CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Friday qualifying report

WILL POWER CARRIES VEGAS VICTORY MOMENTUM TO LONG BEACH, LEADS FIRST-DAY CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING LONG BEACH (April 13, 2007) -- Team Australia's Will Power ( ...

WILL POWER CARRIES VEGAS VICTORY MOMENTUM TO LONG BEACH, LEADS FIRST-DAY CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING

LONG BEACH (April 13, 2007) -- Team Australia's Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) didn't get much time to celebrate his first Champ Car World Series victory, as he had just two days after his Vegas win before turning his attention to this week's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

So since celebration time was limited he decided to prolong the festivities, doing so by posting the fastest time of the day in the first round of qualifying for this weekend's battle in Long Beach. Power kept the momentum of last week's win from pole going, using the last of his 10 laps to steal the first-day pole from defending race and series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).

A red flag brought out by a Matt Halliday (#42 42 Below Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) spin meant that the majority of the field would get just one or two laps to take their final shots at Bourdais, who with five minutes left in the session had posted the three fastest laps of the session. The Holmatro Champ Car Safety Team cleaned up the spin in time to give the field three minutes with which to knock Bourdais off the top spot, where he sat with a time 1:07.970 (104.234 mph).

Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) made the first move, bolting on a set of the red-walled alternate Bridgestone Potenzas and moving into second with a top time of 1:08.200 (103.883 mph). Pagenaud got clear track to set his top time via the courtesy of his Team Australia stablemate Power, who slid aside on the first lap to allow his teammate by. In doing so, Power found some free space of his own on the track, and used it to wrest the pole from Bourdais by stopping the clocks at 1:07.920 (104.311 mph) on his last lap.

The performance gave Power an extra championship point, widening his series lead to seven points over Robert Doornbos (#14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarkten/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). He also secured a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race, marking the third time in the last four events -- dating back to last year -- that Power has started a Champ Car race from the front row.

The series' Canadian stars rounded out the top five with Alex Tagliani (#8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) snaring the fourth spot with a time of 1:08.304 (103.725 mph) on his last lap, matching his finish from the Vegas event. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) ended up fifth on the first-day qualifying chart after leading early on.

Tracy's teammate Mario Dominguez (#7 Telmex/Cabi Developers Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) was sixth in Friday's first round, logging in with a time of 1:08.708 (103.115 mph). Dominguez has finished in the top five of each of the last four Long Beach events, finishing fourth after starting fifth a year ago.

French rookie Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay By Touch Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) opened eyes with a top-five finish in Las Vegas, and showed it was no fluke in today's first qualifying round, ending up seventh with a time of 1:08.823 (102.942 mph), while American rookie Graham Rahal (#2 MEDI|ZONE Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) hung up the eighth-best time of the session with a 1:09.063 (102.585 mph).

Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) used his last lap to take the ninth spot while Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) overcame some early struggles and vaulted into the top 10 on his last lap of the session.

The final grid for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be set with Saturday's final qualifying, which will take place at 2 p.m. Pacific Time.

-credit: ccws

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