CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Friday qualifying report

PAUL TRACY LEADS FIRST-DAY QUALIFYING AT 2007 CHAMP CAR SEASON OPENER IN LAS VEGAS LAS VEGAS (April 6, 2007) -- A year-round resident of Las Vegas, Paul Tracy ( ...

PAUL TRACY LEADS FIRST-DAY QUALIFYING AT 2007 CHAMP CAR SEASON OPENER IN LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS (April 6, 2007) -- A year-round resident of Las Vegas, Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) has traveled the streets of his adopted hometown on many occasions, but never at the speeds he approached today in pacing first-round qualifying for the Vegas Grand Prix.

Tracy took the first official championship point of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season, setting a track record with a best time of 1:19.784 (110.097 mph) around the 2.44-mile street course. His performance earned him a front-row start for Sunday's season opener as well as the vital championship point for leading the session, as he came in .214 seconds ahead of rookie Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).

The first qualifying run of the year was dominated by Vegas residents in its early stages as Tracy chased and eventually caught RSPORTS veteran Alex Tagliani (#8 LNX2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who led through the first 25 minutes of the session. Tracy spun his top time with less than four minutes left on the qualifying clock, sparking a furious final thrust that saw four drivers swap the top three spots in the space of 120 seconds.

Pagenaud showed that his $2 million prize for winning last year's Champ Car Atlantic title was money well earned as he came out in his very first Champ Car qualifying session and snared the second spot on the dais, carding a top time of 1:19.998 (109.803 mph). His time was the best among the eight rookies in the field on a day where four of the rookies ended up in the top 10.

Three-time and defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) rebounded from early-session mechanical trouble to take the third spot on the speed sheets, stopping the clocks at 1:20.197 (109.530 mph). Bourdais ran just two laps in the first 25 minutes of the session before going out with eight minutes left on the clock, posting his best time on the last of his eight laps of the day.

The two RSPORTS machines rounded out the top five with Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) snaring fourth ahead of Tagliani. Wilson vaulted into fourth on his penultimate lap of the day, posting a time of 1:20.310 (109.376 mph), while Tagliani ended up fifth with a time of 1:20.437 (109.203), a time that was more than a half-second quicker than that of sixth-placed Robert Doornbos (#14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarkten/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).

Doornbos paced a bottom half of the top 10 that was populated entirely by the next generation of Champ Car superstars. The rookie was the only member of the 17-car field to use his entire allotment of 15 qualifying laps in today's first session and was the last driver on the grid to break the 1:21 barrier in taking the sixth position.

Australia polesitter Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) ended up seventh on the day, slotting in ahead of PKV Racing teammates Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay By Touch/Megaspiera Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull/Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). Road America polesitter Dan Clarke (#4 Ticketmaster/Synapse Power Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10 ahead of rookie Ryan Dalziel (#28 PCM Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who was 11th in the first-ever Champ Car session for Pacific Coast Motorsports.

The final grid for Sunday's season-opening Vegas Grand Prix will be set by Saturday's final qualifying, which takes place at 2 p.m. Pacific Time.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

Paul Tracy: I feel great. I just got to thank the whole team at Forsythe Racing, all the sponsors involved with Bridgestone, all my personal sponsors. Just a great day for everybody. We worked really hard over the winter. Kind of had to work extra hard this last week when the team decided to take on a second car. But, you know, the team has done a great job. We've brought in a bunch of guys for this weekend that are new with Mario. Everybody's pitched in and done a great job. I can't be more happy for the team and for Gerry Forsythe and everybody, all my fans that are out here.

Simon Pagenaud: Obviously we have done a great job with the team to make the car great for this weekend. You know, it's really, really good to be here because I couldn't believe that I would be in the top three qualifier for the Friday on my first race of Champ Car. So it's kind of a relief because it means that I'm already on the pace.

Sebastien Bourdais: But other than that, when we are on track, we are pretty quick I think. Only doing one run, being on blacks, the car behaved really well. There's really nothing to say about it. It's just we're going to need to be able to do more laps than this without coming into the pits and opening the rear deck.

NOTEWORTHY

Paul Tracy takes the lead in the championship by leading the first round of qualifying, marking the first time since Portland in 2005 that Sebastien Bourdais has not been the Champ Car points leader.

Simon Pagenaud is the third rookie in the last four races to finish in the top two in a Champ Car qualifying session. Dan Clarke and Charles Zwolsman were first and second respectively in Road America while Will Power won the pole in Australia.

Bruno Junqueira did not post a time in first-round qualifying as his Dale Coyne Racing machine was being repaired after a crash in practice caused by a mechanical problem.

-credit: ccws

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