MONTEREY, Calif. (October 13, 2001) - FedEx Championship Series leader Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske added a crucial point to his championship lead Saturday when he captured the pole position for Sunday's Shell 300, featured event of the...
MONTEREY, Calif. (October 13, 2001) - FedEx Championship Series leader Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske added a crucial point to his championship lead Saturday when he captured the pole position for Sunday's Shell 300, featured event of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey on the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) claimed his fifth pole of the season and the 16th of his career with a lap of 117.453 miles per hour (1 minute, 8.596 seconds) on the 2.238-mile permanent road course. The effort earned him a championship point, raising his series-leading total to 164 and moving him 11 ahead of Kenny Brack of Team Rahal (153 points) in his attempt to defend the FedEx Championship Series championship he earned last season.
Brack qualified 14th Saturday at 115.059 mph (1:10.023).
De Ferran's pole extended a run that has seen him qualify fourth or better for each of the past seven FedEx Championship Series events, dating to a pole at Mid-Ohio. He has also qualified fourth or better for four of his five starts on permanent road courses this season.
De Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), qualified on the outside pole at 117.313 mph (1:08.678). Castroneves, the reigning Indianapolis 500 and defending event champion, is making his best start since an outside pole at Mid-Ohio, and has qualified sixth or better for the past eight FedEx Championship Series events.
Castroneves enters Sunday's 18th of 21 rounds in the championship in third place with 133 points.
Rookie Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group qualified third at 116.813 mph (1:08.972). The performance matches a season best established at Road America.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who was fourth at 116.669 mph (1:09.0587), and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who was fifth at 115.964 mph (1:09.477).
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It was a very difficult qualifying session. I knew from yesterday and this morning that Helio was very fast. I was very happy with the car this morning, a lot happier than I was yesterday. On our first set of tires [in qualifying], I had a little bit too much understeer. On the second set, I was really happy with the car. We just made a few adjustments, but we just couldn't get a clear lap. Certainly, by then Helio went faster than I had, because I had pretty much nothing, and I was worried because we only had one or two more laps in the tires. We finally got a clear lap going, I had a few twitches here and there, and put the thing on the pole. At that point we still had two minutes to go. I got through Turn 1 very fast and then when I got into Turn 2 or 3 or whatever you call it, I spun and that was it. That's not the way I wanted to end the session, but it was very helpful to get the one point [for winning the pole]. It's also helpful to start on the front row, but it's definitely not going to be easy tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "We tried a lot of things this morning that didn't work, so we went back to yesterday. Unfortunately, the system really hurt us today, but that's the system. It's going to be hard to pass, but we need to try to get a good result tomorrow. We've definitely got a very good car, and I'm disappointed with the system. Two minutes is a lot of time, but we just have to put it behind us. Let's try to work a good strategy tomorrow. It worked at Mid-Ohio, why can't it work here?"
SCOTT DIXON, Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota: "Yesterday afternoon, we came across a few problems, but generally, today we went back to what we knew and we went a little better. It's good for qualifying, but it's going to be pretty hard to beat these two [de Ferran and Castroneves] tomorrow. I think if we had a little bit more money, it would've been a little closer. It's going to be difficult to match them or pass them. I think the Toyota will be very good on fuel mileage. Let's hope to stretch the fuel window a little bit and then get a dream yellow."
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) earned his fifth pole of the season, his second in a row and his fourth in the past seven FedEx Championship Series events. His previous poles came at Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Germany and Houston. It is his third career pole on a permanent road course, the others having come back to back at Mid-Ohio in 2000 and this year.
* Gil de Ferran's pole position was the series-leading eighth of the season for Honda and its second in a row at Laguna Seca. Helio Castroneves earned the pole at Laguna Seca last year.
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) is making his eighth front-row start of the season. The others have been poles at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit, and outside poles at Milwaukee, Toronto, Chicago and Mid-Ohio.
* Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) equaled a season best established at Road America with his third-place qualifying effort. He has qualified seventh or better for five of his past six FedEx Championship Series starts, after qualifying among the top seven only once in the season's first 13 events.
* Bryan Herta (Forsythe-Indeck Ford Reynard) of the Forsythe Championship Racing Team was disqualified from his fifth-place qualifying performance for failing post-race inspection. He will start Sunday's Shell 300 from the rear of the grid, in 26th position.
Qualifying for the Shell 300 will air 2 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 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 .