IPS: IRL: St. Louis: Saturday Notebook

Emerson Indy 250/Gateway 100 Day 2 Notebook Castroneves wins MBNA Pole; Late Crash Gives Simmons First Pro Series Win MADISON, Ill., Saturday, Aug. 9, 2003 -- Helio Castroneves won the MBNA Pole for the Emerson Indy 250 Aug. 9 at Gateway ...

Emerson Indy 250/Gateway 100 Day 2 Notebook
Castroneves wins MBNA Pole; Late Crash Gives Simmons First Pro Series Win

MADISON, Ill., Saturday, Aug. 9, 2003 -- Helio Castroneves won the MBNA Pole for the Emerson Indy 250 Aug. 9 at Gateway International Raceway. Castroneves turned a lap of 25.5732 seconds, 175.965 mph in his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

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MBNA POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

*This is Helio Castroneves' third career MBNA Pole and his second of the season. His other MBNA Poles came at Phoenix (2002) and Indianapolis (2003). He won at Phoenix in 2002 and finished second at Indianapolis this year.

*Kenny Brack qualified second, tying his career best. He qualified second in 1998 at Walt Disney World. His previous best qualifying effort this season was sixth at Phoenix, Motegi, Indianapolis and Texas.

*Marlboro Team Penske has won seven IRL IndyCar Series MBNA Poles.

*Helio Castroneves won the MBNA Pole with a Toyota engine. Toyota-powered cars have now won the MBNA Pole for nine of the last 10 IndyCar Series events. The only exception was when qualifying was rained out in June at Pikes Peak, and the starting grid was decided by practice times. Tony Kanaan, driving a Honda, was awarded the pole.

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MBNA POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a rough day for the Delphi team for sure. For one, I've been fighting a fever, and of course early in the first practice session we crashed, which we still don't exactly know why. I've been trying to regroup all day. I'm not pleased with our qualifying run. We ran faster than that in our practice, so obviously we'll try to have a smart day tomorrow and try to finish a lot higher up."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I think the first lap I missed the downshift. It was all right. We just didn't have those couple chances we needed or that chance we needed. I think it can be kind of a tricky place to get around, and we sort of missed a little going into these colder conditions. The car felt really good. I'm sure we'll have a good car for race day tomorrow."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a good run for us. There was really no problem with the car, its just very, very close like we saw this morning.We are happy. It's a selective circuit. One end is different from the other, so you not only have to adjust the car, but your driving style as well."

BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We made some pretty big headway during qualifying compared to our last session in which we only got a few laps. I think it's going to be an exciting day come tomorrow. I'm pleased with how we did today. This is our best qualifying of the year. I'm not too concerned because our race cars have been really good. We'll just get ready for the warmup, make our changes and be ready for the race. This engine is a totally different animal in the way it works. With all the teams going into Kentucky with the new engine, I think it's going to be a big boost for everybody. It's a big boost for Chevy and all the teams who have been working so hard under the Chevy banner this season."

KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had a really good lap, and I had a really good car. It takes a really balanced car to run well here. This track is different from the big superspeedways we run. You change down gears in the corners; you lift off at the end of the straights. You have to have a good setup, and you have to do it right. We had both today, so everything is good. Our test day that we had here was the best day of testing that we've had all year. We've had a steep learning curve, and to get this car to where it's fast has been a lot different from what we've been doing the last few years. The test we had here in St. Louis was the test where everything started to come together for us and where our engineers started to get a feel for what this car needs. Coming out of the test, I had a good feeling that we'd be OK when we came back to race. The Honda engine development has been going well. Honda has been working hard, as have the other manufacturers. It has been real even, across the board, but we have new stuff coming out all the time with the developments. It is certainly an interesting time to be involved in motor racing because engine development is a very interesting area."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "The track seems to be very good from this morning to the last test session to now. You are taking a lot of chances out there for the qualifying laps. You are talking about hundredths of a second. Even my pole position was very close. Unfortunately, as soon as I opened my lap on the green flag, I don't know what happened. I think I missed the (timing) beacon, so basically, I had no idea what my time was, especially on the first lap. So, I was like, 'I'm just going to go as fast as I can and see what is going to happen.' During the second lap, I missed that as well. When I was coming from Turn 4, I looked at the pagoda (pylon), and I did not see my number anywhere close to the top three, so I said 'Now I have to go for it. I have to go for a big lap,' and that's what I did. The car accepted it, and it was good, and that is when I noticed my number there, and it was quite good. Sometimes it is difficult when you are so focused from practice to qualifying. Anything that changes, the sun changes or if the dash changes, something that you are not expecting. The good news is I tried to keep my focus, and it was a hell of a lap."

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Rookie Jeff Simmons earned his first IRL Infiniti Pro Series victory and the first for Keith Duesenberg Racing Aug. 9 at Gateway International Raceway. Simmons inherited the win when polesitter Brandon Erwin, in the No. 99 Casino Queen Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, and points leader Mark Taylor, in the No. 4 Fulmar Panther entry, crashed while battling for the lead on lap 79 of the 80-lap event. Both drivers were uninjured.

