CHAMPCAR: Long Beach: Saturday qualifying report

WILSON WINS POLE FOR TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif., Saturday, April 19, 2008 -- Justin Wilson saved his best for last Saturday, recording the fastest lap of the weekend in the final minute of qualifying to earn the pole ...

WILSON WINS POLE FOR TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, Calif., Saturday, April 19, 2008 -- Justin Wilson saved his best for last Saturday, recording the fastest lap of the weekend in the final minute of qualifying to earn the pole position for the 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Wilson lapped the 11-turn, 1.97-mile circuit in 1 minute, 6.902 seconds, 105.898 mph, surpassing Alex Tagliani to win his seventh career Champ Car pole.

"My car was working well, and I was on a really good lap early on," Wilson said. "We came into Turn 9 and the car spun in between (Turns) 9 and 10 and it was quite frustrating because I know I was up four tenths (of a second) on my previous lap, which was probably pretty good.

"I was expecting to be in the mid sixes at that point, but there was a car in the way and I had to back off. After that, I had overshot my tires and was sliding around a bit more. We had to push hard, and the team was telling me there was a lap time I had to beat, so I was just very pleased to sneak one in there in the last few seconds and get my car in the front row again."

It was the third consecutive pole at Long Beach for the McDonald's Racing Team car of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, with Sebastien Bourdais winning from pole in 2006 and 2007.

The top seven drivers today bettered last year's pole lap. Tagliani's fastest lap in the No. 15 CEC Wheels/Walker Racing car was .182 of a second behind Wilson's mark.

Rookie Franck Perera qualified third and will share the second row with Will Power. Paul Tracy, who will be making his 16th start at Long Beach, and rookie Franck Montagny will start in Row 3.

Graham Rahal, who started from the ninth starting position in an IndyCar Series event on the Streets of St. Petersburg on April 6, will start from the same position at Long Beach.

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The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be televised at 5:30 p.m. (ET) (2:30 p.m. local) Sunday on ESPN2. The IMS Radio Network also will broadcast the race live, with coverage on XM IndyCar Series Racing Channel 145. The local IMS Radio Network affiliate for this event is KSPN 710 AM.

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The nine drivers entered in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach who are competing full time in the IndyCar Series will earn IndyCar Series points at this event. Those drivers: Enrique Bernoldi, Bruno Junqueira, Mario Moraes, Franck Perera, Will Power, Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia, E.J. Viso, Justin Wilson.

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Tomorrow's race will feature the first standing start for Champ Cars in the history of this event. The last standing start at Long Beach came in 1983 during the final appearance for Formula One at this event. CART began competing at this event in 1984.

ESPN motorsports pit reporter Jamie Little won the Pro-Celebrity Race today, holding off NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Mike Skinner.

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QUALIFYING NOTES:

This is Justin Wilson's seventh career Champ Car pole. He won two poles in each of the last three seasons, with his last pole coming July 28, 2007 at San Jose, Calif., in a car fielded by RuSPORT.

Justin Wilson will make his 14th career front-row start in 55 career Champ Car events.

This is Justin Wilson's first career pole at Long Beach. His previous best start here was second in 2006.

This is the 11th career pole at Long Beach for Newman/Haas-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and the third in a row. Sebastien Bourdais won the pole for this event in 2006 and 2007, winning both years.

This is Justin Wilson's first career pole for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. He joined the team this season, qualifying 15th on the Homestead oval and third on the St. Petersburg street circuit in his two IndyCar Series starts this season.

Alex Tagliani qualified second, his best qualifying position in nine career starts at Long Beach. His previous best was third in 2003. Tagliani qualified in the first four rows for this event for the sixth consecutive year, a streak that started when he qualified third in 2003.

This is the second consecutive year that a rookie has qualified in the top three for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Franck Perera qualified third today; Simon Pagenaud qualified third in 2007.

-credit: irl/ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mike Skinner , Enrique Bernoldi , Justin Wilson , Franck Montagny , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud , Mario Moraes , Jamie Little , Franck Perera