Gil de Ferran won the MBNA Pole April 20 for the inaugural Firestone Indy 225 Indy Racing League event at Nazareth Speedway. de Ferran lapped the 1-mile oval at 172.778 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

On his first qualifying lap, de Ferran's car became a little loose as it exited Turn 4. The Brazilian maintained control and secured his first career Indy Racing MBNA Pole.

"I wanted to close the first lap well and open the next lap well," said de Ferran. "It pushed a little in the middle. The car went sideways a little, but she had a good exit."

Helio Castroneves, de Ferran's teammate, was second fastest at 172.587 mph, leading to a sweep of the front row by Marlboro Team Penske.

"It was a good run for Gil (de Ferran)," said Castroneves. "I had a little trouble in my last lap, because normally you take it a little easy on the first lap. You make sure you establish a good lap, and then on the second one, I just went for it."

The timing was perfect for the teammates to sweep the front row as Penske Racing is based in nearby Reading, Pa.

"Actually it's a nice race for us, because there are lot of friends and family out of the crew and the people that work with Philip Morris," said de Ferran, who won at Nazareth in the 2000 CART event. "Rather than pressure, I have to say that it's really a nice atmosphere because you see a lot of people that you know and a lot of people that you care for, and they care for you. I like coming here because of that."

Dave Dworsky of MBNA Motorsports presented de Ferran with the MBNA Pole Award.

Indy Racing League points leader Sam Hornish Jr. qualified eighth for Pennzoil Panther Racing while rookie Tomas Scheckter continued his impressive qualifying efforts in 2001, securing fourth position. Schekcter, who drives for Red Bull Cheever Racing, has qualified in the top five in each of his four races this year.

Rookie George Mack will start ninth in the Firestone Indy 225 for 310 Racing, his best career starting spot to date. Sarah Fisher, making her first start of the year subbing for the injured Robbie Buhl of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, will do so from the 19th starting spot.

The Firestone Indy 225 is Sunday, April 21 at 1 p.m. (EDT) and will be televised live on ABC [in the USA].

"I believe the race is going to be very tough," said Castroneves. "You have to be patient. Every time I say patience, it is something when I put the helmet on I think I forget."



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