Billy Boat came to Nashville with victory on his mind and he took a huge step in the right direction tonight when he captured the MBNA Pole at the Nashville Superspeedway. He earned the coveted starting position with a lap of 22.9666 seconds, 203.774 mph in the No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. His lap shattered the Nashville Superspeedway track record, which was 23.4987 seconds, 199.922 mph, set last year by Greg Ray. "It's really good to be up front," said a jubilant Billy Boat, "it's been a long time since we've got a pole. We didn't test here, so we came in pretty blind and rolled off the trailer fast, and that's really the key."
IRL points leader Helio Castroneves will start next to Boat, earning the second place spot with a Lap of 23.0130 seconds, 203.363 mph. The CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing team has found a marked improvement in speed since switching to an Infiniti powered engine less than a month ago. However, they are aware that starting position is just part of the challenge. "I know that traffic is going to play a key role in the race tomorrow," says Boat, "there's no doubt that it's going to be a fast race. Practice times were all really close -- a lot of teams are running in the 202 'zone' it's going to be really challenging. Tomorrow for the race it's going to be execution. We know we have a fast hot rod. We have a fast race car. So we're going to be trying to execute in the pits, not make any mistakes and beat ourselves. If we can do that, we're going to be right at the front. Although there's a definite advantage to starting up front, in my eight previous pole starts, I've never won from the pole. It's certainly easier than starting from the back, but the hard part is going to be staying in the top 2-3 spots and being in a position to win."
Starting just behind Billy Boat and Helio Castroneves will be Sam Hornish, Jr. and Tomas Scheckter -- two drivers notorious for their hard- charging style and very fast speeds. When asked how he felt about having them behind him for the start, Boat responded, "the track is very narrow into Turn 1 -- no one would want to, nor should they, go side-by-side. We'll give them a good start and let it shake out from there."
The pole, Boat's ninth career pole, is his first this season and the timing couldn't be better. Nashville is the home of team co-owner Mike Curb and the team's primary sponsor, CURB Records. "It's great to get [the pole] here in Nashville, hometown of CURB Records," stated an ecstatic Boat following his fantastic run. "There's always a little bit of extra pressure, because we have a lot of people here. A lot of the CURB staff will be at the race tomorrow and we want to do well -- this is a good way to start. The weekend so far has just gone fantastic. I got to spend part of yesterday at the CURB studios. We got a special tour and demonstration/performance by one of CURB's top artists, David Kersh -- he even got me behind the microphone to see what it was like. He'll be joining us in the pits tomorrow for the race, so that I can return the favor and show him a 'behind-the-scenes' view of racing."
Helio Castroneves is infamous for his fence climbing antics upon winning a race -- Billy Boat has decided on a different mode of celebration, "I got to try singing in a studio [at the CURB Records studio] for the first time yesterday. I guess if I win, I'm going to have to sing for everyone!"
After finishing second at the Firestone Indy 200 last year, Boat will make his attempt to better his finish tomorrow, Saturday, July 20. The 200-lap race can be seen live on ESPN 2, beginning at 8:30pm EST.