CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Saturday qualifying report

Fernandez Secures First Career Pole At US 500 CART Online (July 25, 1998) - Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing set a sizzling pace Saturday while earning the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career for Sunday's U.S. 500 ...

Fernandez Secures First Career Pole At US 500

CART Online (July 25, 1998) - Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing set a sizzling pace Saturday while earning the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career for Sunday's U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway (1 p.m. ET, live, ABC).

Fernandez averaged 229.519 miles per hour (31.370 seconds) on the two-mile Michigan Speedway oval to earn his first pole in 82 career starts. He collected the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award, with the opportunity to earn a record rollover bonus of $285,000 with a victory Sunday.

The rollover has been accumulating at a rate of $15,000 per event since Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) drove to victory at Cleveland more than a year ago.

Fernandez's speed was more than five miles per hour slower than the track record of 234.665 miles per hour (30.682 sec) held by Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda). Saturday's qualifying session was CART's first with the new Handford Device, a wing-like aerodynamic piece adopted by CART to help contain speeds at superspeedway events.

The field practiced with the Handford Device on Friday and Fernandez led the practice sessions with a speed of 232.004 miles per hour (31.034 seconds). Without additional traffic on track, Saturday's speeds were noticeably reduced during qualifying. The competition remained fierce in qualifying as the top 22 drivers in the 28-car field were separated by less than one second.

Vasser qualified second at 228.855 miles per hour (31.461 seconds). He makes his fourth front row start of the season, following pole positions at Japan and Cleveland, and an outside pole at St. Louis.

Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford) qualified a career-best third at 228.238 mph (31.546 seconds). He exceeds his previous career-best qualifying effort of fourth on the temporary street circuit at Detroit and improved dramatically on his previous career-best oval-track start of 11th at Brazil last year.

Al Unser Jr. qualified fourth at 227.906 mph (31.592 seconds) while Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) was fifth at 227.395 mph (31.663 seconds). Unser Jr.'s start is a season-best, topping seventh at Milwaukee, while Herta makes his fifth top-five start of the season and his best of the year on an oval.

Zanardi, the FedEx Championship Series points leader and defending race champion, qualified seventh at 227.237 mph (31.685 seconds). He is chasing a CART-record fifth consecutive victory Sunday following consecutive wins at Detroit, Portland, Cleveland and Toronto, respectively.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford: "We didn't test here. Scott [Pruett] did one day of testing and we learned a lot from him. The car really felt good. It didn't feel good in traffic, but that was just a matter of adjusting yourself to the wing. This morning, the car felt very good, but a little bit nervous and that made it a little bit of a guessing game for qualifying. We made the right corrections to the car after practice. The car was perfect, the best car I've ever had here. I'm very happy and I'm looking forward to the race. It's very difficult to predict what the car will want for the race, but the pole is a good place to start."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Reynard Honda: "If you're not on the pole here, it doesn't really matter where you start. The car was good, the balance was good. Hats off to Adrian, that was a heck of a lap. The Honda has been real strong. We just plug them in, do our jobs and hope for the best. I think we'll be all right. First and foremost, you've got to have reliability. You try to turn it up at the end if you have the opportunity to be near the front, but it wouldn't be advisable to go for the lead in the first three or four hundred miles."

RICHIE HEARN, Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford: "This is one of the few tracks we've tested at this year. We had a really good test here a month and a half ago, but this afternoon showed who had the quickest car. I'm very pleased with my car. I'm perfectly pleased with my result, and I'm looking forward to the race."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY:

* Alex Zanardi enters Sunday's race with a 175-106 lead over his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jimmy Vasser, in the FedEx Championship Series drivers' standings. Zanardi took a points lead he would never relinquish with his victory at Michigan last year.

* Zanardi and Vasser will be attempting to give Target/Chip Ganassi Racing its seventh consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday, the most since Marlboro Team Penske won seven in 1994.

* Vasser has started fifth or better in his past five 500-mile appearances at Michigan Speedway, including fifth in 1995, consecutive pole positions at the Inaugural U.S. 500 and Marlboro 500 in 1996 and fourth last year.

* Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) will make his 40th start in a 500-mile event Sunday, the most by any active CART driver. Rahal, who qualified 12th at 225.882 mph (31.875 seconds), is in his final season as a FedEx Championship Series driver.

* Vasser also will reach a milestone as he makes his 100th career start.

* Firestone tires have swept the pole at all 12 FedEx Championship Series events this season. Firestone has also won the past 10 races and 21 of the past 22.

* Al Unser Jr.'s fourth-place qualifying effort is his best on an oval since starting fourth at the 1996 Marlboro 500.

Source: CART

Motorsport News International's Internet Access in Brooklyn Provided by **** WebNet Detroit **** * Phone 1-888-WEB-NET-8 * 313-295-6227 * * http://www.wnol.net * info@wnol.net *

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Richie Hearn , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing