By David Reininger - motorsport.com Elkhart Lake, Wis. (August 18, 2001) â€“ Overcast skies and a damp track raised questions about qualifying that wouldnâ€™t be answered until the last car received the checkered flag. Kenny Brack, one of the ...
By David Reininger - motorsport.com
Elkhart Lake, Wis. (August 18, 2001) – Overcast skies and a damp track raised questions about qualifying that wouldn’t be answered until the last car received the checkered flag. Kenny Brack, one of the last drivers to record a qualifying lap, stopped the clocks at 2:03.531 to earn his fifth pole position this season.
Just as the second qualifying group, which was composed of the faster drivers, took to the 4-mile Road America circuit, a light sprinkle further dampened the track, leaving Memo Gidley thinking his time (2:06.865), recorded in the first group, would hold up for the pole. With five minutes remaining for the second group, just as the track started to show dry patches, Dario Franchitti spun, bringing out a red flag.
With two minutes remaining to qualify, course marshals worked to remove Franchitti’s car, while the drivers sat waiting in their cars on pit lane. When the session returned to green everyone scrambled to start the four-mile out laps in hopes of recording a final lap before the checkered was shown.
Gidley stood in the pits watching the checkered flag fly, his time still good enough for the pole position, as several cars were taking their final lap on a track that was quickly drying. As each driver completed their lap, the timing monitors flashed new names at the top of the list. Tagliani, and then Brack, flashed at the top of the screen. When the last car crossed the line, Gidley found himself in eighth place.
“Wow! That was nerve-wracking,” said Gidley. “I was beginning to think that I had won the first pole of my career. The checkered flag waved and I was on the pole. Then, the cars that were on the track completed their laps and we dropped to eighth.”
“I think we planned everything pretty good,” said Brack, who earns one championship point for earning the pole. “We were one of the last cars on the track. We really waited a long time and then we went for it.”
Due to the poor conditions, Brack’s qualifying speed was 27 mph slower than the best run in this morning’s practice, held under dry conditions.
“This track is long and unpredictable in the rain,” Brack said. “There are shadows and leaves on the track in these conditions.”
Conditions were so bad that Adrian Fernandez went off the track on his first lap. “I was under braking on the back straight,” said Fernandez. “I lost control of the car, hit the wall and bent the wishbone.”
Fernandez was unable to return to the circuit and will start from the back of the field in 26th.
Alex Tagliani, who crossed the line just ahead of Brack, will start second. Tagliani’s name moved to the top of the speed chart, where it stayed for a few seconds before Brack bumped the Canadian driver to the outside of the front row.
By moving to the front of the grid on their last lap, Scott Dixon, Gil de Ferran, Cristiano da Matta, Helio Castroneves and Michael Andretti were all responsible for relegating Gidley to eighth place.
“Thank God we had that last little bit there at the end,” said Andretti, who will start seventh. “I wish it had been dry because I think we had a car that was going to go pretty well in the dry but at least we’re in the top-seven.”
With trees lining the circuit, shading portions of the track, dry patches first appeared where the track was exposed to the sun. The drivers had to find those dry patches, using them to provide the grip needed to set a fast lap. The track “doesn’t dry consistently because of all the trees,” said Andretti.
“Racing here in the rain is not fun. The last time I remember running in the rain here was in 1997. I was the first to go out on dry tires and spun off, so I’m really hoping for dry weather tomorrow.”