Fogarty grabs pole in Chicago; edges Figge for top spot. CICERO, Ill. (June 29, 2002) -- Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northern Trust Redline Wine Country Motorsports Ironclad Swift 014.a) posted the fastest times all day during practice...
Fogarty grabs pole in Chicago; edges Figge for top spot.
CICERO, Ill. (June 29, 2002) -- Alex Figge (Worldspeed Motorsports/Northern Trust Redline Wine Country Motorsports Ironclad Swift 014.a) posted the fastest times all day during practice at the Chicago Motor Speedway and was the favorite to win his first career pole for Round 6 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. But it was points leader, Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a), who stole the show and in turn, won his first career Atlantic pole on Saturday afternoon.
Fogarty's time of 26.978 seconds (137.312 mph) barely edged Figge's time of 26.986 seconds (137.271 mph) earning him his first $1000 Toyota "Pole Award" and earned Dorricott Racing's its third pole of the season. Teammate, Luis Diaz (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) won poles earlier this season at Monterrey, Mexico and Portland. Most importantly, Fogarty earned one more point in a tight Championship battle. Fogarty now leads Michael Valiante by three points heading into tomorrow's race set to start at high noon. Valiante will line up right behind Fogarty in third after posting a time of 27.355 seconds (135.419 mph).
"We had a good car leading into qualifying," said Fogarty. "We were two-thousandths slower than the other top qualifiers. We knew we might be able to keep the car where it was which would be decent for qualifying. However, we gambled that the other guys were gambling to go faster. My engineer, Burke Harrison, and I made a few changes. We weren't certain about them but they ended up working for us. The car was fast out of the box on fairly cold tires. You had to be careful about how hard to push the car. You can't enter these corners with a lot more speed than is necessary. It's really cozy coming off the corners so you have to pace yourself entering them. I overcharged on my first time. I thought I could be quicker. I let up a little on the next lap and ended with my best time."
Figge, who lost out on his first pole, will begin tomorrow's race from his best starting spot of the season. Figge's previous best came earlier this month at Laguna Seca where he started 10th. Figge agreed on Fogarty's assessment of changes made to the cars between practice and qualifying.
"It was probably the same for the top five drivers," quoted Figge. "We took a gamble and it worked and obviously, Jon's worked better. This is my best starting spot of me in Atlantic so I'm happy to be second heading into the race tomorrow. My engineer, Mike Doyle, had lots to do with it. The single car qualifying is nerve wracking, especially considering how I did at Milwaukee where things went so badly. I could not help to be nervous, but it was a good time and I had lots of fun."
The third spot for Valiante will be the best starting position for Lynx Racing on an oval in recent memory and ties his personal best qualifying effort of the season when he started third at Long Beach. Valiante is excited about his chances on a track where his team has struggled recently.
"After running up front in both of the morning practice sessions, we made a few changes for qualifying that actually worked a little too well" said Canada's Valiante. "I was able to carry so much speed out of turn two that I came into turn three a little fast and had to check up, which cost us a couple of tenths and those were the tenths that separated us from the pole. But I'm still very happy with the car, and the direction we're headed. It's easy to drive, it responds well to the sway bar and weight jacker changes I make from the cockpit, and if Lady Luck cooperates tomorrow, I think we stand a good chance of scoring the team's first oval-track victory in several years."
Valiante's time was the same as the time turned in by 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, Buddy Rice (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a), but won the tie-breaker via a faster second lap. But for Rice, it will be his best starting spot since returning to the Atlantic Championship when he filled in for the injured Joey Hand. Rice will line up on the outside of the front row tomorrow.
"We made a lot of progress coming into qualifying," said Rice. "We started out strong this morning, but took a few steps back in the afternoon. This team's been a little nervous on ovals this year, but we went back to a set-up that's better suited to me. We're back in the ballpark now and we know we have a good car in traffic. We should be in good shape tomorrow."
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will get back into action tomorrow morning with a 9:45 a.m. CST warm up session, followed by the 12:00 p.m. CST 70-lap race. Speed Channel will televise Round 6 of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at the Chicago Motor Speedway on same day delay at 9:00 p.m. EST.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. It is also noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic Series are CART Champ Car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.