NAZARETH, Pa. (May 5, 2001) - Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing became the first rookie in over a year to earn a FedEx Championship Series pole position Saturday when he grabbed the pole for Sunday's Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented...
NAZARETH, Pa. (May 5, 2001) - Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing became the first rookie in over a year to earn a FedEx Championship Series pole position Saturday when he grabbed the pole for Sunday's Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway (1 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).
Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola), who paced Friday's practice sessions with a lap of 166.246 miles per hour (20.485 seconds), averaged 172.873 mph (19.700 seconds) on his fastest lap of the 0.946-mile oval. He will lead 24 fellow competitors to the green flag when Round 3 of the championship begins 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
Junqueira's pole position was the first for a FedEx Championship Series rookie since Alex Tagliani of Player's Forsythe Racing claimed the pole at Rio de Janeiro on April 29, 2000. It was also the third in a row for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at Nazareth, following back-to-back pole-winning efforts by Juan Montoya in 1999 and last year.
A Brazilian native and the 2000 European Formula 3000 champion, Junqueira will be seeking his second consecutive points-paying finish Sunday afternoon. He finished ninth in his most recent start at Long Beach, Calif. on April 8.
Team Rahal's Kenny Brack claimed the outside pole at an average speed of 172.540mph (19.738 seconds). Brack (Shell Ford Lola) has qualified among the top two drivers at every stop on the 2001 FedEx Championship Series tour, including poles at Monterrey, Mexico and Texas.
Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Ford Lola) of Herdez Bettenhausen qualified third at 170.707 mph (19.950 seconds). The effort marked a career-best for the six-year veteran, exceeding fifth at California Speedway in 1997.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola) of Sigma Autosport, who was fourth at 170.314 mph (19.996 seconds) and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, who was fifth at 170.220 mph (20.007 seconds).
FedEx Championship Series leader Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing qualified ninth at 168.912 mph (20.162 seconds), while defending event and FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was 15th at 167.607 mph (20.319 seconds).
Twenty-three of 24 qualifiers were separated by less than one second.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA, Target Toyota Lola: "I'm very happy that I could do a good qualifying. It's important to do a good start, but I don't know what it's going to be like. It's great to be on the pole for the first oval race in my life. I knew I could do really well here, because Team Target has a good car on ovals. I like driving ovals, my style fits to it. I thought I would do well on the road courses, but I made some mistakes this year, but the biggest change is I'm lucky. I'm feeling very comfortable on the ovals running by myself. Because I have no experience in a race, I'm going to let the Team Target engineers do it. The car can be good in qualifying, but not good in the race, but they know what to do."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "We've had a good weekend with Team Rahal and the Lola/Ford package. It was a little difficult to qualify here when the temperature changes. We were a little bit conservative, but we're still on the front row. It's important to qualify well here. I was a little worried about everything when we switched to the Lola. We had a lot of experience with the Reynard, and this is all new. We didn't run good at all in winter testing on the road courses. We ran only two days on ovals in testing, and ran the rest on the road courses. We kind of expected the Lola to be a good oval car because it was last year. From the driver's perspective, it's kind of difficult to start from a clean sheet of paper and develop all new setups. We're working together and the driver has to steer the team in the right direction. It's been interesting and hard, but we've come a long way in a short time."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR., Herdez Ford Lola: "I think it was a good weekend so far. The whole year Herdez Bettenhausen has shown it is very good. I knew this season we were going to be competitive when we changed to the Ford engine. I knew we had a good car, and we made changes for qualifying. It doesn't take a lot to go faster or slower. Oriol [Servia] went out before me and he was fast, and I knew that if he was fast, I would be fast. We've got to change things for the race. We always have a good race car on the short ovals, so hopefully I'll have a good car for the race. I feel very, very comfortable. I just have to be smart. I think all the years I've been here [in the FedEx Championship Series], every year I've had some good races. But when we got the Ford-Cosworth engine, and I saw the changes we made in the team, I knew we were going to be good. After so many years with so many problems, I started to have some doubts. Everybody's enjoying it a lot. The guys can see that their work is making a difference."
* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) qualified 13th for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at 168.552 miles per hour (20.205 seconds). When he takes the green flag Sunday, he will tie Al Unser Jr.'s record of 273 CART career starts. Andretti is a two-time winner at Nazareth (1987, '96) and has scored championship points in 11 of 13 starts at the venue, with 10 top-six finishes.
* Bruno Junqueira's (Target Toyota Lola) pole was the fourth consecutive FedEx Championship Series pole for a Toyota-powered driver on a one-mile oval, dating to the start of the 2000 season. It is also the fourth consecutive one-mile oval pole for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Juan Montoya swept pole positions at Nazareth, Milwaukee and Chicago last season.
* Kenny Brack's (Shell Ford Lola) fourth consecutive front-row qualifying effort encompasses pole positions at Mexico and Dallas and outside poles at Long Beach and Nazareth. It marks a Team Rahal record for consecutive front-row starts, topping the mark of three straight shared by Bobby Rahal (1992) and Bryan Herta (1999). Entering the season, Brack's previous career-best qualifying effort was second at Japan last year.
* Michel Jourdain Jr.'s (Herdez Ford Lola) career-best qualifying effort came in his 84th start. His first start, at Long Beach in 1996, made him the youngest driver ever to start FedEx Championship Series event, at age 19 years, 6 months and 12 days.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota will air 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 1 p.m. ET. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .