IRL: Scheckter earns first IRL pole in Texas

FORT WORTH, TEXAS (June 6, 2002) - Tomas Scheckter earned his first Indy Racing League pole position after eclipsing the track record set by Mark Dismore last year. Scheckter, who was last in the qualifying line, turned his first lap at 218.982...

FORT WORTH, TEXAS (June 6, 2002) - Tomas Scheckter earned his first Indy Racing League pole position after eclipsing the track record set by Mark Dismore last year. Scheckter, who was last in the qualifying line, turned his first lap at 218.982 mph, which placed him on the outside of the front row.

With his teammate and car owner Eddie Cheever on the pole, Scheckter needed another nine one-thousandths of a second to knock the veteran from the top of the speed chart. Scheckter kept his foot to the floor and roared off turn four as the crowd rose to their feet, showing their approval.

When the checkered flag fell, Scheckter had set a new track record on the way to becoming the youngest pole sitter in the history of the Indy Racing League. Scheckter's qualifying speed of 220.146 mph was nearly five mph faster than Dismore's record of 215.508 mph set one year ago.

"It's the first time I've seen the track," said the young South African after becoming the first rookie to earn pole position since Billy Boat accomplished the feat at Las Vegas in 1997.

"We're ready to go," said Cheever. "We have a lot of pent-up anger on our team right now for not having done better up to this point," he said, referring to Scheckter's four DNF's in five races.

"I think the conditions changed a lot tonight."

Despite being knocked off the pole by his teammate, Cheever was pleased to have both team cars on the front row. "I think Tomas winning the pole is fantastic. It is the second pole for our team this season, but we still have a bitter taste in our mouth from Indy. It is time to start winning some races."

Al Unser Jr. recorded his career best Indy Racing League start, a third, while driving for Kelley Racing, the same team that swept the front row at last year's event.

Rounding out the top five were Laurent Redon and Helio Castroneves.

Starting sixth is Shigeaki Hattori, who along with Scheckter, Cheever and Redon is powered by an Infiniti engine. Hattori, who ran with the leaders in both practice sessions said, "I've been easily flat out since our first lap of practice. The car has been very fast. We have a very good car, and with the extra practice session tomorrow, I'm confident we'll find a good race set up."

The Indy cars have two practice sessions on Friday starting at 1:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. An autograph session with all Indy Racing drivers will be held at 6:00 p.m. near Gate 6.

Notes from the Boomtown 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway:

Kelley Racing recently announced Tony Renna as team test driver and driver coach for Jason Preistly, who will compete in the Infiniti Pro Series. Renna was high atop the Texas Motor Speedway today working as Al Unser Jr's spotter.

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Former Toyota Atlantic driver Will Langhorne is expected to test for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday with an eye towards competing for the team in the future.

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The Boomtown 500 marks the tenth time the Indy Racing League has competed at Texas Motor Speedway. The track has been host to two IRL races every year since 1998.

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Jon Herb did not attempt to qualify and will start last. "We just had some problems at the shop getting ready this time, and we struggled trying to get organized," said Herb, whose team recently opened a new shop in Indianapolis.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Jon Herb , Shigeaki Hattori , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Laurent Redon , Tony Renna , Will Langhorne , Al Unser