IRL: Texas: Thursday night qualifying report

HORNISH WINS POLE FOR BOMBARDIER LEARJET 500K FORT WORTH, Texas, Thursday, June 8, 2006 -- Sam Hornish Jr. claimed the Marlboro Pole Award for the June 10 Bombardier Learjet 500k at Texas Motor Speedway. The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner...

HORNISH WINS POLE FOR BOMBARDIER LEARJET 500K

FORT WORTH, Texas, Thursday, June 8, 2006 -- Sam Hornish Jr. claimed the Marlboro Pole Award for the June 10 Bombardier Learjet 500k at Texas Motor Speedway.

The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner posted a lap of 24.5197 seconds, 213.624 mph, in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara. Hornish's time was .0041 of a second faster than reigning IndyCar® Series champion Dan Wheldon, who recorded a lap of 24.5238, 213.588 mph, in his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara.

Hornish's teammate Helio Castroneves was third-quickest at 24.5706, 213.182 mph in his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara while Wheldon's teammate Scott Dixon (212.929 mph) and defending race winner Tomas Scheckter (212.823 mph) were fourth and fifth, respectively in their Honda-powered Dallaras.

Preparations for the Bombardier Learjet 500k will continue on June 9 with two scheduled practice sessions. The Bombardier Learjet 500k will be run at 9 p.m (EDT) on June 10.

DAY 1 NOTES:

This is the 17th IndyCar Series event at Texas Motor Speedway. Tomas Scheckter is the defending race winner. Gil de Ferran holds the qualifying record with a lap of 23.5031 seconds, 222.864 mph set in September 2005.

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Six Indianapolis 500 winners are entered: Sam Hornish Jr. (2006), Dan Wheldon (2005), Buddy Rice (2004), Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Eddie Cheever Jr.(1998) and Buddy Lazier (1996).

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Two IndyCar Series rookies are entered this weekend: Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) and Jeff Simmons (Rahal Letterman Racing). Both are eligible for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title.

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The World Cup, the world's largest sporting event, begins Friday in Germany. Several IndyCar Series stars follow soccer and gave their predictions for the tournament. Predictably, most drivers picked their home countries. Here's a look at the complete picks:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Tuesday, June 13 is Brazil vs. Croatia. We're going to be testing at Kansas Speedway that day, and I don't know what we're going to do. We're going to need a TV or something because all of the Brazilian drivers will be cheering for Brazil. I want the U.S. to be up there playing against Brazil. If it came down to the U.S. vs. Brazil, I guess you guys would know who my heart would be pulling for there."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "You already know who I'm cheering for - Brazil. Being a Brazilian, I'm a big soccer fan. We've won so many World Cups that I'm definitely going to keep an eye on it. I've been in America for 10 years, and soccer is definitely growing in popularity here. If Brazil doesn't make the finals, then I hope the Americans do."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "You know already know who I want to win, England, but it's more than because I'm English. I think England will win even though we have some injuries because we have multiple talented players for each individual position. Plus, I've got to root for my home team."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "As Scotland aren't in because we didn't qualify, I think Brazil will be tough to beat. I know Wheldon is going to cheer on England, but I'm liking Brazil. It's such a cool tournament to watch all the different games and the whole thing. I'm disappointed Scotland aren't in, but we're looking good for the future."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I don't know who's going to win. All I know from talking to TK and Dario is it won't be Scotland or the U.S."

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IndyCar Series rookie Marco Andretti met with at-risk teens from Happy Hill Home/Academy prior to the start of practice today.

Andretti explained aerodynamic principles of the car to the dozen students from the residential school in Granbury, Texas, along with what each button on the steering wheel and in the cockpit control. He also conducted a wide-ranging question and answer session -- from does he have a girlfriend ("No. It's hard to when you're not in the same place for more than three days) to does he consider himself a role model ("Hopefully I'm a good role model because every time I'm out there I try to do my best and I try to be very professional.")

"It is a pretty cool car and I feel a lot more educated now when I watch on TV," said 19-year-old Kimberly Wyatt. "I don't know if I would be able to ask the questions I did to an adult. It was easier to carry on a conversation with him. I had a great time."

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Graham Rahal, son of legendary open-wheel driver Bobby Rahal, will drive for Kenn Hardley Racing in the Indy Pro Series^Ù Liberty Challenge to be run July 1 on the 2.605-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rahal, who will be 17 years, 178 days old on July 1, will become the youngest competitor in Indy Pro Series history. He is not subject to the minimum age requirement of 18 because the IndyCar Series is not running at the event. The 25-lap event instead is part of the undercard for the United States Grand Prix with Formula One.

Rahal already made history earlier this year when he became the youngest winner in Champ Car Atlantic series history, winning at Monterrey, Mexico.

