IRL: Hornish takes Homestead-Miami pole

IRL: Hornish takes Homestead-Miami pole

MIAMI (March 1, 2002) - Defending Indy Racing champion Sam Hornish Jr. earned his first career pole position in qualifying for Saturday's 20th Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead Miami Speedway. Hornish has twice been awarded the pole position ...

MIAMI (March 1, 2002) - Defending Indy Racing champion Sam Hornish Jr. earned his first career pole position in qualifying for Saturday's 20th Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead Miami Speedway. Hornish has twice been awarded the pole position based on points but today he earned it after averaging 202.884 mph around the 1.5 mile flat track.

Gusting winds persisted throughout the day with qualifying runs made under the same blustery conditions as experienced during the morning practice.

"We pretty much ran the same stuff we ran this morning," said Hornish. "We changed the gears a little but because we were hitting the rev limiter a little bit this morning, but the car was stuck real well."

Sam Hornish Jr. with the MBNA Pole Position trophy.
Photo by indyracing.com photo by Ron McQueeney.

Hornish returns to defend his 2001 title with the Pennzoil Panther team which has kept most of the same personnel from last season.

"We are really happy that we have almost everybody back on the team this year. We have the same engineer, same driver, and the same guys going over the wall. It's a great feeling to know you have those people coming back.

"We'll see how well our homework went this winter,"

Whether you've done your homework or not there's a big test tomorrow when the Indy Racing season opener takes the green flag at 1:00 p.m. EST.

Helio Castroneves, winner of the 2001 Indianapolis 500, is one of the drivers hoping to be at the head of the class when the checkered flag falls. Castroneves will start alongside Hornish after qualifying his Marlboro Team Penske Dallara at an average speed of 202.414 mph.

"The conditions on the track were very difficult," said Castroneves after earning his first front row start in the IRL. "The wind was very strong out there, so you had to kind of take it easy."

Castroneves' qualifying time was nearly identical to his practice time this morning. The difference between the two sessions was only 74 one-thousandths of a second.

"We didn't make many changes. Things seem to be very consistent. Yesterday and today were pretty much the same."

Red Bull Team Cheever cars fill the second row with rookie driver, Tomas Scheckter beating the veteran Eddie Cheever by five one-hundredths of a second to take the inside of the second row.

"Our car was a little conservative," said Scheckter, who tagged the turn four wall in practice. "We could have gone a little bit quicker, but I'll save that for tomorrow."

The top three qualifiers broke Jeff Ward's track record of 201.551 mph that was set last year.

Jaques Lazier will start fifth, followed by Gil de Ferran, Robbie Buhl and Billy Boat in eighth.

Notes from the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

Airton Dare has replace Donnie Beechler in A.J. Foyt's No. 14 after Beechler was involved in an accident in practice this morning. After complaining of back and neck pain, Beechler was transported by air to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he will be kept overnight for observation.

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Interested spectators at this weekend's season opener include, Didier Andre, Max Papis, Roberto Moreno, Richie Hearn, Shigeaki Hattori, Chris Menninga, Sarah Fisher, Greg Ray and Stephan Gregoire.

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Series INDYCAR