IRL: Homestead, Ward wins pole for Infiniti Miami GP

MIAMI (April 7, 2001) -- Jeff Ward snatched the Indy Racing MBNA Pole Award for Sunday's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel with a sizzling 201.551-mph lap around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday. ...

MIAMI (April 7, 2001) -- Jeff Ward snatched the Indy Racing MBNA Pole Award for Sunday's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel with a sizzling 201.551-mph lap around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday.

Ward, driving the Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards Oldsmobile, won his second career Indy Racing Northern Light Series pole, with the first coming in 1998 at Phoenix. Friday's practice was Ward's first visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he quickly caught everyone's attention by leading Saturday morning practice with a lap of 200 mph, one of three drivers to top 200 Saturday morning.

Ward's lap, coming late in qualifying, snapped Greg Ray's streak of two consecutive poles. Ray will start second, running a lap of 199.893 mph in the Johns Manville/Menards Oldsmobile.

"I knew when Greg (Ray) ran a 199 that there was a window for us to take the pole," said Ward. "We had the gearing right on, which allowed me to hustle through three and four. We made the necessary adjustments after practice today, and came out right on for qualifying."

Ray admitting missing on the qualifying setup after running the fastest lap in Friday's opening practice.

"We could have missed just a bit, but at the end of the day I think we'll be alright," said Ray, the IRL career leader with 10 poles. "This track is very competitive. Race day is going to be extremely fast, 197-198 mph. We'll just need to get set up right for weather conditions."

Defending Indy Racing champion Buddy Lazier will start on the outside of the second row with a lap of 199.432 mph in the Tae Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Oldsmobile. Taking a surprise fourth was Felipe Giaffone, who ran 199.211 mph in the Hollywood Oldsmobile.

"We've never gone that kind of speed before," said Giaffone, an Indy Racing rookie from Brazil. "I've been here three times before. The best I've ever done is like 197. My main concern is to finish the race tomorrow. As a rookie I don't have much experience yet."

Sharing the third row will be Phoenix winner Sam Hornish Jr., 199.172 mph, and Miami's Eliseo Salazar, 199.110. In row four will be Sarah Fisher, 198.313 mph, and Scott Sharp, 197.968 mph, followed by Mark Dismore, 197.717 mph, and Stan Wattles, 197.557 mph.

Sunday's schedule also includes a U.S. Formula 2000 National Championship race, an autograph session for Miami Dolphins alumni, including NFL Hall of Famers Nick Buoniconti and Dwight Stephenson, at 11 a.m., and a Media Challenge at noon. Reserved Sunday grandstand seats for today's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel will be available at the gate and range from $25 to $45. Parking is free. For additional information, call (305) 230-RACE, or visit www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

Starting lineup, with starting position, car number in parenthesis, driver, chassis-engine and qualifying speed in mph: <pre> 1. (35) Jeff Ward, G Force-Oldsmobile, 201.551 2. (2) Greg Ray, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 199.893 3. (91) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 199.432 4. (21) Felipe Giaffone, G Force-Oldsmobile, 199.211 5. (4) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Oldsmobile, 199.172 6. (14) Eliseo Salazar, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 199.110 7. (15) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 198.313 8. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 197.968 9. (28) Mark Dismore, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 197.717 10. (92) Stan Wattles, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 197.567 11. (7) Stephan Gregoire, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 197.395 12. (98) Billy Boat, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 197.011 13. (99) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 196.145 14. (9) Jeret Schroeder, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 195.413 15. (12) Buzz Calkins, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 195.378 16. (51) Eddie Cheever Jr., Dallara-Infiniti, 195.234 17. (6) Jon Herb, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 195.094 18. (27) John Hollansworth Jr., G Force-Oldsmobile, 194.380 19. (3) Al Unser Jr., G Force-Oldsmobile, 193.775 20. (88) Airton Daré , G Force-Oldsmobile, 193.281 21. (55) Shigeaki Hattori, G Force-Oldsmobile, 192.938 22. (10) Robby McGehee, Dallara-Oldsmobile, 192.875 23. (24) Robbie Buhl, G Force-Infiniti, 192.802 24. (31) Casey Mears, G Force-Oldsmobile, 192.485 25. (30) Brandon Erwin, G Force-Oldsmobile, 191.462

-HMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Jon Herb , Casey Mears , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Jeret Schroeder , Brandon Erwin , Stan Wattles , Sam Hornish Jr.