CHAMPCAR/CART: Roberto Moreno takes Cleveland pole

David Reininger - Cleveland, Ohio (July 1, 2000) - A wing, a prayer and a spin helped Roberto Moreno earn the pole position for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, his first career pole in the CART FedEx Championship ...

David Reininger -

Cleveland, Ohio (July 1, 2000) - A wing, a prayer and a spin helped Roberto Moreno earn the pole position for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, his first career pole in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Moreno toured the 2.106 mile Burke Lakefront Airport circuit in 57.436 seconds, at an average speed of 132.001 mph.

"I am extremely pleased. I was coming out of the hotel this morning and my friend said, 'let's go and have a prayer' at the church in front of the hotel. We went there and prayed. I think he was praying for the pole while I was thanking for the superb life I have. Maybe we'll go there again tomorrow," Moreno said with a smile.

Moreno recorded his fastest lap with five minutes left in the session, only to spin on his next lap, causing a red flag condition. The red flag effectively canceled flying laps for several drivers.

When the session ended, a jubilant Moreno celebrated by hugging everyone in the vicinity of the Patrick Racing Visteon pits. "I was very emotional today because it was 1988, in Formula 3000, that I had a pole that competitive, where everyone was fighting for hundredths of a second. It brought me a lot of memories."

With one point for the pole position, Moreno now leads the championship by two points over Gil de Ferran, who will start second. "We've been developing the car every time we go out," said Moreno, who has yet to win his first FedEx Championship Series race. "Portland was the same. We start Friday with different things in the car, we play, we try, we take what's no good and we put what's good and eventually we come to a good package at the end. We did the same here and it paid off."

Gil de Ferran, driving the Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Reynard, made a last lap attempt to unseat Moreno from the pole, but came up .088 seconds short. "It was good day. In the morning we had a really good car. I was very happy with everything we were doing. Unfortunately, qualifying didn't go quite as well."

"On the first set of tires, I simply could not get a good lap in at all. It seemed that I was destined to have the same thing happen on the second set of tires. When the red came out I still hadn't posted a time that I felt was representative of the potential of the car. So when it went green for one lap I was able to squeeze one in. I was very thankful for that."

Moreno's red flag sent everyone to the pits, causing concern over tire temperatures. "I was on a very fast lap when it went red. My tires were okay, they had lost some of their edge all ready, but that was the only lap I had to do. It's tough because I knew I was no where. I could not make a mistake. So it was the balance between trying to get everything out of it and not make a mistake. It was tense, shall I say."

"I was just coming up to the last chicane and then I decided to be a little bit more adventurous. I went through that last chicane and made up a little more time."

De Ferran is looking for his third victory of the season after his wins at Nazareth and Portland. He has scored pole positions at Miami and Long Beach this season.

Mauricio Gugelmin will start third in the Nextel car entered by PacWest, his best qualifying effort of the season, and the best start for a Mercedes-powered car since Mark Blundell started on the outside pole at Chicago last year.

"We had a trouble free day. In the morning session I was able to try some alternative setups. This place is always difficult because the circuit keeps improving."

Gugelmin drove the fastest Mercedes-powered car yesterday, earning the right to use the one qualifying engine supplied by Mercedes Benz this weekend. "Certainly what I had today was something more special. If you look at the grid that's the first time I've been up there. I think my best qualifying was Motegi, when I was seventh. I think it just shows that we've been making progress."

When Gugelmin reported to the pits for the red flag, the team prepared the car for one more attempt at the pole. "We set ourselves up for one more flying lap after we were forced to the pits. The lap was definitely my fastest and I think it was good enough for the pole, but we ran out of fuel before I got to the line. Despite all that, I am very happy to be in the top three and have to thank my Nextel crew for giving me a good car today.

Michael Andretti, who was second fastest in provisional qualifying yesterday, will start fourth in tomorrow's race, his best start so far this season in the Big Kmart Ford-powered Lola.

"I tried to go out and get the pole but Roberto's strategy worked," said a disappointed Andretti. "I had one of the quickest splits up until he spun. We had a good lap going. I think it would have been enough to get the pole. Now the next goal is to get through Turn one okay and ahead of everyone else."

Starting fifth, in his best qualifying performance of the season, is Cristiano da Matta, driver of the Pioneer MCI WorldComm Toyota-powered Reynard. After qualifying, Da Matta, who was quickest in this morning's practice session, acknowledged that his car had been very good all weekend. "I am very happy to be starting higher than I ever have before. We are progressing all the time. That feels very, very good."

Last year's pole winner, Juan Montoya, will start sixth on tomorrow's grid.

The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland takes the green flag at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Live television coverage will be provided by ABC-TV.

NOTES - Championship Auto Racing Teams announced today that it has partnered with sports and entertainment powerhouse SFX Sports Group to assist in its television negotiations for its FedEx Championship Series. SFX Sports Group has negotiated television contracts on behalf of a number of sports entities, including NHRA on ESPN, Supercross Motorcycle events on ESPN, ABC and Pay-Per-View, and the Breeder's Cup on NBC.

Alex Gurney earned his first career pole position in the Toyota Atlantic series. Gurney's lap around the 2.106 mile airport circuit was run at an average speed of 108.883 mph, a new track record. The top three drivers in today's qualifying session recorded laps under the previous track record. Gurney's last time on the Burke Lakefront Airport circuit was in the Barber Dodge Series in 1998.

After crashing in this morning's practice session, Luiz Garcia Jr. will start tomorrow's race in the team's back up car, a 1999 Mercedes-powered Reynard. Long Beach was the last time the team used the back up car.

Firestone engineers reported ambient temperatures during qualifying ranging from 79 to 82 degrees with track temperatures from 118 to 125 degrees.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Gurney , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Roberto Moreno , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Cristiano da Matta , Luiz Garcia Jr.
Teams Team Penske