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CART 2000 Championship: Gil de Ferran Sets New World Record in Qualifying

28 October 2000

By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor
FONTANA, CA: Team Penske/Marlboro driver Gil de Ferran won pole position for tomorrow's Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota in dramatic fashion. The Brazilian driver set a new track record at Fontana with a lap of 241.428mph. The 30.255 second lap also set a new world record for a 2-mile closed course.

The single point awarded to de Ferran for winning the pole position extends his lead over Adrian Fernandez to six points. The single point also means that Kenny Brack and Paul Tracy are now 20 points behind de Ferran. The championship battle has basically been reduced down to de Ferran v. Fernandez.

Asked to comment on his record lap de Ferran commented "We have been having a fantastic week-end. I mean the whole team, the Honda engineers, the tire guys,.... everybody has been fantastic." Asked to assess the strategy for tomorrow de Ferran commented, "Mr.Penske knows what it takes to win championships, I think I will let him set the strategy."

For a while it appeared that Michael Andretti was going to give Carl Haas and Paul Newman a parting gift with a pole position. Andretti's time of 30.550 seconds was holding up for the better part of the last third of the qualifiers. Unfortunately for Andretti, de Ferran was the next to last to qualify. Andretti will move next year to the new Motorola Indy Car team.

Andretti's teammate Christian Fittipaldi turned in the third best time with a lap of 30.553 seconds for a speed of 239.073 mph.

Helio Castroneves, who has become known as "Spiderman" for his fence-climbing antics after posting a victory was fourth quickest. Teammate to Gil de Ferran, Castroneves turned a lap of 30.561 seconds. Castroneves was observed measuring the height of the fences that surround this beautiful 2-mile facility in Southern California. Whether he will get the opportunity to climb these fences remains to be determined.

Fifth place on tomorrow's grid will be occupied by Juan Montoya. The Target/Toyota driver will be departing for the world of Formula 1 after this season. Montoya had expressed a desire to give Chip Ganassi and Toyota a final pole position. While that goal may have come up short, Montoya and teammate Jimmy Vasser have shown that the reliability of the Toyota powerplant is vastly improved.

Adrian Fernandez' qualifying lap of of 31.261 seconds was only good enough for 14th place on the grid. The chassis and aerodynamic engineers had seemingly made the decision to get the car prepared for race set-up rather than worrying about the one point for winning the pole position. "I would like to have gone faster" Fernandez commented after his attempt. "This team has worked very hard and I want to give them a victory tomorrow." Fernandez, who is the defending winner of this race, knows his way around Fontana. Last year the race was won on pit strategy. Maybe the team has the winning combination for tomorrow's race.

So the championship comes down realistically to two drivers. Yes, Tracy and Brack have a mathematical chance. But their chances are like the old cliché'," Your chances are slim and none and slim has just left the building"

The race will be televised live by ESPN at 2:30pm tomorrow.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.