At the end of a pressure-packed and drama-filled second qualifying session in Portland, a Newman/Haas car came out on top once again in Champ Car World Series qualifying. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it was not Sebastien Bourdais. Instead, ...
At the end of a pressure-packed and drama-filled second qualifying session in Portland, a Newman/Haas car came out on top once again in Champ Car World Series qualifying. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it was not Sebastien Bourdais.
Instead, teammate Bruno Junqueira earned the spoils with a last-lap flyer, running a lap of 57.631 seconds. Junqueira beat provisional pole sitter A.J. Allmendinger by just eight one-thousands of a second, and Bourdais by a further .007 of a second. It was one of the closest sessions in recent memory.
Considering his slow start to his 2006 season, having been involved in two first-lap accidents this season, it was vindication for the three-time series runner-up. "I'm very happy for myself and the whole Newman/Haas team," Junqueira said. "Yesterday it was very difficult, we were very much off the pace, [but] I got the help of Sebastien and his team. We changed the setup a lot towards his, and the car was much better this morning."
Allmendinger wound up second, as he would have anyway with his provisional pole time set on Friday. Despite being beaten at the last second, it was still a strong effort for A.J. in his new digs.
"Forsythe this whole weekend has been fantastic," Allmendinger said. "Going into qualifying, I think we all knew it was kind of just going to be up in the air for whoever could go in to get pole. Taking the gamble yesterday with going on the reds to get pole, we knew that was going to be a little disadvantage today because we weren't going to have the red tires."
For only the second time all year, Bourdais isn't on pole, or for that matter, on the front row. He will start ahead of the two RuSPORT cars, Justin Wilson leading Cristiano da Matta. The 2002 series champion and defending winner in Portland jumped from 10th on the grid on Friday.
Two rookies start in sixth and sevent, Dan Clarke living up to his nickname of "Speedy Dan" posting a great result, just ahead of Australia's Will Power. Paul Tracy slipped to 10th on the final grid, with ex-teammate Mario Dominguez 14th on his debut for Dale Coyne Racing.
The run down to Festival Curves will be interesting. The three-turn complex is notorious for accidents, and with two hungry drivers on the front row, there probably won't be too much give-and-take. However, first-lap accidents have already occurred twice this season and a third could change the outcome of the race -- again.