CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais' "Mile High" in Denver

Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest lap today, establishing a new track record, and will start on pole in competition for Sunday's Denver Grand Prix featuring the Champ Car World Series. Bourdais, who leads the series points...

Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest lap today, establishing a new track record, and will start on pole in competition for Sunday's Denver Grand Prix featuring the Champ Car World Series.

Bourdais, who leads the series points championship half-way through the 2004 season, gains two additional points for setting the fastest times in both Friday's and Saturday's qualifying sessions.

"I'd have to say that the team did a fantastic job" Bourdais said. "Straight onto the track the car was really fast and I think all we had to do was change the front wing angle."

The pole was the 20th time in the past 42 events that Newman/Haas Racing has claimed the first starting position, ten of those falling to Bourdais in only his second year of Champ Car racing.

There was only one brief red flag that halted qualifying on Saturday, as rookie driver Gaston Mazzacane lost the front end of his car and nosed into a tire-wall opposite pit-exit. Mazzacane left the track unscathed, but his car suffered substantial suspension damage and had to be removed from the circuit.

Saturday's battle for the remaining front row starting position did not see the typical fight between veteran drivers Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira or Paul Tracy. Instead, it was Canadian Patrick Carpentier clocking in at 1:00.679 seconds, setting an early mark that held for the first half of the session.

Then, seemly out of nowhere, Bourdais blistered the circuit by stringing together two great laps and lowered his Friday time by a couple of tenths of a second down to 1:00.301. To this point no driver had broken the one-minute mark, but that was only a point of brief discussion as on the next lap Bourdais crossed the line at 59.942 seconds, 99.516 mph.

"You always feel stupid if you don't try and (then) lose pole", Bourdais said when asked why he went back out on track with five minutes to go following his quick laps. "Even after that very fast run, I didn't think the lap was still good for pole, but you always try because you never know."

With only two minutes left, Junqueira joined his teammate on the front row with a 1:00.525 lap, while Carpentier lost two spots, the final to Forsythe Racing teammate Paul Tracy (1:00.588).

Junqueira, who won a week ago in Elkhart Lake, did not have as easy a time here on the streets. "I have really been struggling here", Junqueira said. "We did so well here last year, however it's a little different this time. Bridgestone has developed really good tires that are softer, so it is a lot faster out there. We have made a lot of changes this weekend and the car is still not prefect."

Tracy starts behind Bourdais on the inside of row two, and had this to say about round two qualifying and his chances in Sunday's race. "That's really all (the speed) we had. The lap that Sebastien did, I mean we had no chance of even coming close to that. We're struggling with grip on the car. We're optimistic for tomorrow, it's a long race and we'll have to see what happens."

Rounding out the remaining top-ten starting positions for tomorrows race are Mario Dominguez, Oriol Servia, rookie points leader A. J. Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mario Haberfeld and Justin Wilson.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gaston Mazzacane , Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais