David Reininger - motorsport.com Cicero, IL (August 21, 1999) - Max Papis captured his first career pole position in qualifying for Sunday's Target Grand Prix at the brand new Chicago Motor Speedway this afternoon. Papis, driving the Team...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Cicero, IL (August 21, 1999) - Max Papis captured his first career pole position in qualifying for Sunday's Target Grand Prix at the brand new Chicago Motor Speedway this afternoon. Papis, driving the Team Rahal Miller Lite Ford-powered Reynard, provided the team with their first pole on an oval track in over seven years. Bobby Rahal provided the team their last oval track pole position at the Milwaukee Mile in June of 1992.
"Today means that I'm the best for a day," said a jubilant Papis. "But Sunday is really when it counts."
Papis nearly scored his first win last month in a 500-mile race at Michigan but ran out of fuel coming to the checkered flag. "I'm very excited for Max," said team owner Rahal. "He was so close to winning at Michigan and we lost that one for him. But this is great. This is a great start to the weekend. But Sunday is the day to be first."
Being last in the qualifying line, Papis knew he needed to run faster than 22.813 to knock Mark Blundell off the pole. "On the first lap, I saw 22.81 on my dash and I knew it wasn't enough. I used all of the road in turns three and four and it was good enough."
Papis, who was used to poles when he drove sports cars for Ferrari, was extremely pleased to finally capture his first CART pole. "It feels good to win an oval pole since I come from Italy and we are road racers," Papis said. "It was very intimidating back in 1996 when I first raced on an oval. Now I have learned a lot from people like Gordon Coppuck (his engineer at Arciero-Wells), Bobby (Rahal) and Tim Reiter (his current engineer at Team Rahal).
Mark Blundell scored his best qualifying position of the season, putting the Motorola PacWest Mercedes-Benz on the outside of the front row with a lap at 162.381 mph. "I had a good lap," Blundell said. "I had a bit of a wiggle coming out of turn four, but fortunately it didn't develop into a real wobble - that would have been bad!"
Jimmy Vasser will start third tomorrow in the Target Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Reynard. Vasser stopped the clocks at 22.825 seconds for a lap at 162.331 mph, just four one-hundredths of a second off Papis' pole time. "It wasn't too bad a run, maybe a little less understeer and the car would have been perfect, but that's what we've been fighting all weekend," Vasser said. "The inside of the second row will work for the start tomorrow, it should be a great race for the fans."
Current points leader and driver of the Team Kool Green Honda Reynard, Dario Franchitti will start alongside Vasser in fourth. "Starting from the first row is always nice, but we'll gladly take the second row to be honest," Franchitti said. "From where we were at the start of the weekend, 25th or so, the team has done a great job with the car. It's been better in every session. In qualifying, we had a touch of understeer, so the time is what was in the car. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."
Starting fifth, in the Hogan Motor Leasing Mercedes-Benz, is Helio Castro-Neves. "I'm satisfied with my qualifying today," said Castro-Neves. "That's what makes this sport so exciting. You never know if you're going to do more or less. We were able to improve our time from this morning, so that was positive. The track is getting better with each session and I think tomorrow is going to be a very exciting race."
The Target Grand Prix takes the green flag at 2:00 CDT for 225 laps around the Chicago Motor Speedway. Tape delayed television coverage will be provided by ABC.