CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Thursday practice summary

MOTEGI, Japan (May 17, 2001) - Tony Kanaan of Mo Nunn Racing logged the fastest time of the day Thursday during testing for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 at the Twin Ring Motegi motorsports complex. Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) paced the...

MOTEGI, Japan (May 17, 2001) - Tony Kanaan of Mo Nunn Racing logged the fastest time of the day Thursday during testing for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 at the Twin Ring Motegi motorsports complex.

Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) paced the day with a lap of 213.174 miles per hour (26.142 seconds) on the 1.549-mile oval. That effort led 25 drivers who posted practice times in preparation for Saturday's fifth round of the FedEx Championship Series championship (1 p.m. ET, tape delay, ABC-TV).

Kanaan will be chasing a season-best start when qualifying begins 12:30 a.m. ET Friday. His current season-best qualifying effort is third, established at Long Beach last month.

Kanaan's fastest time of the day came during morning testing. His two closest pursuers, however, came out of the afternoon test session, as Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske was second quickest followed by Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing.

Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) recorded a lap of 212.767 mph (26.192 seconds) while da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola), the FedEx Championship Series points leader, averaged 212.257 mph (26.255 seconds) on his fastest test lap..

Both da Matta and Castroneves will be chasing their second front-row starts of the season during qualifying Friday afternoon. Da Matta owns a season-best start of second at Mexico, and Castroneves claimed the pole for Round 2 of the championship at Long Beach.

Rookie Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was fourth fastest at 212.144 mph (26.269 seconds). He was followed by Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, who recorded the day's fifth-fastest speed at 212.031 mph (26.283 seconds).

Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, whose 40 championship points tie him with da Matta at the top of the FedEx Championship Series standings, was 17th on the speed charts at 209.354 mph (26.619 seconds). Defending Firestone Firehawk 500 champion Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola was 12th-fastest at 211.323 mph (26.371 seconds).

Twenty-four of the 25 drivers in the field were covered by one second on the combined time sheets.

Firestone Firehawk 500 Testing

TONY KANAAN, Hollywood Honda Reynard: "I got a good car here last year, and the setup hasn't really changed, so I knew we'd be quick out of the box with some small aero changes. Every single driver that drives for Honda wants to win this race for them. It's a lot of pressure. Honda gave us a good engine for here, and there are nine guys with the Honda, so all of us are trying hard to win this race for them."

HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "The car was very good right off the bat. The car was feeling very strong, and Honda really wants to win this race. They did a fantastic job in preparing this engine. But I'm sure tomorrow is going to be faster, and the other drivers are going to come after us. They definitely made a significant change to the engine. But again, the drivers always whine, and are always going to ask for more. Tomorrow is going to be the real day and, of course, the race. I don't think it's a lot of pressure, but if we have the opportunity, I think we can make it happen."

CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "The track felt very different from the morning to the afternoon. We tried a lot of things, and it wasn't an easy day for us. We had to bring the balance back to us. For me, it was a little bit different at the beginning of the afternoon session. We came back with a few question marks at the beginning of the session, and it took us about thirty minutes in the session to get the balance back from the morning. The wind affected us quite a bit, to be honest."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing will be chasing his second career pole position during qualifying Saturday afternoon. His only previous pole came at Long Beach in 1999. His career-best start on an oval is third, at Rio de Janeiro and Gateway in 1998 and Chicago last year.

Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske will be seeking his sixth career pole position and his second on an oval when qualifying begins Saturday. His previous oval pole came at Milwaukee in 1999. Castroneves' other poles came on road/street circuits at Portland, Toronto and Laguna Seca last year and at Long Beach this year.

Cristiano da Matta's (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) top career start on an oval is fifth at Chicago Motor Speedway last year, a race in which he drove to his first career FedEx Championship Series victory.

The Firestone Firehawk 500 will air via tape delay 1 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC-TV. The race will be broadcast live on the CART Radio Network and at www.cart.com beginning 11:15 p.m. ET Friday evening. The CART Radio Network broadcast and CART.com webcast will be the only live broadcasts of the Firestone Firehawk 500 in the United States.

-CART

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing