CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Saturday qualifying report

PAUL TRACY SCORES 25TH POLE OF HIS CHAMP CAR CAREER BY LEADING FINAL QUALIFYING FOR CENTRIX FINANCIAL GRAND PRIX OF DENVER DENVER (August 13, 2005) -- Friday's Champ Car qualifying at the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver presented by ...

PAUL TRACY SCORES 25TH POLE OF HIS CHAMP CAR CAREER BY LEADING FINAL QUALIFYING FOR CENTRIX FINANCIAL GRAND PRIX OF DENVER

DENVER (August 13, 2005) -- Friday's Champ Car qualifying at the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver presented by PacifiCare was a bit slow in starting, but Saturday's final qualifying session was anything but that as the drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford attacked the 1.657-mile Denver street course early and often.

Unlike Friday where drivers waited more than 10 minutes after the start of the session to make their moves, the two biggest guns in the series drew their weapons at the drop of the green flag. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) each went mano-a-mano from the first minute of the session, with the veteran Tracy coming out on top, taking the pole for tomorrow's event.

Tracy set another track record in leading Saturday's final qualifying, getting around the nine-turn Denver course in 59.432 seconds (100.370 mph) to take his third Bridgestone Pole Award of the season, tying him with Bourdais for the lead in the season-long Bridgestone Pole Award standings. The pole was the 25th of Tracy's illustrious Champ Car career and allowed him to close to within 26 points of Bourdais' series lead.

The haymakers came early and often as Bourdais and Tracy swapped polewinning times just five minutes into the session, taking advantage of the clear race track in front of them. Bourdais dropped the track record to 59.541 seconds (100.186 mph) on his fifth lap, only to see Tracy vault ahead of them with his eventual polewinning time less than one minute later.

Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed his Forsythe Championship Racing teammate on track early in the session and jumped to the third position on the grid on the final lap of his first tire stint. Dominguez hung a time of 59.644 seconds (100.013 mph) on the board to slide into the third spot, then slid into the pits to see how things would play out.

The top three were never headed through the middle portion of the session, leaving Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to fight it out for a foothold in the top five. Wilson and Vasser took the lead in that battle, joining the three frontrunners as the only drivers to break the 60-second barrier. Wilson posted a time of 59.962 seconds (99.483 mph) to slot into fourth while Vasser snapped off a lap of 59.995 seconds (99.428 mph) to claim the fifth spot.

Meanwhile, Bourdais spent only a brief time on Pit Lane before heading back onto course, looking to duplicate his practice-leading time of 59.39 seconds -- a time that would have earned him the pole. Bourdais again had a fairly empty race track to deal with, but could not better his earlier efforts, and then lost his last chance to lasso Tracy when Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the red flag with a spin into the Turn Five tires. The scarlet banner came at the most inopportune time for Bourdais, who had just completed the 14th of his allotted 15 laps, effectively negating his chance to use his final lap.

The Champ Car Safety Team cleared the track quickly and got the action started again with nine minutes remaining on the clock, allowing the majority of the field to take their final shots at earning a home at the sharp end of the grid.

Unfortunately, the Champ Car Safety Team had more action in the final nine minutes than the scorekeepers did as four separate minor incidents dotted the session, leading into a Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spin that ended brought out a session-ending red flag.

But not everyone was mired in amongst the minor bobbles as California-born and Colorado-based A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used his final trip around Denver's Pepsi Center to climb into fourth on tomorrow's grid, carding a time of 59.938 seconds (99.523 mph).

Dominguez matched his season-best performance by qualifying third, while Allmendinger starts in the top four for the third consecutive event. Wilson rounded out the top five while Vasser earned his best road-course starting position of the season by taking the sixth position on the grid. Tagliani settled for seventh and will line up alongside Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the fourth row.

Cristiano da Matta (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) snared the ninth position and will fill the fifth row with top-qualifying rookie Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Glock, who leads the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year point standings, was the fastest of the 2005 Champ Car rookie class with a time of 1:00.529 (98.551 mph).

Ricardo Sperafico (#11 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned the best starting spot of his young Champ Car career by taking the 12th spot on the grid while Rodolfo Lavin (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start 13th in his second start of the 2005 season.

The fourth running of the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver presented by PacifiCare will get underway Sunday at 1:45 p.m. local time. The event can be seen live on SPEED Channel, with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern Time

QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE QUALIFIERS:

Paul Tracy #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "I did a good lap on the sixth lap and came in, everything was looking good, so that allowed us to sit and wait. Sebastien decided to go out straight again. I guess he thought that he could get a better time, decided not to wait. So that allowed us to sit and wait and watch his run. The time didn't come. Then it was, decide whether to go out or not. Mario was making a big play. Obviously, he was close in the time. We sat there and talked about it for a minute or two. I just said to the crew, "You know what, I'd be kicking myself if I sat here and lost the pole." So we went out and gave it another lap. We did a good lap, but then the red came out on my final lap. It all played out for us."

Sebastien Bourdais #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "The whole day went pretty well. We made a big, big change comparing to yesterday. There was absolutely no damage to the car, and we couldn't understand why we went so much slower with the new tires yesterday. So we worked really hard yesterday night with the McDonald's crew, got a big chunk of the offset between PT and myself out of the way. You know, we thought we had it right, and then the more the track picks up rubber, the bigger the problem is. We came to understeer a bit too much, can't get the best out of the Bridgestone tires, so it's a real shame. There's no grip out there, we can't use it. We end up going faster with a significant amount of laps on the tires. So I guess there's some good in it and some bad. The bad was today; the good should be tomorrow."

Mario Dominguez #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "It went well. We definitely pushed hard out there all the time. It's not easy to be fast in this track. You really have to be on the edge. The track is very slippery. It's fun, fun to drive on the edge like this. At the very end, I thought I had enough to get Sebastien off the second place. I really wanted the 1-2 for Forsythe, but I lost it on the last corner - the last two corners actually. But I'm quite happy with third, as well. I think it's a very good starting position. It puts me in a good place for tomorrow's race."

NOTEWORTHY

Paul Tracy earned the 25th pole of his career Saturday, making him just the seventh driver in the history of the Champ Car World Series to win 25 or more pole positions.

Tracy won his third pole of the year with Saturday's performance, marking the third consecutive season that he was won at least three pole positions. This is the first time in his long career that he has fashioned such a streak.

If Paul Tracy can lead the first lap of tomorrow's race, or any lap in Sunday's event, it will be the 4000th lap led in his long career. He would be the sixth driver in series history to lead 4000 laps.

-ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Marcus Marshall , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing