CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: PKV Racing qualifying report

PKV RACING SCORES SECOND BEST QUALIFYING EFFORT OF SEASON VASSER TO START THIRD, DA MATTA FOURTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2005 -- Round ...

PKV RACING SCORES SECOND BEST QUALIFYING EFFORT OF SEASON

VASSER TO START THIRD, DA MATTA FOURTH

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2005 -- Round #11 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing had it second best qualifying effort of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Drivers Jimmy Vasser, behind the wheel of the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car and Cristiano Da Matta, who pilots the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, qualified third and fourth respective and will both start on the second row in tomorrow evening's Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400. Vasser turned in a fast lap of 26.477 seconds (203.951) while da Matta had a quick lap of 26.632 seconds (202.764 mph).

PKV Racing used a bit of strategy and race craft in earning their second best combined qualifying effort of the season behind a pole by Vasser and a fourth place starting position for da Matta on the only other oval on the Champ Car World Series calendar, the Milwaukee Mile. Champ Car oval qualifying procedures call for drivers to make their qualifying runs in reverse order of their practice times. During today's practice, which was run from 12:45 -- 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon heat and on an unusually windy day, Vasser was fourth and da Matta sixth. Under the oval qualifying procedure da Matta should have qualified 13th and Vasser, 15th out of the 18 cars (qualifying later generally being better because there is more rubber on the track giving it more grip thus making it faster). Today's qualifying was scheduled for 4:30 -- 6:00 p.m. while it was still hot and windy. As da Matta's turn approach it was about 4:50 p.m. At that point PKV Racing General Manager Jim McGee made the decision to pull both cars out of line and wait for cooler and less windy conditions. The downside to the move was that instead of getting two timed laps of qualifying the drivers would get only one timed qualifying lap. This proved not to be a problem. At 5:30, with 30 minutes remaining in the qualifying session and all 16 other drivers having taken their runs the PKV Racing crews presented their cars for qualifying. With the conditions definitely better, although not ideal, both drivers easily ran their fastest laps of the day using three of a maximum of four warm-up laps and one timed lap.

Commening on the qualifying effort Vasser, who as a result of the strategy ended up qualifying last, 18th, and earning his second highest starting position of the season, behind the pole at Milwaukee, said, "The PKV Racing team played a little funny game waiting. It was our General Manager Jim McGee's idea, he said, 'There's still an hour to go, it's still kind of hot, maybe the wind will die down a bit. We need everything we can get for qualifying.' So we waited it out a bit and I think it paid off. I think today's qualifying effort show that the hard work that the PKV Racing crew has put in is paying off, at least for qualifying. Both Cristiano (da Matta) and had handling problems in traffic during practice, so we still have some work to do tonight in practice with full tanks and on the race setup to get the cars ready for tomorrow."

Commenting on the work of the PKV Racing team, Vasser said, "Our success is all a product of the engineering staff and the crew in the shop and at the track. The crew in the PKV Racing shop did a tremendous job over the last few weeks to try to make the cars as slippery as possible, even down to putting special waxes on the underwing. Whether they work or not, who knows, but it's the effort that counts and I give them all the credit to the crew, they did a great job.

Regarding tomorrow's race, Vasser said, "The Newman/Haas cars dominated in practice and qualifying today, so right now I see the Newman/Haas team dominating the race. The PKV Racing cars are on the second row, so we are competitive, but there are a lot of good cars behind us and they are not that much slower than us. Every race is different and in any race a lot of things can happen. The PKV Racing team will work hard to stay close and then hopefully we will have an opportunity to use the push to pass at the end of the race. Anyone who uses the push to pass early is not to smart. I am looking forward to having a good race in the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing car.

Vasser, who resides in Las Vegas and is making his second start in Sin City, has qualified in the top-three in both his attempts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a best starting position of second at last year's inaugural event. He finished fifth last year. The 39-year-old native of California, has now qualified in the top-10 in 10 consecutive races and 10 of the 11 events this year including the first pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. He has finished in the top-10 in six of the 10 races this year with two top-five showings, a season high fourth in Toronto and a fifth in Milwaukee. Vasser is fifth in laps completed with 928 (out of a total of 1017) and eighth in laps led with 27. The 1996 Series Champion is eighth in the championship standings with 148 points, but is just 16 points out of fifth.

Vasser, who is competing in his 14th Champ Car season, will be making his 229th career start this weekend, which will extend his record of consecutive starts to 208. He has finished 142 of his last 184 races and placed in the top-10 in 129 of his 228 events including 64 top-five showings.

Da Matta took his qualifying run next to last or 17th after stepping out of line and waiting until track and weather conditions were more conducive. His qualifying run initially placed him third, but he was immediately bumped by his teammate. Da Matta's fourth place qualifying position ties his second best of the year. He quailed second in Cleveland and fourth in Milwaukee.

"The Bell Micro/PKV Racing team came off the transportation with a pretty good car and that is always a good," da Matta began. "In practice we still had to work very hard to find some more speed, but the team did a good job and we were able to improve our time in qualifying," he noted. "The whole PKV Racing team has been working very hard and a result like today's qualifying just helps our confidence. We have to build on this and get a good result tomorrow. That will help us for last three races of the season," da Matta explained.

Commenting on the race, da Matta said, "In any race it is always better to start up front, but just because we are starting on the second row doesn't mean we still don't have some more work to do. We still need to improve the car especially our race setup. It is much different to qualify the car on an empty race track then to race in traffic. I think the most important thing is working in traffic and working the draft. Another key is to stay on the lead lap and be in a position to work the draft on the last lap. The Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew has done a great job in the pits all year and we will have a good car for the race so I am confident that we can have a good result tomorrow."

Da Matta who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula, is contesting his fifth Champ Car season and first with PKV Racing. The 31-year-old Brazilian will be making his 90th career start, 11th for PKV Racing and first in Las Vegas tomorrow. He has now qualified in the top-10 in 10 of the 11 events this year missing out only in San Jose. The resident of Miami FL has finished in the top-10 in five of the 10 races contested this year including a victory in Portland, the first in the two-plus year history of PKV Racing. He is third in laps led with 71. The 2002 Series Champion currently sits 10th in the championship standings with 121 points.

PKV Racing will be making its third and fourth starts while competing in its second race in Las Vegas. In two previous starts (one races) the team has qualified in the top-10 twice with a best starting position of second by Vasser in last year's inaugural event. They have finished in the top-10 both times with a best finish of fifth also by Vasser last year (Gonzalez, 10th in 2004).

After 11 qualifying attempts and 10 races during the 2005 Champ Car World Series season, PKV Racing has established a number of team records. Da Matta scored the team's first victory in their two plus year history in Portland (round #4) while Vasser earned the team's first pole in round #3 at Milwaukee. The two drivers have combined to set team records for best combined qualifying, first and fourth at Milwaukee and best combined finish, first and sixth at Portland. They have both qualified in the top-10 in a team record nine races, including a team record six consecutive races. Da Matta and Vasser have finished in the top-10 in the same race three times (eighth/10th at Long Beach; first/sixth, Portland and sixth/seventh, Montreal) this year and at least one of them placed in the top-six in six of the 10 events including five consecutive races (the streak ended in Edmonton), which is also a team record.

The Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400, which will be held at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 24 and televised taped delayed on Sunday, September 25 at 3:00 p.m. (ET) on SPEED Channel.

-pkv-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser