CLEVELAND (June 30, 2000) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green continued a recent run of strong FedEx Championship Series qualifying performances Friday when he captured the provisional pole position for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke Lakefront Airport (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), who has qualified among the top four drivers for each of the past three FedEx Championship Series events, put together a lap of 130.805 miles per hour (57.961 seconds) on the 2.106-mile airport runway circuit to lead 25 drivers who posted qualifying times. He will seek his first pole position of the season when final qualifying begins 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday for the ninth of 20 rounds in this year's FedEx Championship Series.
Franchitti, runner-up in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series, enters the weekend ranked 10th in this year's championship, with 44 points, 24 behind leader Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing (68). Moreno was seventh fastest on Friday's provisional grid, at 130.293 mph (58.189 seconds).
Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing was second fastest Friday at 130.774 miles per hour (57.975 seconds). He seeks a season-best start, improving on sixth in the season-opener at Homestead.
Rookie Kenny Brack of Team Rahal qualified third at 130.607 miles per hour (58.049 seconds). Brack (Shell Ford Reynard), who leads the chase for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award, is seeking to match or improve on his season-best qualifying effort of second at Japan.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), fourth at 130.432 mph (58.127 seconds) and Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), fifth at 130.398 mph (58.142 seconds).
Defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), who won last year's event here from the pole, qualified 10th at 130.132 mph (58.261 seconds).
The top 16 drivers were separated by less than one second on the provisional grid.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We're just getting it together. As soon as we got on the track at Japan something clicked. Apart from my mistake at the start of the Nazareth it's been pretty good lately. We're still learning the car and I'm still learning to work with my engineers, but they made some good changes to the car after the morning session and we're right there. It takes a while to get used to how a new engineer works with the car and the fact that I had the accident at Homestead and (engineer) Steve (Challis) had a stroke, it makes it really hard. It felt at one point that people were chucking obstacles at us, but we're getting better."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola: "It's been pretty good. This morning we were second quick and we didn't put on new tires and it felt pretty good. We got in a pretty good lap this afternoon, but then Dario went out and got us by a hundreth of a second, but it's pretty good. We're still working on it, the same as everybody else right now. The conditions are a little slippery but it's the same for everybody, plus the pressure's on and we're all going for it."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard : "It's been an interesting day. It's my first time at this track and it's a very nice track. I think we've done a good job today. The Shell/Ford Team Rahal team did a good job today. I'm still learning the course and there's a few bumps out there if you're looking but I think we're doing better and better. It's one of the most bumpy circuits I've ever been on, but the layout is very nice. A lot of tracks have a lot of hairpins and chicanes an stuff like that, so it's nice to have a track like this that's wide and has some slow corners and some fast corners."
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green will be seeking the ninth pole position of his career and his first since last year at Australia when final qualifying begins Saturday. His best career start at Cleveland is second in 1998.
* Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing won the 1989 pole position at Cleveland and has started among the top three drivers six times in 14 career starts at Burke Lakefront Airport, including third last year.
* Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has started seventh or better in seven of eight FedEx Championship Series events to date in 2000. Included are road or street-course starts of seventh at Long Beach and Detroit and fifth at Portland.
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, who qualified a provisional fifth, earned his first FedEx Championship Series career pole position at Cleveland in 1995. He also owns a victory in 1996 and runner-up finishes in 1997 and last year.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.