Vasser's Record Run Earns Him Provisional Pole (July 10, 1998) -- Jimmy Vasser set a qualifying record for the temporary road course at Burke Lakefront Airport Friday and earned the ...
Vasser's Record Run Earns Him Provisional Pole
(July 10, 1998) -- Jimmy Vasser set a qualifying record for the temporary road course at Burke Lakefront Airport Friday and earned the provisional pole for the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank.
Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) averaged 134.385 miles per hour (56.417 seconds) on the 2.106-mile circuit, which is laid out on the airport runways. He improved nearly four seconds from his best morning practice lap of 60.383 seconds to put himself in position to collect his third pole of the year and the seventh of his FedEx Championship Series career.
Final qualifying begins at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The winner earns the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award, with the opportunity to pick up an additional $255,000 in rollover bonus money with a victory Sunday. Including the $100,000 winner's purse, the potential payout for a victory from the pole this weekend is $365,000.
The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus has been accumulating at a rate of $15,000 per event since defending series champion Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) became the last driver to win from the pole, at Cleveland a year ago.
Vasser is attempting to earn his first road-course pole position since 1996 at Cleveland. He topped Zanardi's track record speed of 133.048 mph (56.984 seconds) by more than half a second.
Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) was second at 133.181 mph (56.927 seconds) followed by Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) at 132.990 mph (57.009 seconds). Zanardi qualified fourth at 132.936 mph (57.032 seconds) followed by Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) at 132.920 mph (57.039 seconds).
JIMMY VASSER, Target Reynard Honda: "We had some major problems in the morning. We came with a setup that wasn't conducive to the circuit. You could only get a few laps out of your tires before they started to go away, but it wasn't so much the tires as it was the setup. Alex [Zanardi] seemed to have a pretty good setup, so going into qualifying, we took most of what Alex was doing and a little bit of what we were doing and threw something at the car, and it worked fantastic. The cones were in some tough places out there, but on my last lap, I really put one together, and lo and behold, one of the cones was gone in an area where you could make up a lot of speed. I was able to carry a lot of speed through there and that made a difference. This is probably one of the more physical races that we run. It's certainly fun, but it's one of the more difficult races of the year."
BRYAN HERTA, Shell Reynard Ford: "I got a front row seat for that [Vasser's provisional pole-winning lap]. I was following him, and my car was still on a pretty good lap, but I could see that he was inching away from me. I thought, 'Oh, he's gonna get me on that one,' and he did. Jimmy really put a good one together. I think the car was pretty good this morning, the track just got a little 'grippier' this afternoon. We're gonna have to chase it down a little bit tomorrow."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "It [the track] feels a little less bumpy than last year, but because of that, what bumps there are are a lot more important. We spent a lot of the afternoon trying to find a balance over the bumps. The track got better as more rubber went down. Qualifying was a bit frustrating because I felt that there was more time in the whole package. But we're in a good group for tomorrow and we'll go back after it then."
Jimmy Vasser is chasing the seventh pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career and his third of this season. Vasser's previous poles this year came at Japan, where he was awarded the pole based on having the best practice time following a rainout of qualifying, and at Milwaukee. Vasser won four pole positions en route to the series championship in 1996, but has not won one on a road or street circuit since 1996 at Burke Lakefront Airport.
Bryan Herta and Dario Franchitti continued their recent road course qualifying success posting the second and third fastest times, respectively, during Friday's provisional qualifying. Herta and Franchitti qualified first and second, respectively, for the most recent FedEx Championship Series event at Portland International Raceway last month.
Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) qualified 12th provisionally Friday with a best lap of 131.331 mph (57.729 sec). Three-time (1986, '87 and '92) series champion Rahal, whose first CART career victory came in the series' inaugural event at Cleveland in 1982, is in his final season as a FedEx Championship Series driver, dubbed "Rahal's Last Ride."
ESPN airs its "Midseason Pit Stop," a recap of the first half of the FedEx Championship Series season, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Qualifying for the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank will air 5:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.
Source: CART Online