The final Infiniti Pro Series practice session during the morning ended a couple of minutes early after Moses Smith, Gary Peterson, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Tom Wood were involved in an accident exiting Turn 4. There was moderate to heavy damage to all cars. All four drivers were uninjured. The cars of Wood and Luyendyk were repaired for the race. Peterson and Smith were unable to start as their cars were too badly damaged.

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GATEWAY 100 POST-RACE NOTES:

*Jeff Simmons won his first career Infiniti Pro Series event. His previous best finish was second at Pikes Peak and Michigan, both in 2003.

*Mark Taylor has led 364 of 568 laps this season. The 364 laps led is the most of any driver in Infiniti Pro Series history.

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GATEWAY 100 POST-RACE QUOTES:

TOM WOOD (No. 9 Trailblazer Drilling/Savanna Energy Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About accident during final practice): "We destroyed the car, and the crew was awesome. They were fixing the tow on the car as we were heading out to the grid. They did an unbelievable job in getting it ready. I'm amazed that we even had a race car. Fifth was a gift. I'll take it. Hats off to Sam Schmidt Motorsports. They did two days of work in three hours. Unbelievable."

PAUL DANA (No. 33 Ethanol/St. Louis Cardinals/BSR Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "You know, I had fun in a twisted sort of way. It's my first time driving for Brian Stewart Racing. They are a phenomenal race team. I'm really proud to work for them, but my setup and their setup are two totally different worlds, and we were trying to come to terms with it this weekend on the most difficult track in the series. The good news is, it's a clinic out there trying to get the car to work. It is a difficult racetrack, but I'm really happy to be racing in front of my fans in St. Louis. I learned a lot and look forward to next week."

CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I had a pretty good, consistent car for most of the race. We came here with a brand-new car after the crash in Michigan, and it was just getting comfortable with the new car and making sure everything was all right. For the most part, we had a fast car. In the warm-up session, we were fourth quickest, and I knew we had a car that could have won. I just didn't get that good of a start, so I just kind of hung in there in fourth. With a few laps to go, there was a crash with the leader and second place. They took each other out, so with that, we inherited second place. It was an awesome job by the Hemelgarn/Johnson team."

BRANDON ERWIN (No. 99 Casino Queen/Natural Golf Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "He (Mark Taylor) went in there too hot and made a mistake. He saw me coming. I don't know why he reacted like he did. He came right down in front of me, I tried to make a move to get around the outside a little bit, and there was no room. When he cut me off, the car moved around a little bit, and there was nowhere to go. Once he came down the track, he tried to go back up. He's a great driver, and I've raced him clean many times when he's been leading the race. It ended our day. Hopefully, it didn't end our season."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We got started off really bad. We were last in the first practice, 10th in the second, seventh in qualifying. We just kept getting faster and getting faster. We actually ran our quickest lap ever in the race. The car kept getting better. Steve (Erickson, engineer) gave me a great car on the long runs, and we actually got some luck this race. I just got into a rhythm and stayed clean. We had a little bit of bad luck with the warm-up crash, getting collected in that, but my luck turned the other way for the race." (About the incident involving Mark Taylor and Brandon Erwin): "It's unfortunate for them. They had a great weekend. I especially feel bad for Brandon, since he's had such bad luck in the last couple of races. I really would have enjoyed seeing him win. Congratulations to Jeff (Simmons)."

MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It was totally my fault. I made a mistake, ran wide, came back down to the inside, and Brandon (Erwin) was right behind me. He got along the outside, and I tried to give him a bit of room on the outside, because I realized he was there. I just didn't give him enough room, and he hit my back wheel. I ruined his day and ruined mine, as well. I'm just really sorry for what happened."

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I did the best that I could when I was running. We had a problem with the fuel pressure, and we tried to fix that. I went back out and had the same problem again, and I couldn't finish the race. We're thinking about it for the next race."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 20 Western Union Speed Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I was working hard the whole race, trying to stay up front. We didn't have quite as good of a car in the race as we did in the warmup. I was basically just waiting for something like that (the Taylor/Erwin accident). I was kind of biding my time and hoping that something would happen in traffic. It looked like Mark (Taylor) pushed real high in (Turns) 1 and 2 and put a little block on Brandon (Erwin) as he was trying to get around. They came together, and I just kind of slowed down. I couldn't see anything for a second with all the smoke. I just kind of tried to shoot right through the middle. It's fantastic for the Western Union Speed Team. We've been qualifying in the top five every single race, and we've just had our share of misfortune. There were several races that we thought we had a chance to win. I guess today was just our day." (What did it feel like when you took the checkered flag?): "It was great, especially since I've been kind of suffering from some kind of stomach flu. I was a bit dehydrated. I was a little unsteady when I got out of the car. I was thankful it was over and that we didn't have to hold the guys off anymore."

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TOMORROW'S SCHEDULE:

8 a.m.
IndyCar Series garage opens

10 a.m.
Final IndyCar Series practice

2 p.m.
Emerson Indy 250 (200 laps/250 miles) ABC-TV & IMS Radio Network (Live)

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Helio Castroneves , Brandon Erwin , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , Moses Smith , Gary Peterson , Tom Wood , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing