FONTANA, Calif., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Alex Tagliani of Canada captured the pole position Saturday for CART's season-ending Marlboro 500 at California Speedway.
When the green flag drops Sunday, there will be just the race at stake. Brazil's Gil de Ferran clinched his second successive series championship two weeks ago in Australia.
But a $1 million winner's prize is up for grabs and Tagliani has the inside advantage after driving his Ford-Cosworth/Reynard to a fast lap of 228.727 miles per hour. He covered the two-mile oval superspeedway in 31.935 seconds for his third career Champ Car pole.
"Since the championship is wrapped up, we have the extra degree of freedom tomorrow in the race," de Ferran said. "We can go flat out and try to win the Marlboro 500 -- and the million dollars."
Cristiano da Matta of Brazil, a two-time winner this year, will start second after qualifying at 228.198 mph in a Toyota/Lola. Da Matta won the season opener in Mexico and the last race in Australia. He is fifth in the championship standings with 120 points.
Kenny Brack of Sweden will start third after posting a speed of 227.835 mph in the Team Rahal Ford-Cosworth/Lola. Brack tops CART with four victories and six poles this year but has not been able to sustain his early-season success.
Brack is 28 points behind de Ferran, who qualified 16th and has finished in the top eight in the last nine races, including victories in England and Houston.
"We need to bide our time and see how the race plays out," said de Ferran. "This is one of the most difficult and unpredictable races, but I think if we get to the end, there is a chance we'll be fighting for the win."
Bryan Herta and defending Marlboro 500 champion Christian Fittipaldi of Brazil rounded out the top five.
One other prize to be determined Sunday is the third place in the standings. Helio Castroneves of Brazil and Michael Andretti are tied with 141 points each. Castroneves currently holds the position based on three victories to one by Andretti.
Andretti starts 13th while Castroneves is next-to-last in 24th.