CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Saturday qualifying report



CLEVELAND (June 25, 2005) -- Perhaps drawing his inspiration from racing in the shadow of Cleveland Browns Stadium, Paul Tracy (#3 Mountain Grand Lodge/Avalanche Bay/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) marched his Forsythe Championship Racing squad back from a penalty like Bernie Kosar used to do with the NFL's Browns, taking the Bridgestone Pole Award for Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank.

Tracy was found to be in violation of Champ Car rules concerning the impeding of another driver's lap early in Saturday's final qualifying session at Burke Lakefront Airport, meaning that he would be penalized with the loss of his fastest lap during the session. Therefore in order to take the pole, Tracy would have to post two laps that were faster than anyone else on the grid in order to score the $10,000 Bridgestone Pole Award.

The former series champion shook off the effects of the penalty and snapped off a pair of late-session laps that got the job done, earning his third Cleveland pole and the 24th of his illustrious career. He also now takes over the lead in the year-long Bridgestone Pole Award standings by becoming the first two-time Champ Car polewinner of the season. Tracy's final lap stopped the clocks at 57.419 seconds (132.040 mph), giving him the pole by just .005 seconds over Friday qualifying leader Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Tracy and two-time defending Cleveland winner Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) wasted no time in renewing their growing rivalry, as both cars hit the track for qualifying as soon as the green flag flew to start the proceedings. Tracy went out first and ran a couple of quick laps, while Bourdais needed just four laps to better his Friday time. The Canadian turned a couple of quick laps before spinning on the exit to Turn 10 while Bourdais was coming through close behind on a flying lap. The spin was the catalyst for Tracy's penalty and initially appeared to drop him out of pole contention, while aiding the cause for Bourdais and da Matta.

Bourdais recovered on his next lap and posted his fastest clocking of the day, carding a time of 57.559 seconds (131.719 mph). That time held up atop the speed sheets during the first half of a session that was halted by Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who brought out a red flag after losing part of his front-wing assembly during a brief off-course excursion. The stoppage sent everyone to Pit Lane for new sets of Bridgestone Potenzas, and set the stage for a furious final 15 minutes.

Da Matta jumped to the pole ahead of Bourdais on his sixth lap, then lowered his time to 57.424 seconds (132.028 mph) on his next orbit of the 2.106-mile road course. Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made their moves into the top five soon after da Matta, while Tracy began to line up his sights for his second shot at the pole. He moved to third on his 12th lap, then put up his back-to-back pole laps on the last of his 15 available passes to seal the deal.

Rookie Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed his countryman's lead soon after, putting up the best qualifying effort of his young career. Ranger earned the fourth-best result of the day with a pass of 57.757 seconds, but immediately lost that time when he exceeded his allotment of 15 qualifying laps. Fortunately, Ranger's second-best time of 57.801 (131.167 mph) was also good enough to secure him the fourth spot on the grid, marking the best qualifying effort of his rookie Champ Car season.

Tracy's strategy of getting out early left him to sit back and watch, as there were five minutes left on the qualifying clock by the time he completed his 15-lap allotment. But the wait ended up being unexpectedly short for Tracy as A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun and hit the tire wall coming out of Turn Eight. The accident brought out the red and checkered flags simultaneously, ending the session four minutes early and keeping the remainder of the field from taking their last shots at the front-running Tracy.

Tagliani made it three Canadian drivers in the top five with a best lap of 57.836 seconds (131.088 mph) to take the fifth spot, giving the new Team Australia outfit its third top-five starting spot of the young season. Servia will start sixth with Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) qualifying in the seventh position. Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start eighth with Allmendinger qualifying ninth despite losing his fastest lap for bringing out the final red flag.

Tarso Marques (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) may have had the most surprising run of the day as he scored the 10th position on the grid despite stepping into the Dale Coyne Racing machine just prior to race weekend. The qualifying position marks the third time in Marques' career that he had started in the top 10, matching his effort from Monterrey, Mexico a year ago.

Tomorrow's 94-lap event gets underway at 2 p.m. Eastern with live coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. on CBS Sports.


Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It's kind of a repeat from yesterday for the McDonald's team. A bit of a shame, but, you know, we've got two fast cars in front of us, and we're just going to have to battle it out tomorrow. The last run is always a struggle here. I think I really had a little going on in the first run, I was really frustrated. But, you know, so it is. You just have to put on a good race tomorrow and try and pass these guys."

Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm very happy still just to know that last weekend wasn't just a spell. We come back here and we run strong again because we never knew what we were going to get until the first session we started to get going, then we saw we were up there. We were really happy. So just the fact that we're getting more consistent overall as a team, I'm very happy about that, very happy about second place."

Paul Tracy (#3 Mountain Grand Lodge/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The first session we decided to go out early. I felt that I could probably get the best out of the car, so I thought we'd go out early and see if we could get the best of it on a clear track. Had a huge spin in the last corner, flat spotted the tires, ripped the front wing off in the grass. So not the way we wanted to start our first run. You know, I got in the way of Sebastien. So we lost the fast time for the session. The mindset really then was we have to do two fast laps. We decided, again, to go early, just as everybody was starting to pull off the track, and I had, you know, four really quick laps in a row.


* Paul Tracy won the 24th pole of his career today, breaking a tie on the all-time Champ Car list with Johnny Rutherford and giving him sole possession of seventh on the career pole list.

* Tracy also becomes the first driver ever to win three Champ Car poles at Cleveland with today's performance.

* Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger all qualified in the top five today, marking the first time that three Canadians have qualified in the top five for a Champ Car race since the Molson Indy Toronto in 2003 when Tracy won the pole, Tagliani started fourth and Patrick Carpentier gridded fifth.

* Justin Wilson will start 16th in tomorrow's race, marking the farthest back that the Brit has started in his 19-race Champ Car career.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Tarso Marques , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Andrew Ranger , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Dale Coyne Racing