MOTEGI, JAPAN - Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti will line up on the outside of the front row for tomorrow's Firestone Firehawk 500, after posting the second fastest time in today's qualifying. Franchitti turned a lap of 25.991 seconds, an ...
MOTEGI, JAPAN - Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti will line up on the outside of the front row for tomorrow's Firestone Firehawk 500, after posting the second fastest time in today's qualifying. Franchitti turned a lap of 25.991 seconds, an average speed of 214.413 mph around the 1.549-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval. It represents his best qualifying spot since he started second in Houston last season and ties his best starting position on an oval, having also qualified second at Brazil in 1998 and Milwaukee in 2000.
Franchitti's teammate, Paul Tracy, wasn't as fortunate. After setting the sixth fastest time in the morning practice, Tracy suffered a problem with his pop-off valve in qualifying and had to run his laps at reduced boost pressure. He will start tomorrow's 500 kilometer/312-mile race in the 16th position. Tracy has never qualified well at Motegi, although he's scored points in all three visits. He started 16th and finished 5th in 1998, started 10th and finished 11th in 1999, and he started 20th but finished 6th last season.
It's an all Honda front row, as Helio Castroneves will start the race from the pole. Castroneves, who also won the pole at Long Beach this year, set a fast time of 25.849 seconds (215.591 mph).
The Firestone Firehawk 500 takes the green flag at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday in Japan (11:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 18), and will be televised on a tape-delay basis by ABC in the U.S. on Saturday (May 19) at 1:00 p.m.
PAUL TRACY, #26 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD:
(16th with a lap-time 26.432 seconds / 210.835 mph)
"It's just a shame to have such a good car and not have a good starting spot to show for it. We had a problem with the pop-off valve (a device limiting maximum intake manifold pressure) and couldn't get the turbo boost (manifold pressure) turned down enough to keep it from popping, which cuts the power and your speed. The (atmospheric) conditions must have changed from this morning. I've never really qualified well here, but Team KOOL Green usually gives me a good car on race day, so I'm optimistic. It's just makes getting to the front a little harder and a little more exciting."
STEVE CHALLIS, CHIEF ENGINEER FOR PAUL TRACY:
"We'd found a really good balance on the car in this morning's practice session so we were counting on a better result in qualifying. Knowing that we've got a good car, we're confident we'll be competitive in the race. And we know we've got the driver to do it. Paul is a charger - he's won from farther back than 16th."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, #27 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD:
(2nd with a lap-time of 25.991 seconds / 214.413 mph)
"That was a good run. The guys at Team KOOL Green gave me a good car and I pushed really hard. But I know there's still more in the car. We had a little too much understeer in Turns 3 & 4 - the car was better through there this morning. But second isn't a bad starting spot, I guess. The KOOL car has been really good in race trim this weekend. But the conditions change throughout the race and it will be up to us to keep up with them. We'll make all the adjustments we can during the race - tire pressures, front wing and the weight jacker (shifts the cross weights from one side of the car to the other). If we can keep up with the conditions, we should be up front for the finish."
GEORGE KLOTZ, CHIEF MECHANIC FOR DARIO FRANCHITTI:
"The Team KOOL Green crew worked really hard to get the car ready for Dario's qualifying run after we broke some headers (exhaust pipes) at the end of this morning's practice. And Dario certainly did his job putting the car on the front row. He likes this track and we think we'll give him the car he needs tomorrow to stay up front."