Denver: Friday qualifying summary

Gurney edges Fogarty for provisional pole in Denver; Valiante breaks early in session. DENVER (August 30, 2002) -- Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) held the provisional pole for less than a second ...

Gurney edges Fogarty for provisional pole in Denver; Valiante breaks early in session.

DENVER (August 30, 2002) -- Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) held the provisional pole for less than a second before teammate, Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) snuck in and claimed it during Friday afternoon qualifying at the Shell Grand Prix of Denver. Gurney turned the 1.647-mile temporary street course with a time of 1:10.168 seconds (84.500 mph) to win provisional pole heading into tomorrow morning's second round qualifying.

The biggest factor may have been the bonus point and guaranteed front row starting spot that Fogarty needed in his Championship battle with Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a). However, a series of red flag sessions cut into Fogarty's chances to top Gurney's time so Valiante, who exited the session in the early minutes with a broken gearbox, maintained his six point advantage over Fogarty heading into the final day of the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.

"It is a great feeling to be on the pole heading into tomorrow," said Gurney. "I've been trying hard. I've had a couple of provisionals, but hopefully, we can make this one stick. I don't want to take Championship points away from my teammate, but I guess both of us up here is a really good thing. It is a good start."

"It was a little disappointing," said Fogarty on losing the provisional pole. "I was up on Alex (Gurney) the whole time and then the red came out just as I was entering Turn 8 so I wasn't able to capitalize on it. Nevertheless, our cars are good. This track is tough and there are a lot of bumps, but the layout is great. It is almost like two different race tracks as you go from concrete in one section and new blacktop in another section. It is a driver's track for sure."

Championship points leader, Valiante, only turned three laps before the gearbox on his Swift 014.a broke, forcing him to retire from the session. Valiante stands 20th on the provisional grid with a time of 113.778 seconds (80.365 mph), but will have a chance to improve on that when second round qualifying begins tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. MST.

"It's a bit of a setback to have broken the gearbox on the second lap of preliminary qualifying, but we'll have it all together and ready to go when it counts tomorrow morning. We haven't had gearbox trouble all season, and then my teammate, Grant Ryley, broke his in the last race and now me."

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Autobytel/Andor Capital Mangement Swift 014.a), who is looking to get back on track after two straight disappointing finishes, posted the third quickest time at 1:10.520 seconds (84.078 mph). Hunter-Reay was right in the thick of the Championship battle less than three weeks ago, but the bad luck bug that plagued him early in the season came back for a return visit at Road America and Montreal.

"I am happy to be in the top three, but we definitely did not demonstrate the car's potential because of the red flags and shortened session," said Hunter-Reay, who has posted wins this season at Laguna Seca, Chicago, and Cleveland. "Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. We have some work to do for tomorrow."

Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a) continues to have his strongest weekend since returning from injuries sustained in a May testing accident by posting the fourth quickest lap with a time of 1:10.524 seconds (84.074 mph). Hand, who has shown a talent for learning new tracks quickly, could be a threat to win this weekend after taking races last year in Vancouver and Houston on his first visit. Ryan Dalziel (Hylton Motorsports/Telemetry Swift 014.a) rounded out the top five with a time of 1:10.587 seconds (83.998 mph).

Three red flag sessions hampered the efforts for drivers looking to put in a good enough lap to take the provisional pole. Cam Binder (Starwood Team Jensen Swift 008.a) spun early in the session in Turn 5 and stalled and then made contact later with Turn 8 tire wall brining out the red flag once again. In the final moments, Bob Siska (RJS Motorsports Swift 008.a) made contact with the Turn 8 tire wall as well bringing out the checkered flag two minutes early.

The heat will be on tomorrow as the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will crown its 2002 Champion. Valiante, Fogarty and the rest of the 26 car field will try to prevent Gurney from winning his first pole of the season at 9:00 a.m. MST. Tomorrow's 38-lap race will get underway at 3:30 p.m. MST and will be carried LIVE on the Speed Channel.

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.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Grant Ryley , Joey Hand , Danny Sullivan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Bob Siska