CHAMPCAR/CART: Target Team Ganassi takes Gateway front row

By David Reininger - Madison, IL (September 16, 2000) - Target Team Ganassi teammates Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser will start from the front row in Sunday's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway. Montoya captured his...

By David Reininger -

Madison, IL (September 16, 2000) - Target Team Ganassi teammates Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser will start from the front row in Sunday's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway. Montoya captured his 13th pole position after edging his teammate by 15 one-thousandths of a second.

Montoya and Vasser, the only two drivers to average 180 mph around the 1.27-mile oval, were both a tenth of second faster than Paul Tracy who will start third. This is the first time the Target cars have swept the front row since Vasser and Alex Zanardi at Mid-Ohio in 1996.

Third fastest in the morning session, Montoya trimmed .027 seconds from his practice time, earning the pole at an average speed of 180.334 mph.

"We did a couple of changes after this morning and it was better. The car is a bit better, there's not a lot of understeer, so I think we're looking pretty good for the race," said Montoya, who has scored six poles this season, five of which have come on ovals.

This is the first time that Toyota powered cars have scored the top two starting positions in CART FedEx history.

Montoya has won from the pole position four times in his CART career, a feat that has yet to be accomplished in CART's four-year history at Gateway.

While red cars will be starting side by side on the front row, the second row will be all green, Team Kool Green. Tracy will start third with his teammate, Dario Franchitti starting alongside. Tracy stopped the clocks at 25.5 seconds (179.294 mph), with Franchitti .014 seconds slower at 179.196 mph.

"I'm not surprised with our good qualifying run. The Kool car has had good balance all weekend, we just caught a lot of traffic and didn't get a chance to get a clean lap in practice," said Tracy, who was 15th on this morning's speed chart. "We've been loose all weekend, but that's the way I like it."

"Qualifying was a good showing for both me and Dario. The key is to have a good race car and good results the rest of the year. If you can win, that's great, but the most important thing is to have a solid result and keep gaining championship points," said Tracy, currently third in championship points

Out of the top-five drivers in the CART FedEx Championship standings, Adrian Fernandez was the only other driver to earn a top-ten qualifying position for Sunday's race. Fernandez, fourth in the championship, qualified seventh.

Franchitti, who will start fourth, was initially disappointed with his qualifying effort. Poor practice times meant he would be near the front of the qualifying order. Although he picked up nearly four mph from the morning session, he didn't think his qualifying lap of 179.196 mph, would keep him near the front of the grid.

"We were happy at the end of the day yesterday, but then we really struggled this morning" said Franchitti. I sat down with the Team Kool Green engineers after practice and we had a think about it. We weren't sure what to expect for qualifying; we kind of took a gamble on the setup."

"Normally we take a controlled approach to changes to the car, but we said, 'Hey, we're 19th this morning, we have to make some pretty big changes.' So we did and it worked."

"But now we have to sit down and figure out the best setup for the race, because what works in qualifying doesn't work so well in the race. But we should be in good shape. We spent yesterday's afternoon practice, when all the cars were out together, working on a race setup."

Franchitti was seventh fastest yesterday afternoon with a lap at 173.774 mph.

Starting fifth in the Player's Ford-powered is Patrick Carpentier after turning in a qualifying speed of 179.182 mph. "We had a little bit of push in the car and to be really fast here you need the car to be a little bit loose, but not too much. But hey, us drivers always complain and think we've never got the perfect car. It was good run and the team did a great job."

Tony Kanaan will start sixth in the fastest Mercedes Benz-powered car. "We weren't incredibly happy with our time when we set it, but it beat most of the (seven) people who came after us, so it turned out to be all right. Actually, we had probably a better car than the time shows. But I got a little too greedy. I tried just a little too hard on the second lap and that cost us. We picked up just enough understeer that we didn't improve on our first lap."

Rounding out the top ten are Adrian Fernandez, Alex Tagliani, Helio Castroneves and Cristiano da Matta.

CART FedEx Championship points leader Gil de Ferran will start 14th. "We didn't make any changes to the Marlboro car after the morning session so we were surprised that the car was so loose in qualifying," said de Ferran, who was fifth fastest this morning. "We'll have to go back and look at the data and come up with some solutions for tomorrow."

Notes: Buddy Rice captured the 2000 Toyota Atlantic Championship after finishing second in today's Atlantic race. Cory Witherill was unhurt in an accident in his Indy Lights car. Indy Regency Racing has withdrawn their entry after the car sustained heavy damage in the incident.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Cory Witherill , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Buddy Rice , Cristiano da Matta