IRL: Junqueira earns pole for 86th Indianapolis 500

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IRL: Junqueira earns pole for 86th Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS (May 11, 2002) - Bruno Junqueira earned the pole position for the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 after making the first qualifying run of the day. Junqueira, who set the fastest lap in morning practice at 231.675 mph, posted a...

INDIANAPOLIS (May 11, 2002) - Bruno Junqueira earned the pole position for the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 after making the first qualifying run of the day. Junqueira, who set the fastest lap in morning practice at 231.675 mph, posted a four-lap average qualifying speed of 231.242 mph, more than 5 mph faster than last year's pole.

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
Speeds were up across the board as all 24 first day qualifiers posted speeds above Scott Sharp's 2001 pole speed of 226.037. Billy Boat recorded the slowest qualifying speed of the day at 226.589 mph. Boat sat on the bubble last year at 221.528 mph.

Through six days of practice Junqueira never appeared outside the top five on the speed charts. "The car had pretty good handling. Everything worked fine for me," he said after qualifying.

As the first driver to qualify, Junqueira had to push hard to post a speed that would hold up the rest of the day. "I did the best I could. There's more pressure because I don't know what time we have to do and how much to push."

Junqueira became the first driver to win the pole after being the first driver out since Emerson Fittipaldi accomplished the feat in 1990. That was also the last time a Brazilian driver earned the pole.

Kenny Brack.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
Surprisingly, Junqueira's teammates didn't fare as well as the 25 year old Brazilian. Despite all three Ganassi Racing drivers setting top five speeds on Thursday, Jeff Ward and Kenny Brack qualified 15th and 21st, respectively.

"I picked up a little push there the last two laps, and that really killed me," said Ward. "I wouldn't want to pass my attempt and have to be a second day qualifier. It's over with, and it is a good enough time that it's going to be pretty solid."

Brack wasn't as optimistic with his speed of 227.240 mph. "We got the car in the show, but I don't know if it's going to be enough. It depends on how they do Sunday and next weekend. We'll see."

Robbie Buhl qualified second with an average speed of 231.033 mph after waving off an initial attempt in his backup car. "You want to be fast, but you don't want to be stupid. You don't always have a car capable of being on the front row here, but we knew it was possible. When we waved off the first run with a speed capable of making the race, that shows you the kind of confidence we had that we could improve. It was a good call by (team owner) Dennis Reinbold."

Buhl's qualifying effort marks the first time an Infiniti-powered car has started on the front row.

Raul Boesel turned his first laps in the Team Menard No. 2 entry on Thursday after replacing an injured P.J. Jones. Today he showed that he could still wheel an Indy car, earning the outside of the front row after qualifying at 230.613 mph.

"It's almost like you can't believe what's happening right now," said Boesel, who's been out of a steady ride the past two seasons. "For the time we had in the car, what we've achieved is unbelievable."

Mo Nunn Racing teammates Felipe Giaffone and Tony Kanaan will start fourth and fifth, respectively. Kanaan, who struggled through much of practice, found speed after running in Giaffone's backup car on Thursday and Friday.

"Morris (Nunn) told me all along to be patient, and he's also told me all along to be consistent," said Kanaan. "Those are the two keys to being successful here at the Speedway. I think we were both of those things today, and it definitely paid off. I tried really hard to be patient all week, and I don't think I really, really got it until today."

Sarah Fisher.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
Sarah Fisher made Speedway history today when she became the fastest woman to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Fisher qualified ninth at a speed of 229.439 mph. "Today we accomplished exactly what we were aiming for in qualifications. There was still a little left that we could have taken out with trim, but that wasn't the point. We just wanted a steady, consistent car for qualifying, and it was perfect."

Michael Andretti continued to struggle, finding himself in the same position he was in last year, in danger of being bumped from the field. "It was real disappointing. I really thought we had a 227 and a half easy. It's going to be very marginal. I think we just missed something somewhere for the outright speed. Hopefully, we'll get in the race, and we'll just really work on the race setup, which is totally different than qualifying."

Andretti was next to last on the speed charts with a four-lap average of 226.780 mph.

Qualifying continues tomorrow from noon to 6:00 p.m. local time. Bump Day takes place on Sunday, May 19th, with practice getting underway at 10:00 a.m. and final qualifying from noon to 6:00 p.m. EST.

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Series INDYCAR