"We're excited to have Graham on board for this great race," team owner Kenn Hardley said. "With Bobby Wilson as Graham's teammate, we have a very strong team and are looking for great results from both drivers."

Kenn Hardley Racing drivers have won two of five Indy Pro Series races in 2006, with Wilson winning from the pole on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen International circuit on June 4.

"I think it will be challenging, but I'm with a great team and can't wait to test later on this month with the guys at Kenn Hardley Racing," said Rahal, who will participate in an Open Test on the circuit on June 20. "My goal is to reach the highest level as a professional race car driver. The Indy Pro series will give me a very valuable experience which will help me move up the ladder in open-wheel racing."

The Indy Pro Series is the premier ladder series for drivers, teams and sponsors striving to compete in the IndyCar® Series and the Indianapolis 500. The 12-race schedule in 2006 features six races on ovals and six races on road courses, including competing on both circuits at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams compete for $3 million in prize money in cars that generate 420 horsepower and speeds in excess of 190 mph. The races are telecast to more than 88 million homes in the United States on ESPN2.

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Tim Broyles is serving as chief mechanic and tire changer for the #26 car of Marco Andretti this weekend. The team's regular chief mechanic, Mike Horvath, is with his wife, who is expecting a child.

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Entering the sixth event of the 2005 IndyCar Series season, Dan Wheldon led Tony Kanaan by 65 points. This year, the top six drivers in points -- Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Sam Hornish Jr., Wheldon, Kanaan and Vitor Meira -- are separated by 58 points.

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POST-MARLBORO POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Sam Hornish Jr.'s third pole position this season and the ninth of his IndyCar Series career. He also won the Marlboro Pole Award at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

* This is Hornish's second pole at Texas Motor Speedway. He started first for the fall race in 2001 after the lineup was set by points due to rain.

* This is Marlboro Team Penske's fifth pole position of the season and its 24th pole in the IndyCar Series. The team has started on the pole for five of the six IndyCar Series events in 2006.

* Dan Wheldon qualified second, his first front-row start of the season and his best-ever start at Texas Motor Speedway.

* Helio Castroneves qualified third, his sixth top-five start this season and his third consecutive top-five start.

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MARLBORO POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, Marlboro Pole Award winner): "Everything is going really good for the Marlboro Team Penske car. Our run was pretty good, even though we slowed down from where we thought we'd be. The car ran really good earlier today when we were running in practice. We got around a couple of cars and we ran really well. Hopefully, the Marlboro Team Penske car will run as good on Saturday. The big thing for us is to make sure we don't get ourselves in any trouble and make sure the car handles well in traffic, because that's how it will be on race day."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "I think it was a relatively clean and good run. This year, we've been just a little shy. I think we have a car that is certainly reasonable for the race. That is something we worked on this morning. I think this year's race is very close. I think the fans are in for something that will be very entertaining."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "I'm happy with how we qualified tonight. We were looking for speed earlier today in the second practice session, and we just couldn't find it. I have to say, the Marlboro Team Penske guys did a great job for me this evening, and I'm very satisfied with our qualifying position -- the car was great. We're in the top-five, and I'm very content with that, and I'm definitely looking forward to an exciting race on Saturday night."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "It was pretty decent. Saturday night, with the temperatures going down, it will be a lot nicer. Our team has had a ton of confidence all year. The car has been quick, but we haven't capitalized on it."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth): "We've spent most of our time working on our qualifying setup. Team 7-Eleven always has good race cars here. If you look back at my record, it's pretty good, apart from 2003 when Helio (Castroneves) took us out. We have a good qualifying position so now we can focus on getting ready to go racing."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh): "It's time for us to step forward as a team. I think the guys have done really well preparing the cars. We had two really good practice sessions. We felt really competitive. Texas is a unique track. It doesn't matter where you qualify here because it's completely different for the race."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, qualified eighth): "The Klein Tools/Canadian Club car has been comfortable all day, it's just not terribly fast. It wasn't a bad performance, and it gives us something to work on tomorrow. We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow to try and have a good car for this race because it's a hard race when you're back in traffic, so it's important to get the balance right."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "I think my engineers could qualify the car here, but this is about where I thought I'd qualify the NYSE car, so I have to say that I'm pleased. I found out in practice that I'm definitely going to have to drive the car during the race. There are going to be two or three guys outside of you when you have somebody in front of you, so we've got to get the car to where I can go flat out when I'm running behind somebody."

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The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Bombardier 500k at 9 p.m. (EDT) on June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Liberty Challenge on July 1 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. ESPN2's coverage of the Corning will be televised at 2 p.m. (EDT) on June 8.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Bobby Rahal , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Bobby Wilson , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing