CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston: Friday qualifying report

MARIO DOMINGUEZ EARNS FIRST CAREER CHAMP CAR BRIDGESTONE POLE POSITION WITH TRACK-RECORD LAP AT GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON HOUSTON (May 12, 2006) -- One of the drivers that was caught up in a first-turn, first-lap accident in the 2006 Bridgestone ...

MARIO DOMINGUEZ EARNS FIRST CAREER CHAMP CAR BRIDGESTONE POLE POSITION WITH TRACK-RECORD LAP AT GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON

HOUSTON (May 12, 2006) -- One of the drivers that was caught up in a first-turn, first-lap accident in the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opener, Mario Dominguez (#7 Orgullo de Mexico Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) decided that the best way to avoid a repeat performance this weekend in Houston, was to be at the head of the pack.

Dominguez did just that on a sunny Friday at Houston's Reliant Park, posting a stunning lap of 58.026 seconds (104.850 mph) to score the first Bridgestone Pole Position of his career and the right to lead the field to the first turn at tomorrow night's Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston. The driver known as 'Super Mario' paced a sweep by Forsythe Championship Racing as his teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) clocked the second-best lap of the day, but would end up starting third as Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) locked up a front-row starting spot by leading first-round qualifying on Thursday.

Today's final qualifying session was filled with early fireworks as it took just three laps for two-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to eclipse Thursday's top time. But his early pole trip around the 1.690-mile layout was just the beginning of a furious flurry that saw three other drivers fault to the top at the session's halfway point.

RuSPORT's Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first to best Bourdais, followed by Dominguez and then Tracy, who held the point when Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the only red flag of the 30-minute qualifying session. Junqueira, who had a front-row spot already sewn up after Thursday, was content to watch the first part of the battle from Pit Lane, but joined the fight in earnest when the green flag waved to restart the proceedings.

Dominguez immediately moved to third on the grid in just two laps before PKV Racing's Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who also waited with Junqueira on Pit Lane during the first 10 minutes of the session, broke the 59-second barrier with his best lap to wrest the pole from Tracy. But Servia's hold on the pole was tenuous at best as the Spaniard's best lap only served to open the floodgates for the rest of the field.

Super Mario used his 12th lap to vault back to the top of the heap, then cemented his first career pole on his next orbit, with the lap that would stand as the new Houston track record. But that fact was still in doubt to the Mexican star, as five minutes still remained on the clock with most of the pole favorites still on track with laps still to spend.

Bourdais made his move, climbing to third on the charts on his 11th pass, only to see A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tracy both drop him back to fifth one lap later. Bourdais had two final laps left to dethrone Dominguez but was unable to improve on his time, settling for the fifth spot with a clocking of 58.627 seconds (103.775 mph), one position behind fourth-place Allmendinger.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in the sixth spot after stopping the timer at 58.765 seconds (103.531 mph), earning his best starting position of the young season. Wilson and Servia ended up in the fourth row while Nelson Philippe (#4 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and rookie Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top-10. Power was the best of the six-person rookie contingent on the day, posting a best time of 59.302 seconds (102.594 mph).

2005 Champ Car Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman (#34 GoldenPalace.net Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start 11th in tomorrow's event, marking his best career starting spot. Clarke came back from his early incident to snare the 12th position on the grid, setting a personal best as well. Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also earned the best starting spot of her young Champ Car career, logging in with the 15th-best time of the day.

Thirteen members of the 17-car field got under 60 seconds in final qualifying as opposed to just one yesterday. Every car in the field posted average speeds of over 100 mph, while just eight of those drivers were able to reach that plateau on Thursday.

Tomorrow's event will get underway at 8 p.m. local time, 9 p.m. Central and will be shown live on SPEED. Fans can follow the action via Race Director on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws. In addition, there will be a 30-minute qualifying highlight show which will air on SPEED beginning at 12 a.m. Saturday morning.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

Mario Dominguez: It feels great. I think Forsythe has done a very good job over the winter. Over this weekend, we've worked very well together. I think the whole team deserves this pole, and so do I. I've been waiting for this for many years. I'm very happy, very excited about the pole position.

Bruno Junqueira: For me this weekend, my goal is to finish the race. To finish the race, I have to do turn one in the first lap. I'm starting second, so I don't want to give up my position. For sure, I need to be smart. It is a matter of being patient on first lap because is going to be a long race.

Paul Tracy: We made a lot of changes throughout the day today, made some more big changes right before qualifying after the warm-up. The red tires, really the first go around on them, I was really maybe a little bit tentative on them. Probably could have got more on the first set of tires. The second set, I knew what I had to work with and was able to cut a pretty fast lap, but not close enough to Mario.

NOTEWORTHY

* Mario Dominguez became the 169th driver in Champ Car history to claim a pole position and the first new pole winner in Champ Car since Oriol Servia took his first pole position last year in Australia.

* Sebastien Bourdais will start fifth in Saturday's race, marking the first time in the last eight races that he has started outside the top three.

* Dominguez earned a championship point for securing today's Bridgestone Pole Position, giving him 24 on the year and moving him to within one of third-placed Alex Tagliani.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Nelson Philippe , Charles Zwolsman , Will Power , Dan Clarke