By Patrick Jennings - Motorsport.com After two disappointing races with one of CART's premier teams, Bruno Junqueira will lead the 25-car field to the green flag in the 15th running of the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota.
By Patrick Jennings - Motorsport.com
After two disappointing races with one of CART's premier teams, Bruno Junqueira will lead the 25-car field to the green flag in the 15th running of the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota. The twenty-four year old Brazilian rookie claimed his first CART pole by piloting his Target-sponsored Toyota/Lola/Firestone around the 1-mile Nazareth Speedway in 19.700 seconds, at a speed of 172.873 miles per hour. The pole is the third consecutive Nazareth Speedway pole for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and the first pole for a CART rookie since Patrick Carpentier's at Rio de Janeiro in 2000. In addition, Junqueira's pole marks the 34th pole for Target Chip Ganassi Racing since 1990.
Junqueira, whose previous best start was 20th at Monterrey, Mexico, has driven on a total of six ovals in his entire career, including his run today at Nazareth. Despite his inexperience on ovals, Junqueira insists that ovals do not phase him. He claims that consistency has been the key to his career to date and he hopes to be able to run consistently in the top-ten. In 2000, Junqueira claimed two poles and qualified third or better six times for the Petrobras Junior Team on his to way to winning the 2000 FIA International Formula 3000 Championship.
Kenny Brack will start second, just three one-hundredths of a second back from Junqueira. Brack has qualified on the front row in all four of this season's races. "On these one-mile oval tracks any little things in the weather can change the car, so you just have it dialed in so neutral that any little thing can change it, although it might no, so you never really know," explained Brack.
Michel Jourdain, Jr. starts third. His previous best start was 5th at California Speedway in 1997. Jourdain attributes much of his success to the perseverance of his Herdez Bettenhausen team. "We had so many problems last year and I think everybody is really focused on finishing well in the championship this season," asserted Jourdain.
Oriol Servia posted a career-best fourth place starting position and Long Beach winner Helio Castroneves starts fifth. Adrian Fernandez, Bryan Herta, Paul Tracy, series points leader, Cristiano de Matta, and Tony Kanaan round out the top-ten.
Jimmy Vasser, Dario Franchitti, Michael Andretti, Max Papis, 2000 CART champion, Gil de Ferran, Roberto Moreno, Christian Fittipaldi, Tora Takagi, Shinji Nakano, and Alex Tagliani, make up the next five rows.
The qualifying session was slowed by two spins, one by rookie Nicolas Minassian and the other by Team Rahal's Max Papis.
The Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota takes the green flag at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Nazareth Speedway.