Wade Cunningham and Jay Howard took the inside and outside poles, respectively, for tomorrow's running of the IRL Indy Pro Series Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Cunningham dominated the day, turning the fastest times in both pre-qualifying practice sessions and taking the pole with a two-lap average speed of 186.423 mph. Cunningham sees this as the jelling of his team. "We've been working hard ever since I joined Brian Stewart Racing," he said. "Now we're really working together and kind of peaking toward as good as we can get, and everything went well today for us. We were quick in both practices, and were confident in going into qualifying."
Even when you're the fastest, nothing is a given, nor can you be satisfied. "The other teams seem to be able to pull out a little something extra every time we went out to qualify," Cunningham went on to say, "so we weren't 100 percent sure, but today we had enough.
"I'm a little disappointed with the run. The temperature came up quite suddenly, so we didn't really compensate for that. We could have gone maybe a tenth of a lap quicker, but that's it."
Jay Howard, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, got everything out of his car that he could, but wasn't satisfied with his result. "I'm a little disappointed, to be honest," he said. "I'm not 100 percent happy, but at least we're on the front row. My goal is to win. I don't know whether we'll be able to break away in the race, but I think we'll be out there. I don't know what will happen. We'll see, but hopefully I'm aiming for a win.
"It's been OK since we've been here. Not great, to be honest. We know there's time in the car, and the guys are working hard, and I have 100 percent faith they will get it right for the race."
Jaime Camara, last year's pole sitter and race winner, qualified third, at 184.681 mph. "Wade is doing what we did last year," he said. "He found something on his car, and we're all trying to figure out how to catch him. We have a good car; there are no problems. We just have to set it up for the race now, and tomorrow is what really matters. It would have been really good to start on pole, but I'm happy with qualifying third, and we'll just focus on moving up tomorrow."
Chris Festa, running in his second Freedom 100, fills out the second row in fourth place, at 184.084 mph. "Right now it feels pretty good," he said. "We qualified our race setup because we feel right now it's more important for us to do so. We know how we'll feel in the race, so that feels pretty good. But qualifying's qualifying, and the race is a completely different story, so we're completely focused on tomorrow. So that's our game plan."
"This one will definitely be a lot tougher than most other superspeedways we go to," Festa continued, "because there's no banking and there's four distinct corners, so you really have to get your car to work better here than you would in, say, Homestead or Texas. It's going to be a real close race. The field has been close all week so far, so I'm expecting a really good, tough race."
James Chesson, whose brother P.J. will be starting in Sunday's 500, qualified on the inside of the sixth row. "P.J.'s down Charlotte right now, Chesson said. "He called me up and said 'Gas her up, boy. You got to put her in the show.' OK - I put her in the show."
Sean Guthrie, who is making his Indy Pro Series debut this weekend and qualified on the outside of the sixth row, is the son of Jim Guthrie, three time starter in the Indianapolis 500 and winner of the 1997 Phoenix Indy Racing League event.
Bruce Neimeth, Directory of Business Development for Knoxville Raceway, and Shane Carson, Vice Pressident of Race Operations for DIRT Motorsports/World of Outlaws, were at the Speedway today to discuss the "Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy Rookie of the Year" program. The award gives the winning driver an opportunity to compete in the Indy Pro Series. Geoff Dodge is the first season winner of that award, and will run in tomorrow's Freedom 100. Because of a blown engine in pre-qualifying practice, Dodge was not able to set a qualifying time. He will start in 19th position.
Tomorrow's Freedom 100 will start tomorrow at 12:30 PM EDT, after the final Carb Day practice for Sunday's 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. It will be followed by the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge and the Miller Lite Carb Day Concert, featuring the B-52s and Third Eye Blind.