.497 seconds). Andretti's start will be his best at Michigan since qualifying third in 1995. Pruett will make a season-best start, which represents the best for a Toyota-powered driver in the engine manufacturer's four years in the FedEx Championship Series. Prior to Saturday's qualifying, Toyota's best was 15th by Alex Barron at California Speedway last season.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
JIMMY VASSER, Target Honda Reynard: "I learned a lot [about superspeedway racing] doing testing of Firestone's speedway tire in 1996 and '97. I learned a lot about wheel input and scrubbing speed. Wheel input has a lot to do with it because you're basically going flat all the way around here. Juan [Montoya] has done a great job on his first superspeedway event and Alex [Zanardi] probably should have won the first U.S. 500 here in '96, so you have to give a lot of credit to the whole Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team. If we play our cards right, I'll help Juan with some strategy tomorrow, and if we can be there after 500 miles, I think we will see one of our Target cars in the Winner's Circle tomorrow."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard: "We came here with a very strong car. We normally don't test here. During the first practice session, the car was very loose with a lot of push, and in the afternoon, we had the same problem. For today, we made some changes to the car, and I think we found the problem. Since this morning, the car has been fantastic. I told my engineer, 'We're back!' and we're going to be strong. We have to figure out how to set the car up for tomorrow. The track is going to change a lot after [Saturday's] truck race, and I think it's going to be a little bit of a guessing game."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "The car has been working really good all weekend since rookie practice. The car had a little bit of understeer [during qualifying] and I think I scrubbed a little too much speed going into Turn 3. I think that's what made the difference. But I like it here. I like the speed and a lot of the technical aspects to driving here. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."
* Jimmy Vasser's (Target Honda Reynard) third pole position in his past five starts at Michigan Speedway extended a run that has seen him qualify on the front row for six of his last seven starts in 500-mile events. Included, in addition to his poles at Michigan in The Inaugural U.S. 500 and Marlboro 500 in 1996, is an outside pole at Michigan last year and outside poles at California Speedway in 1997 and last year. Vasser remains the track qualifying record holder at Michigan at 234.665 mph (30.682 seconds), set at the 1996 Marlboro 500.
* Adrian Fernandez' (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Reynard Ford) outside pole position gives Patrick Racing its third consecutive front-row start at Michigan Speedway. Fernandez won the pole for last year's U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota while then-teammate Scott Pruett was the pole-sitter for the 1997 event.
* Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) extended an impressive Michigan Speedway resume by qualifying fourth, bringing Toyota the best qualifying performance of its four-year history in the FedEx Championship Series. Pruett also earned his first series victory at Michigan in 1995 as well as one of his four career poles in 1997.
* Defending U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota champion Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Mercedes Reynard) qualified 21st at 223.575 mph (32.204 seconds). He qualified 14th and drove to victory in last year's event, which featured a CART record 62 lead changes.
* Vasser's pole was the 10th of the season for Firestone and the eighth for Honda.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota will air 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.