MONTERREY, Mexico (March 10, 2001) - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, whose solid rookie FedEx Championship Series season last year brought him the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award but neither a race victory nor a pole position, collected his first...
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 10, 2001) - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, whose solid rookie FedEx Championship Series season last year brought him the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award but neither a race victory nor a pole position, collected his first of the latter Saturday when he earned the pole for the inaugural Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Herdez at Fundidora Park.
Brack (Shell Ford Lola), in his 21st career FedEx Championship Series event, recorded a lap of 100.665 miles per hour (1 minute, 15.244 seconds) on the 2.1-mile permanent road course to claim the right to lead 27 fellow Champ Car drivers to the green flag for Sunday's season opener (4 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV). The race, the first of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series, is scheduled for 80 laps (168.32 miles).
Brack was the season's outstanding rookie in 2000, recording a fourth-place finish in the championship behind 10 top-six finishes. His best qualifying effort of that season, and previous best until Saturday, was second at Japan.
Starting alongside Brack on the front row will be Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, who matched a career-best FedEx Championship Series start by winning the outside pole. Da Matta started second at Toronto while driving for PPI Motorsports last season..
Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske qualified third at 100.255 mph (1:15.551). The effort brought de Ferran his 17th top-five qualifying performance in his past 21 starts, dating to the start of last season.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, fourth at 100.217 mph (1:15.580), and Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola, fifth at 99.527 mph (1:16.104).
Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader (40), will be making his first start with Team Motorola after spending 10 of his past 11 FedEx Championship Series seasons with Newman/Haas Racing.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "I want to thank my team, I want to thank Ford and Shell. Ford made a great effort over the winter to give us a good engine. We made a lot of changes over the winter, we changed chassis and I really didn't think we'd be as competitive as we have been. But as soon as we rolled the car off the truck it's been pretty good...I think the car will be pretty good overall on both road courses and ovals, I just figured we would have more to learn on the road courses. It's a good start to the season."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "It makes it a lot easier when you unload the car off the truck and it's already doing well. Since Friday afternoon we haven't had to change the car a lot. Our race weekend has been pretty smooth so far. No mechanical problems. I'm very happy to be starting second for the first time with the team and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard: "It's a great job by Kenny and Cristiano and Gil. It's been a tough weekend for us. It's our first race as a team and we have a lot of things to learn to get better and that's to be expected. It's my first time as an owner and my first time racing in Monterrey, Mexico for CART and our schedule has been very hectic. It's been difficult to focus as a driver and as a team. I haven't been able to find grip on the track and put the power down. I've started [in the back] before and always have hope. I always believe I have a chance to win until I see the checkered flag."
* Kenny Brack's (Shell Ford Lola) first career pole position was the 11th in the history of Team Rahal, and its first since Bryan Herta earned the pole at Laguna Seca in 1999. Brack's previous best start on a permanent road course was fourth at Mid-Ohio last year. He has qualified among the top 10 drivers for all five of his career starts on permanent road circuits, including fifth at Portland, sixth at Laguna Seca and ninth at Road America last year. Brack's pole was his first overall since 1996 at Silverstone, England, when he was competing in the Formula 3000 championship.
* Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) will start on the outside of the front row for the second time in his career, matching his career-best qualifying effort recorded at Toronto last year. Da Matta's effort also marks the first front-row start for a Toyota-powered driver in the manufacturer's six-year history in the FedEx Championship Series.
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) will make his fifth consecutive top-three start on a permanent road course, including a pole at Mid-Ohio and outside poles at Portland, Road America and Laguna Seca last year.
* Brack's pole was the third overall for Ford and its first on a permanent road course since Bryan Herta at Laguna Seca in 1999.
* Second-year driver Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), signed by the newly formed Sigma Autosport team late last month and with next to no off-season testing, qualified a strong eighth at 99.084 mph (1:16.144). The effort fell just one place shy of Servia's career-best qualifying effort of Portland established last year.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Geand Prix Presented by Herdez will air 3 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast beginning 4 p.m. ET. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .