IPS: Chicagoland: Qualifying notes

HOWARD WINS POLE FOR CHICAGOLAND 100 JOLIET, Ill., Friday, Sept. 8, 2006 -- Jay Howard fired the first shot in the final battle for the Indy Pro Series championship. The Englishman claimed the SWE Race Car Parts Pole Award for the...

HOWARD WINS POLE FOR CHICAGOLAND 100

JOLIET, Ill., Friday, Sept. 8, 2006 -- Jay Howard fired the first shot in the final battle for the Indy Pro Series championship.

The Englishman claimed the SWE Race Car Parts Pole Award for the season-ending Chicagoland 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. It was the second pole of the season for the driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry.

More importantly, Howard, who turned a lap of 28.9780 seconds, 188.774 mph, earned one point for his first pole position since the season-opening race in March, and now leads Jonathan Klein by nine points in the point standings. Klein, a native of nearby Long Grove, Ill., qualified second in the No. 27 Klein Tools/Turn-Key Forging entry with a lap of 188.285.

Rookies Akihira Okamoto and Alex Lloyd qualified third and fourth, while championship contenders Bobby Wilson and Wade Cunningham make up the third row.

The Chicagoland 100 is scheduled for 4:55 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 9

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

The Chicagoland 100 is the fifth Indy Pro Series event at Chicagoland Speedway. Jeff Simmons was the 2005 race winner. Thiago Medeiros holds the qualifying record with a lap of 28.6838 seconds, 190.770 set Sept. 10, 2004.

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There are no former Indy Pro Series winners at Chicagoland entered in the Chicagoland 100. Jeff Simmons, who won the Chicagoland 100 in 2005, is entered in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean.

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The 2006 season has seen the most parity in Indy Pro Series history. A record seven drivers have won races while a record six drivers have earned pole positions.

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Bobby Wilson is the only driver to finish in the top 10 of every event so far in 2006. He's also the only driver to have been running at the finish of each race and the only driver to have completed all 541 laps.

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Nick Bussell and Jaime Camara will attempt to make their 26th consecutive starts in the Chicagoland 100. Arie Luyendyk Jr., holds the Indy Pro Series record with 31 consecutive starts. Bussell leads all drivers with 11 consecutive top-10 starts.

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Chris Festa is back in the No. 51 Cheever Racing/Formtek car after missing the Infineon Raceway doubleheader weekend (Aug. 26-27) with an illness.

"I feel fine. I came down with a case of acute tonsillitis and possibly mononucleosis, so the doctors wanted to watch me for a couple weeks," said Festa, who was second quick (191.044 mph) in the initial practice session for the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9. "I'm feeling good, strong. They cleared me to race this morning, so here I am."

Festa, who celebrated his 21st birthday Sept. 5, has five top-10 finishes in eight races this season. He's looking forward to closing the year on a high note at Chicagoland Speedway.

"I had to miss three races this year (also did not run at Milwaukee because of an infection), so to make it back for the final race of the season feels pretty good," he said.

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Sam Schmidt's plane took off from a small airport in Wheeling, Ill. Moments later, the Indy Pro Series team owner "thought he was going to end up in China."

The former IndyCar Series driver and Indy Pro Series team ownerhad the experience of a lifetime on Sept. 7, going up in one of the airplanes used in the Klein Tools Air Show.

"We did everything," Schmidt said. "We did a couple loops. We did several spins. We went vertical and did a stall and came back down straight towards the Earth. I thought I was going to end up in China. Then probably the topper to it all, we flew upside down for probably a good minute-and-a-half. It was just a wild experience."

The experience came about from a conversation Schmidt had with Rick Klein in St. Petersburg, Fla. earlier this year. Klein is the father of Indy Pro Series driver Jonathan Klein, and his company, Klein Tools, is a major supporter of teams in the Indy Pro Series and IndyCar Series.

"Down in St. Pete, they were giving rides to all of their sponsors." Schmidt explained. "I was sitting there watching the show with Rick and said, 'You know, one of the biggest disappointments about being paralyzed is that a month after I got paralyzed I was all set up and supposed to go on an F-14 out at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. When I got paralyzed, a few months later I'm thinking, 'Damn, I missed my flight.'' So I told that story to Rick down in St. Pete, and he said, 'Hey, we'll get you in that thing no matter what it takes.'

