PORTLAND, Ore. (June 23, 2001) - Max Papis of Team Rahal earned the first road- or street-course pole position of his six-year FedEx Championship Series career Saturday when he topped all qualifiers for the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 23, 2001) - Max Papis of Team Rahal earned the first road- or street-course pole position of his six-year FedEx Championship Series career Saturday when he topped all qualifiers for the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola), whose only previous pole came at Chicago in 1999, emerged from the first of two qualifying groups - the group with fewer championship points - to record a lap of 122.669 miles per hour (57.785 seconds) on the 1.969-mile permanent road course. That earned him the right to lead 26 other competitors to the green flag Sunday afternoon for the eighth of 21 rounds in the 2001 championship.
Papis' previous career-best start on a road or street course was third at Laguna Seca in 1999. Sunday's event will mark the 50th road- or street-course start of Papis' career.
The championship point Papis earned for the pole position gives him 17 for the season, good for 14th place in the championship. He will be seeking his second career victory (Homestead, 2000) when the green flag falls Sunday afternoon.
Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing qualified second at 122.497 mph (57.866 seconds). He matched a career-best qualifying performance on a road- or street-course, established earlier this season at Monterrey, Mexico.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske qualified third at 122.332 mph (57.944 seconds). The performance allowed him to extend a run that has seen him post top-five results in seven of eight qualifying attempts this season.
Castroneves, winner of last weekend's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, stands second in the championship with 69 points entering Sunday's event. Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal, winner of two of the past three events, leads the title race with 74 points.
Brack, who drew an eight-minute penalty for causing a red-flag stoppage of his qualifying session due to a mechanical failure, qualified 22nd at 120.635 mph (58.759 seconds).
Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group qualified fourth at 122.294 mph (57.962 seconds), followed by Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who was fifth at 122.094 mph (58.057 seconds).
Two-time defending Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco and defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske qualified 15th at 121.099 seconds (58.534 seconds).
The top 22 qualifiers were separated by less than one second.
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Lola: "First of all, I'm the same person who qualified 24th in Detroit, and now I'm on the pole here. Today was a great proving day. Our goal was to finish first in the [first qualifying] group, and be in the top ten. With the Miller Lite team, we've had a tough start to the season, but it's taken a lot of belief in ourselves. With the combination of the Ford engine, the Lola chassis, and the Firestone tires, we were able to put a good lap together. I just feel we are building good success with the team, and we'll see what happens. They tell me Italians are genetically pretty good in the rain, but Brazilians are pretty good, too. I didn't care if my time was going to hold up, I won my day already."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "The key in Portland is to hit the best lap when the tires are going at their best. It's only one lap, maybe two, but there's only one peak, peak lap. We figured that out early this weekend. We weren't good enough to beat Max today, but pretty good. We'll just work hard to get Max tomorrow. The [Lola] chassis is very good and the results speak for it. There are two Lolas on the front row, and I think [Bruno] Junqueira was like sixth or something like that, and Christian was seventh, so that proves it. I have only good things to say."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Basically, we tried to do the same thing as last year. Unfortunately, we don't know what happened. 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 trying pretty hard, and I was up two tenths [of a second] in the Festival [Chicane], but I wasn't fast on the straights. I was about five miles per hour slower on the straights. But I'm happy, and we'll just keep working on it. I'm sure it's going to be very interesting tomorrow. We just have to make sure we have some good strategy, and we'll see what happens.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) made substantial improvement from the end of morning practice Friday, when he stood 26th after a best lap of 1:00.634 (116.905 miles per hour), to Saturday's pole-winning time of 57.785 seconds (122.669 mph). Papis was 15th during Friday afternoon practice at 59.241 seconds (119.654 mph), then leaped to second Saturday morning, at 58.107 seconds (121.989 mph). Over four sessions on track, Papis improved his time by nearly three seconds per lap and over five miles per hour.
Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline Kmart Toyota Lola) has qualified among the top-four drivers for three of four road- or street-course starts this season. He also qualified on the outside pole at Mexico and fourth at Long Beach.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) has qualified among the top five drivers for seven of eight events this season, including pole positions at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit. He also qualified on the outside pole at Milwaukee, fourth at Mexico and fifth at Nazareth.
Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group qualified fourth, by far the best qualifying performance of his brief FedEx Championship Series career. The 2000 Dayton Indy Lights champion, Dixon's best previous start was eighth at Milwaukee and his best road-course start was 14th in the season opener at Mexico. Dixon, whose victory at Nazareth at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days made him the youngest race winner in major open-wheel history, owns a 38-23 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the race for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.
CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN, and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .