De Ferran leads the standings at 154 points
De Ferran clocks fastest racing lap ever, wins CART pole

FONTANA, California, Oct 28 (AFP) - Gil de Ferran of Brazil grabbed an extra point here Saturday in his bid to win the Championship Auto Racing Team title when he won the pole position for Sunday's Marlboro 500, the final race in the series.

De Ferran, who is chasing his first championship, earned the extra point when he clocked the fastest official closed-course lap in auto racing history.

Piloting a Honda/Reynard, the Brazilian drove 241.428 mph (386.284 km/h) around the two-mile (3.2 km) California Speedway, breaking the official track mark of 240.942 mph (385.507 km/h) set by Mauricio Gugelmin in 1997.

De Ferran leads the standings at 154 points, with Adrian Fernandez of Mexico second at 148 points. Canada's Paul Tracy and Kenny Brack are next on 134.

The winner in Sunday's event will collect 20 points with second 18, and driver who leads in most laps will be awarded another point. With just six points separating the top two every point counts.

"The team did a lot of work developing the car for this track," de Ferran said. " Honda really brought us a fantastic engine for here. The lap really was not that difficult, to be honest with you. The car was not sliding very much at all. I had no understeer at all on the car."

It was de Ferran's fifth pole of the season and 11th career. He has started on the front row in 10 of his past 20 events.

Fernandez qualified at 14.

"I'm very pleased to be in this position," de Ferran said. "The most important thing in my mind is the extra point. You never know if you will need it or not, but hopefully it will buy us a little bit of a cushion tomorrow."

Michael Andretti qualified second at 239.097 mph (382.555 km/h) in a Ford/Lola. Newman-Haas teammate Christian Fittipaldi of Brazil was third at 239.073 mph (382.516 km/h) in a Ford/Lola, followed by countryman Helio Castroneves at 239.011 mph (382.417 km/h) in a Honda/Reynard and Juan Montoya of Colombia at 237.688 mph (380.300 km/h) in a Toyota/Lola.

"I really don't think it's that advantageous to start on the pole in a 500-mile race, but it helps keep you out of trouble in the beginning of the race because you are starting up front," de Ferran said.

"It's easier to keep your nose clean, but apart from that, it really doesn't help that much. If you have a good car, you can work your way to the front very, very quickly.

"A few years ago, I started 10th and Scott Pruett started on the pole and by the end of the first lap, I was in the lead. So that should tell you how important it is to be in the front.

"But what is good for me is the extra point. We still have to think of the car for the race and if the car is not handling well, we won't have a good day."