Unser Jr. leads Chevy qualifiers at Texas. FORT WORTH, Texas, June 6, 2002 -- Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. carried the banner for the Bowtie brigade tonight at Texas Motor Speedway. Unser's Corteco Kelley Racing Dallara was the ...
Unser Jr. leads Chevy qualifiers at Texas.
FORT WORTH, Texas, June 6, 2002 -- Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. carried the banner for the Bowtie brigade tonight at Texas Motor Speedway. Unser's Corteco Kelley Racing Dallara was the fastest Chevy-powered qualifier for Saturday night's Boomtown 500 after teammates Eddie Cheever Jr. and Tomas Scheckter swept the front row in their Infiniti Dallaras. Unser will start on the inside of the second row with a fast lap of 218.214 mph.
Unser, second in the qualifying draw, slowed from his 220 mph pace in practice, as did virtually all of the drivers. When qualifying began at 8:45 p.m., rising humidity produced slower speeds.
"We missed the gear a little bit, but not much," Unser said. "I wish it had been one mph quicker, and I think the car had it in it. The air got thicker and we were just a little too optimistic with the gearing."
Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was fifth fastest in Marlboro Team Penske's Chevrolet Dallara.
"Everything changed after practice," said Castroneves, the IRL points leader. "It's very weird, to be honest. The car was flat-out through the corners. We only had one lap to get up to speed, so I think that's why it wasn't faster. This was the first time I've qualified at night, and it was pretty cool."
Jeff Ward continued his string of strong performances, putting Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Chevrolet G-Force seventh on the grid with a 217.179 mph qualifying lap.
"The air gets thick and it just takes a little bit to bog down the car in the corners, and that's what it did," explained Ward. "It just wasn't carrying the speed like we thought it would. The rpm dropped more than we expected, and there' s more grip now too -- that hurt us.
"We've got a great race car, which is all we want," Ward noted. "We knew we wouldn't be on the pole, so we're happy with a top 10 qualifying spot."
Sam Hornish Jr., winner of the season finale at Texas Motor Speedway, will start Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara on the outside of the fourth row after qualifying eighth at 217.045 mph.
"That's not quite what we expecting from the car so now we have to go out there and see what happens on Saturday," Hornish conceded. "We tend not to be the fastest in qualifying but we run at the front on race day. The biggest thing is we have to be there at the end."
Buddy Lazier rounded out the top 10 with Hemelgarn Racing's Chevrolet Dallara at 216.687 mph.
"The track slowed down and the air got thick," Lazier said. "We were running 220s in the last practice session. At these speeds we're wide open and on the edge, and you've got to hit it just right. The car was perfectly balanced, and we're satisfied with a top 10 starting spot."
The Boomtown 500 is the first race since January 1997 that a GM engine is not on the front row. GM powerplants have won all nine IRL events races contested at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Boomtown 500 will start at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. local time) on Saturday, June 8. The 300-mile, 200-lap race will be televised live on ESPN and broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network.