By Jack Durbin - Motorsport.com
Texas Motor Speedway saw more speed than it has ever seen before today. The morning practice session was highlighted by 22 drivers turning laps about 230 mph. Fastest was Paul Tracy with a lap of 236.678 mph. Rookies Scott Dixon, Bruno Junqueira, and Nicolas Minassian were all above the 230 mark. The only incident of the morning was when Cristiano da Matta hit the turn three wall. "there was a lot of oversteer in the car but I don't know what happened. A car was going into the pits in front of me. Maybe that unsettled the air when I was going over the transition or it could have been a combination of things." Da Matta was uninjured, and participated in the afternoon qualifying session.
Kenny Brack re-asserted himself in qualifying with a new track record of 233.447. This was a surprising speed for the Team Rahal driver considering it was only two mph slower than his best practice effort. Practice speeds usually are much higher because of the tow the cars get from running in a group. Brack did not think his previous experience here with the Indy Racing League helped him in qualifying. "Right now everyone else has caught up and it's just going to come down to who has the best car in these conditions, you know less drag and more horsepower."
Player's driver Patrick Carpentier came back from wrist injury at Long Beach to qualify in the second position with a lap of 233.345. "I'm very happy. The car was a little loose but loose is fast in qualifying, so it was good," said Carpentier. "I think we did everything we could and I really think we have a really good race set up, so I think we'll be good for the race."
The third qualifying position was nailed down by Oriol Servia in his first qualifying lap. His engine failed him, as he exited turn two on his second qualifying lap. ""I know Ford has worked hard and I was using a qualifying engine and these can happen with these kinds of engines." Servia continued, "But I'm sure that the guys at Ford will work hard to make sure the engine lasts the whole race."
Bryan Herta finished the Ford Cosworth sweep of the first four positions in his Zakspeed/Forsythe entry. ""I would've liked to have been a little quicker to try and get a shot at the pole," said Herta, "but the important thing is we've had a good car all weekend and hopefully we can stay up there at the front and run a nice clean race tomorrow."
The highest qualifying rookie was Nicolas Minassian of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. "I disappointed about our qualifying effort today. I was hoping for pole position and we ended up 15th," said Nicolas. "The G-forces on this track are incredible!" His team mate Bruno Junqueira said the drivers are pulling five-G's of lateral force in the turns. "You are pulling five-G's for 14 seconds of every 23 second lap."
The qualifying was dominated by Ford with the top four positions, Honda holds the next three. The fastest Toyota was Christian Fittipaldi in ninth place.
Mauricio Gugelmin with drew from the event after a night of rest following his twin impact crash on Friday. He suffer bruises to his shoulders and ribs after is PacWest car impacted the inside wall at the exit of turn two. In the incident, Guglemin's right foot became lodged between the throttle and brake pedals. This caused his car to accelerate after the initial impact until it hit the turn three wall with a instantaneous 113 G impact. "I had been running a few laps behind another car and I could feel a slight turn from the rear of my car coming out of Turn 2," Gugelmin said. "I was able to correct the first twitch, but then the back end came around again and I lost it.
"I remember heading towards the wall, then the next thing I remember is letting go of the wheel and I became a passenger. Then when I finally stopped, I could see daylight by my feet and (CART medical boss) Dr (Terry) Trammell greeting me at my car."
CART medical staff credited Guglemin's minimal injures to the use of the HANS device.
The Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer begins at 2:00 pm (CDT), 3:00 pm (EDT). It will be televised live on ESPN.