WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 1, 2001) - Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske followed up his spectacular success last week's Indianapolis 500 by posting the top time during Friday's abbreviated test day for the Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile...
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 1, 2001) - Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske followed up his spectacular success last week's Indianapolis 500 by posting the top time during Friday's abbreviated test day for the Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who drove to victory at Indianapolis last Sunday, put together a lap of 166.601miles per hour (22.300 seconds) on the 1.032-mile oval to lead 25 drivers who posted test times in preparation for Sunday's sixth of 21 rounds in this year's FedEx Championship Series. Castroneves will be seeking his second consecutive pole position, and the seventh of his career, when qualifying begins 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
A scheduled two practice sessions totaling three hours and 15 minutes of track time were reduced to a single two-hour session due to overnight rains which prevented access to the track surface until just before noon local time.
The top three Champ Car practice speeds were posted by the top three drivers in this year's championship, as Castroneves, who stands second in the title race, was followed by third-place Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing. Series leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, meanwhile, was third on the speed charts.
Brack holds a 49-47 lead over Castroneves in the championship chase, while da Matta is grouped among three drivers at 40 points, but owns the tiebreaker based on best race finish, his victory in the season opener at Mexico.
Da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) was second fastest at 165.392 mph (22.463 seconds) while Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who earned his first career FedEx Championship Series triumph on May 19 at Motegi, Japan, was third fastest at 164.864 mph (22.535 seconds).
The Mo Nunn Racing tandem of Tony Kanaan and Alex Zanardi rounded out the top five, as Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) was fourth fastest at 164.776 mph (22.547 seconds) followed by Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) at 164.048 mph (22.647 seconds).
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "I was very busy this week, but I was enjoying every minute of it. Actually, that's what kept me focused. I just got back from New York yesterday, but as soon as I put my visor down, it was all business.
"The car is very good; we didn't change much. Tomorrow we're just going to try to go faster. It's looking good. I'm being more patient when the car's not there. I understand ovals a lot more this year. If I can't win the race, I want to score as many points as I can, because this championship is so tough. We'll see what's going to happen. I don't let anything distract me. We just have to keep going and focus on the championship because that's what we're after now."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "I had a pretty smooth session. We went through a couple of big changes that we wanted to get out of the way, and we ran the backup car, but everything went pretty well. Traffic was a problem for me, like it was for everybody. We're still looking for more speed, of course, but everybody else is too. It was good that the weather stayed so nice. The sun actually came out. The conditions were about perfect, and we didn't get to the point where the track got greasy. About the only thing missing is that there isn't enough rubber on the track yet."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "We worked on just trying to find our way with the Shell Ford. We started off a little bit shaky, but we're headed in the right direction. I think we can make some gains tomorrow. We were a pretty long way from where we needed to be when we started today. There's so little time that you've really got to go in the right direction. Even though you have a lot of simulation programs, it still counts the most on the track. We've been able to turn our way into it all year. I don't think I ever have too much confidence going into a race. You just don't know who's going to be up there. There's about 15 guys that can win any race. It was good to get a win, and it was a big weight off my shoulders, but it doesn't mean anything now."
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) owns six career FedEx Championship Series pole positions, including two this season, at Long Beach and Japan. His first career pole position came at Milwaukee during his rookie season of 1998.
* Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) will be seeking his first career pole position Saturday afternoon. His top start is second at Toronto last year, while his best oval start is fifth at Chicago last year, where he recorded his first career FedEx Championship Series victory.
* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) owns four front-row performances in five qualifying efforts thus far this season. He recorded poles at Mexico and Texas, and qualified on the outside pole at Long Beach and Nazareth.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Miller Lite 225 will air 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.