"I can't thank Rick Klein enough. It was kind of an emotional experience yesterday. It was definitely one to check off the all-time list."

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CHICAGOLAND 100 POST-QUALIFYING NOTES: * This is Jay Howard's second pole of the season and of his Indy Pro Series career. He also won the pole at the season-opening event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Howard earned a point for winning the pole.

* This is the 22nd pole position for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the Indy Pro Series. The team's last pole position came at Homestead in March with Howard.

* Jonathan Klein will start second, his fifth-straight top-three start.

* Akihira Okamoto will start third in his Indy Pro Series debut.

* Alex Lloyd qualified fourth, his best-ever start on an oval.

CHICAGOLAND 100 POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, SWE Race Car Parts Pole Award winner): "It's a good start to the weekend. We get one point for pole and two for most laps led, so the plan is to lead as many laps as possible and once I get to the point where no one else can lead more laps, then I'm sure the plans will change. I'm almost prepared to sacrifice the win once I know that the championship is in the bag. Obviously, I want to win. It's painful to even think about letting someone else win to win the championship. I've got to keep my eyes on the big picture, and the big picture is the championship. We've started the weekend off great, and I'm planning to stay up front, dominate and win the race." (About starting next to his closest competitor in the points) "I'd prefer him to be a couple of rows back. It'll be a good race. I know it'll be nice and clean. He's one person I'd like to race against and have along side me. I have 110 percent trust in him, and I'm sure the trust is returned to me. We'll race hard for sure, and it'll be close, but I'm planning on winning." (About going out first to qualify) "That was pretty painful. When we got the draw that we were going out first, I did think to myself, 'This ain't good.' The track was different, different rubber down. That did upset the car a little bit in the middle of the corners, but you have to deal with it and go out there and we did. We got the pole, which is kind of surprising. When I was looking at the times of everyone else going around, I was quite surprised at how slow they were. That was by far the worst feeling, standing there. The anxiety was unreal, standing there waiting to see if you get notched down. It was a pretty good feeling when I saw Tim (Neff), my engineer, smile and go, 'No, we got it.' I'd much rather go out last and upset everyone, but it's a good feeling to set the time and have no one beat it."

JONATHAN KLEIN (No. 27 Klein Tools/Turn-Key Forging, qualified second): "He (Jay Howard) and I are still best friends. We're going to make sure that we play nice, but I am going to tell him, 'Look Jay, I'm going to race you hard.' It's down to the wire, but I'm not going to put ourselves in a position where we can get into trouble at the same time. I'm going to race him hard and race him tough, but we're still going to be safe and respectful. (About losing another point to Howard): "I really needed that point."

AKIHIRA OKAMOTO (No. 77 OAM/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified third): "It's a big step up from Formula Dream up to this. My team gave me a very good setup that carried over from practice. The car was very comfortable to drive, and I got good advice from the team and from Roger Yasukawa. I'm very happy to be starting on the second row in my first Indy Pro Series race."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, qualified fourth): "Fourth is pretty good. We were just hoping to get into the top ten with this car. We weren't sure how it would be for qualifying. The car was really good for the run. It's a really good race car, and obviously, it was very good in qualifying. We're very happy. We'll have to see how tomorrow goes. I think it will be pretty good."

BOBBY WILSON (No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing, qualified fifth: "I feel pretty confident. The car has been great all day. We have a new engine in the car; we have a different chassis. I think things are really coming together. I really excited for the race, so we will see how things go."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, qualified sixth): "Obviously in qualifying, we didn't do a good job. We are quite a bit away from the pole time. We are not going to be anywhere near the front row. I think we proved in the second session that we can get to the front and race hard. We have been doing that all year. I don't think there is a question that we won't be in the front tomorrow."

VERONICA McCANN (No. 3 United & Classic Trailers, qualified 16th): "I had a little bit of trouble with the gears in the car. I've never really had to change gears while I was racing before. Qualifying is critical because you've only got two laps to get it done. It was my fault. There's nothing wrong with the car. We were third-fastest in the first session, but then we put it in the wall. The guys got the car out for the second session, and the car felt good. I'm just getting used to traffic."

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Roger Yasukawa , Jeff Simmons , Alex Lloyd , Nick Bussell , Chris Festa , Wade Cunningham , Jaime Camara , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Jonathan Klein , Akihira Okamoto , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.