By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Portland, Oregon (June 23, 20010) - For the second time in his career Max Papis will start from the pole position in his Miller Lite Ford-powered Lola. Papis improved in every session this weekend, setting the...
By David Reininger - Motorsport.com
Portland, Oregon (June 23, 20010) - For the second time in his career Max Papis will start from the pole position in his Miller Lite Ford-powered Lola. Papis improved in every session this weekend, setting the 26th fastest time in Friday's first practice, while the in the afternoon, he was 16th. After turning in the second fastest time in this morning's practice session, Papis nearly missed breaking Helio Castroneves' track record by recording a qualifying lap at 57.785 seconds (112.669 mph).
The track record for the current configuration of Portland International Raceway is 57.738 seconds, set by Castroneves last year.
"I'm the same person that qualified penultimate in Detroit, and we just have a great belief in ourselves and I am very proud today," said Papis, whose last pole came at Chicago Motor Speedway in 1999. We weren't just first on track - we were first off the track because it's great proof that we came out of difficulties always believing in ourselves. For me, today means a lot more than just winning the pole."
Cristiano da Matta qualified second in the Texaco Havoline Toyota-powered Lola, missing Papis' mark by .081 of a second. "Max had a good qualifying lap," said da Matta, "especially considering he was in the first group and there was less rubber down. That was very impressive.
"The key to qualifying in Portland is to set your best lap time on the one lap where your tires are at their maximum in terms of performance. The tires are at their maximum for one, maybe two laps and I didn't run my best lap at the same time."
Prior to this afternoon's qualifying session, Helio Castroneves had set the best time of the weekend, turning a lap in the Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Reynard at 58.073 seconds in this morning's practice session. In qualifying, Castroneves improved upon his previous best, recording a lap at 57.944 (122.332 mph) to place third on tomorrow's starting grid.
"Basically, we tried to do the same thing as last year," said Castroneves. "We were very fast through the turns, but unfortunately, on the straights we were very weak. Because of that, maybe something didn't work quite right, and I was just cruising. I was about five miles per hour slower on the straights. But I'm happy and we'll just keep working on it."
Scott Dixon will start fourth in the PacWest Toyota-powered Reynard with a qualifying time of 57.962 (122.294 mph). Dixon managed a 58.086 on his fourth lap out, placing him third on the grid with 20 minutes left in the qualifying session. Castroneves and Dixon swapped third and fourth place on the grid until the last three minutes of qualifying when Castroneves nipped Dixon by .018 of a second.
"We had a lot of problems with the car this morning," said Dixon, who could manage no better than 59.196 after trying both his primary and backup cars. "My crew worked really hard on the car today and I'm really happy we qualified so well. We had a little understeer, but with a clear track and new tires I was able to gain some speed, allowing me to earn my best starting position of the season."
Starting fifth, after trimming a half second off his best time of the weekend, is Dario Franchitti, driver of the Team Kool Green Honda-powered Reynard. "The guys at Team Kool Green did a lot of thinking last night and we changed a lot, everything really. This morning we were pretty happy, although ultimately I probably didn't do the best lap I could have this morning, but we were still happy with it."
"The only reason we're fifth is because he drove the wheels off the thing," said Kyle Moyer, Team Kool Green team manager. "Dario's a bit disappointed because he should be on the pole on race track like this but we haven't given him the car. Right now it's a tenth place car he's made fifth with a good lap."
Bruno Junqueira will start sixth, followed by Christian Fittipaldi and Roberto Moreno in eighth. Jimmy Vasser and Patrick Carpentier rounded out the top-ten.
Kenny Brack, who sat atop the speed charts after Friday morning's practice session, will start 22nd after losing an engine during qualifying. The engine in Brack's Shell car caught fire at the end of the front straight causing an eight-minute red flag period. Safety crews chauffeured Brack back to the pits where the team was preparing his backup car.
After serving his eight-minute penalty for causing a red flag, Brack had time for four laps in the backup car. "Needless to say, it is a very disappointinday," said Brack. I don't know what the problem was initially but the engine didn't run properly. I came into the pits and our crew changed the pop-off valve. I went back out and the engine wouldn't run again. I was trying to make it back to the pits to change to the backup car but the car just stopped."
The Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 presented by Texaco takes the green flag Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. with live television coverage broadcast by ESPN starting at 4:00 p.m. EDT.