CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Thursday report

Paul Tracy Paces Champ Car World Series First-Round Qualifying in Cleveland After Stewards Issue Penalties to Session Leader Sebastien Bourdais CLEVELAND (July 1, 2004) -- Defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford...

Paul Tracy Paces Champ Car World Series First-Round Qualifying in Cleveland After Stewards Issue Penalties to Session Leader Sebastien Bourdais

CLEVELAND (July 1, 2004) -- Defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned a championship point and a guaranteed starting spot in the front row for Saturday's U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland by leading Thursday qualifying, but didn't know it until he was putting in his dinner order at a downtown restaurant.

Tracy left the track with the second-best time of the day in his pocket after an action-packed Thursday at the 2.106-mile temporary road course at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. His top lap of 58.361 seconds (129.909 mph) left him just .015 seconds behind frontrunner Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who was gunning for his third pole of the season.

However, long after Tracy had left the track and made it to a Cleveland establishment for dinner, Champ Car Stewards found both Bourdais and Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) guilty of blocking a competitor's lap during a qualifying session - a violation of Champ Car Rule 6.17.4i. The penalty for the violation is the loss of a competitor's fastest lap, meaning that Bourdais' session-leading effort would be negated, giving the first-day pole to Tracy.

Tracy earned a championship point for leading the session, boosting his total to 80 for the year and guaranteeing himself a front-row starting spot for Saturday afternoon's race. The result marks the first time this season that Tracy will start a Champ car race in the front row. It also moves Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) into the second spot and promotes Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to the third position on the first-day grid.

Bourdais nearly etched his name in the Champ Car record books by leading the qualifying session, as a front row grid position would have been his fifth in a row to start the year, making him the first driver in the Modern Era (1979-present) to start each of the first five races from the front row. He will have another chance to break the mark on Friday as the final grid will be set with a final 35-minute qualifying session on the Burke layout.

The penalties did not diminish an exciting day on a Chamber-of-Commerce weather day in Cleveland as the first-round qualifying session was capped by a flurry of activity that saw the pole change hands five times in the last five minutes. Tracy led the session with 10 minutes to go when a red flag flew to allow the Champ Car Safety Team to go repair a tire barrier that had been knocked askew by a passing car, sending everyone back to Pit Lane and setting the stage for a last-minute shootout.

The session was restarted with five minutes to go and Bourdais immediately took advantage of his first pit position to gain access to a clear race track. He moved himself into second on the grid with his first lap, triggering a game of last-lap leapfrog that saw Hunter-Reay, Carpentier, Junqueira and finally Bourdais claim rights to the pole. But once Bourdais was found to have blocked Hunter-Reay which cost him his lap and Carpentier was found to be guilty of the same violation against Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Tracy ascended to the pole.

Bourdais would end up fourth while rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#10 BG Products/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continued his recent run of strong qualifying sessions by slotting into the fifth spot. Junqueira's Newman/Haas Racing squad did yeoman work during the afternoon break after Junqueira had hard contact with the Turn Eight wall during the morning practice. The team worked through the early afternoon to repair the car instead of simply rolling out the backup car, and gave Junqueira the chance to get the second spot.

The final grid for Saturday's U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland will be set by Friday's qualifying session, which begins at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time. The session can be seen live on HDNet as well as through the Race Director feature on the official website of the series www.champcarworldseries.com.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Ryan Hunter-Reay , A.J. Allmendinger