Phoenix: Qualifying report

Weaver takes pole as other class records fall. PHOENIX (April 19, 2002) -- Defending driver champion James Weaver earned his first pole of the 2002 season during qualifying for Saturday night's UnitedAuto 200 presented by azcentral.com at ...

Weaver takes pole as other class records fall.

PHOENIX (April 19, 2002) -- Defending driver champion James Weaver earned his first pole of the 2002 season during qualifying for Saturday night's UnitedAuto 200 presented by azcentral.com at Phoenix International Raceway. Weaver piloted Dyson Racing Team's #16 Ford-powered Riley & Scott to a fast lap of 53.214 seconds on the track's 1.51-mile road course. His average speed of 102.154 mph was just short of the track record he set last year for the SportsRacing Prototype class at 103.058.

After qualifying, Weaver's mind was more on the race than qualifying, and the fact that in his three previous efforts, he has yet to win at PIR. "Last year we had a 40-second lead with a few minutes to go and there was a yellow," he noted. "Ollie Gavin in the Lola overtook Butch (Leitzinger) right at the end. It was a good race. The year before we had nearly a lap lead and got a puncture. There was a yellow, and we got a puncture under the yellow if you'd believe it. In 1995, I think, I was just too slow and finished second. Tomorrow I hope to do better."

Didier Theys, whose team has earned the pole and the win in all three events run so far this season, could only manage a fourth in qualifying the #27 Doran Lista Racing Judd Dallara despite posting a time less than a second slower than Weaver. Phoenix's Buddy Rice aboard the #6 Miracle Motorsports Ford Riley & Scott and #37 Banana Joe's Judd Lola driver Jon Field qualified second and third, respectively. Barely seventh-tenths of a second separated the first four cars.

Rice has been impressive in only his second start in the Miracle Ford. Despite having to miss most of Friday morning's practice session as the crew replaced the car's clutch, he put in a good showing. "Coming into qualifying we had a pretty good car. We made some minor changes to the car, but we needed to balance out what we had changed a little bit so we came in, made two little changes. We made an aero change and a shock adjustment and went back out and that ended up putting us on the front row," Rice explained. "We're happy with that, maybe we could have done a little bit better, if we had hit more of the first session."

Track records did fall among most of the Rolex Series' five classes. Scotland's Marino Franchitti set a record for the SportsRacing Prototype II class, driving the #7 Rand Racing Nissan Lola to a 56.339-second lap at 96.487 mph. Franchitti's time was 0.050 seconds better than the previous mark set last year by Andy Lally.

Franchitti, younger brother of CART racer Dario Franchitti, was perhaps the most surprised of the class pole winners. It was the Scot's first visit to the track in a brand new car. "I knew the grip was there I just had to get my head right to go flat through NASCAR three and four. (The difference) was, I think, maybe a millimeter of a lift, but on that fast lap I was nearly flat through there," he admitted. "I think I'm still in shock. I didn't expect to be on the pole. I hoped I could be within a couple of tenths of Terry (Borcheller), but to be a couple of tenths in front of him is fantastic. It's testament to the whole Rand/Risi team. To put the second car together in such a short period of time, they've done a fantastic job, so all credit to them."

Chris Bingham, of Bellevue, Wash., broke his own record for the GTS division. He drove the Park Place Racing #5 K&N Filters Racing Saleen S7R to a fast lap of 58.643 seconds at 92.696 mph. The qualifying record also fell in the American GT division where Tommy Riggins, of Jacksonville, Fla., drove the #48 Heritage Motorsports Mustang to a time of 59.365 seconds at 91.569 mph. The previous record for American-made cars had been held by Corvette driver Craig Conway, of Daytona Beach, Fla., who placed the #09 Corvette in fourth during today's qualifying.

Bill Auberlen, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., drove the Scuderia Ferrari of Washington #33 Ferrari 360GT to the best time in the GT division. Class record holder Randy Pobst, of Melbourne, Fla., was second in qualifying in the #15 Crazy Redhead Racing Porsche GT3 R, only six thousandths of a second behind.

The UnitedAuto 200 will start at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available online at www.phoenixinternationalraceway.com or by calling 602-252-2227. Additional information about the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series can be found online at www.grand-am.com.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Chris Bingham , James Weaver , Didier Theys , Dario Franchitti , Bill Auberlen , Randy Pobst , Andy Lally , Craig Conway , Buddy Rice , Marino Franchitti , Tommy Riggins
Teams Dyson Racing