(Cicero, Ill.) July 27, 2001 -He was quickest in practice and Frenchman Nicolas Rondet's form held true for qualifying to capture his fourth career pole for round 8 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series. The biggest splash however was made by Lynx...
(Cicero, Ill.) July 27, 2001 -He was quickest in practice and Frenchman Nicolas Rondet's form held true for qualifying to capture his fourth career pole for round 8 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series. The biggest splash however was made by Lynx Racing's Sara Senske who had held onto the pole for most of the single-car qualifying session. In the end only Rondet, who went second to last in the order could unseat her. She is now the first female driver to start on the front row of a CART sanctioned event. American Ryan Hunter-Reay will start on the inside of row-2 in third place.
Rondet captured the pole with a quick lap of 00:31.461 sec for an average speed of 117.746 mph around the Chicago Motor Speedway's 1-mile oval.
"I was watching the flags very carefully to see what the wind was doing and watching the times of the other drivers. The privilege of starting last allowed me to see that no one was improving. I was able to drop my front wing and it worked," said Rondet. "I think it's going to be very difficult to pass on this track honestly, but that could all change after the Champ Cars lay down some more rubber. It may lead to a second groove through the corners."
The qualifying order was determined by the inverse of championship points making leader Rondet last on the list. In fact, he went second to last after Jon Vannini waved off his first attempt. Senske was the eighth of the 20 drivers to take her two laps of qualifying going fastest on her second lap with a time of 00:31.529 sec. The expectation was that the point's leaders would lower the standard but one by each fell short. The ever-present breeze began to increase pushing each subsequent driver out toward the wall in the turns 1and 2 complex. More and more it was looking like Senske's time would reward her with her first pole. Starting second to last in the original order, Hunter-Reay's first pass through the timing beams yielded the 11th quickest time. On his next and final lap he fell but 34-hundredths of a second shy of Senske. Only Rondet and Vannini remained. Rondet's first lap netted the fifth position and then as he flashed beneath a streaming checkered flag the No. 24 Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard beamed onto the pole. Vannini would end as the 14th quickest car, a solid result for the second year driver from California.
"I'm very proud of the performance I put in today. I want to thank Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty and the Lynx Racing Team for believing in me enough to perform here. I just focused on putting my head and foot down straight out of the pits and driving the smoothest laps that I could," said Senske who hails from Kennewick, Wash. "It was exciting to be one of the first to qualify then watch the field whittle down and still be atop the times. Everybody was trying to get me to stop pacing and biting my nails, so I'm very thrilled to be on the front row. It's going to be much more fun to be in a position to potentially win the race and definitely finish on the podium than have to hack my way through the field."
Unlike Rondet, Hunter-Reay made no changes to his car in spite of being in a position to do so. He also went out with the mindset that he would use only one of his two allotted laps to qualify. His first green flag lap he treated as simply another warm-up accounting for the 11th quickest time at that point.
"I'm starting behind two very experienced racers so I'm confident it's going to be a good start. Oval racing being what it is, you never know what's going to happen and you can go from the front to the back very easily. That said, I just want to make a good start and work from there to have a clean race and score some good points," said the Barber-CART Scholarship Team driver.
The race could make a good opportunity for both Rondet and Hunter-Reay to make hay in the championship standings. They currently reside first and second respectively with Rondet drawing out a further one-point advantage thanks to the pole. He now leads Hunter-Reay 86 to 81. Those most closely fighting for the title will find themselves mired in the midfield. Koster, fifth overall will start sixth while Yasukawa who lies fourth will start from the seventh slot. Most disappointed was Matt Plumb who will have to battle from the ninth starting spot to defend his third position in the overall standings.
Hunter-Reay's Barber-CART Scholarship team mates will start alongside and behind him though he shouldn't expect any help from them as they are looking to turn around some lackluster midseason performances. On the pace here in Chicago, Jon Morley will start fourth while Rafael Sperafico will start sixth. Hometown favorite David Wieringa continues to give his fans something to cheer about. He has performed well throughout the two days of track time earning himself the eighth spot on the grid. Peter Boss rounds out the fastest ten qualifiers. In all only 0.965 seconds separates the 20-car field.
Round 8 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series will get underway at 3:15 p.m. CDT in support of the CART FedEx Target Grand Prix of Chicago. All 60 laps can be followed live on www.barberdodge.com