CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Friday qualifying report

Adrian Fernandez fights off injury to claim provisional pole at Shell Grand Prix of Denver. DENVER (August 30, 2002) - Still battling with soreness in his lower extremities after a hard crash in Vancouver, the only owner/driver in the CART FedEx...

Adrian Fernandez fights off injury to claim provisional pole at Shell Grand Prix of Denver.

DENVER (August 30, 2002) - Still battling with soreness in his lower extremities after a hard crash in Vancouver, the only owner/driver in the CART FedEx Championship Series showed his grit Friday afternoon by outdueling his competitors and outlasting a tough Denver street course to win the provisional pole for Sunday's Shell Grand Prix of Denver.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), who is still suffering from bruising in his hip and buttock area, snapped off a top lap of 1:02.073 (95.520mph) to best the field by more than a quarter of a second to lead Friday's qualifying on the nine-turn, 1.647-mile street course that winds around the Pepsi Center. The finish gave Fernandez a championship point for the pole and also guaranteed him a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 115-lap event - his first front-row start since he won the pole at Milwaukee in June.

Fernandez ran a pair of laps that would have earned him the pole as the session neared its end and was then ushered onto the top spot of the provisional podium by a crash by Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) with three minutes to go that ended the 40-minute qualifying outing. Junqueira slid into the Turn 1 tire barrier to bring the session to a halt, incurring a penalty that saw him lose his fastest lap (1:02.751) of the day.

Fernandez was chased on the time charts by Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) who snared the second spot on the provisional grid with a best effort of 1:02.440 (94.958mph), a position that would match his best of the season - earned at Mid-Ohio - if it holds up for tomorrow. Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) overcame an early spin and subsequent red flag to earn the third spot on the ladder with a time of 1:02.454 (94.937mph).

Kanaan lost a lap that would have put him fifth on the grid with the early-session spin, but rebounded to climb to the third spot. He then narrowly avoided more trouble after setting his fastest lap, spinning in Turn 8 and making contact with the tires. He damaged his rear wing in the incident but was able to straighten the car out and make it back to the pits, thus avoiding another red flag and keeping his qualifying time.

Scott Dixon (#44 Coors Light Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) showed off a new silver paint scheme for this weekend and gave the Coors Brewing Company a reason to cheer with a fourth-place run on Friday, an effort that was a scant .028 seconds out of the second spot. He will be looking to make up that difference in Saturday's qualifying, an improvement that would give the Target Chip Ganassi Racing sophomore his best-ever CART starting position.

Series points leader Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would settle for the fifth spot on the provisional grid after a top lap of 1:02.810 (94.399mph). Da Matta jumped up to fifth on the charts with Junqueira's spin, as the loss of Junqueira's best lap forced him to accept a 1:02.950 that would leave him in the sixth position.

Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) had a strong provisional run for the second consecutive weekend, making an orbit of the Denver layout in 1:03.156 (93.882mph) to claim the seventh spot, putting him one position ahead of Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) who led the Ford-Cosworth contingent with a best effort of 1:03.204 (93.811mph) to knock down the eighth spot.

Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) grabbed on to the ninth rung of the ladder with a best lap of 1:03.204 (93.811mph) to put each of the TCGR cars in the top 10 while 1991 Denver winner Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10 with a circuit at 1:03.432 (93.473mph).

The final qualifying round for the Shell Grand Prix of Denver will take place Saturday at 3:45 Eastern Time and will be shown live on SPEED Channel. The qualifying will be preceded by a 75-minute practice session in the morning, and it all leads up to the 115-lap Round 14 of the CART FedEx Championship Series schedule, which takes the green flag at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday.

QUOTES FROM TOP-THREE QUALIFIERS:

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "The car's been good since the morning. We unloaded quick, and we haven't really done much to the car. We did something to the car in the first 10 minutes of qualifying, and I didn't like it so we changed it back. At that time we were P-2 (second place). Coming onto the back straight, I still don't know where I'm braking because it's so wide. The only way to go quicker is to do consecutive laps. I'm happy for the guys. I damaged the tub in Montreal and we had to get a new tub, and the guys were working all week to get ready for this weekend. This is a good reward for the guys."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) "This track is not smooth, it's a little bit bumpy. The grip level could be a little bit higher, but this is what we have to work with this weekend. There's no point in complaining, because we're professionals and it's the same for everybody. The start of the race is going to be interesting because it's so wide. Definitely, I think we're going to see a lot of overtaking on Sunday. If you make it to the end on Sunday, you have a very good shot at winning this race. Between engineering, brakes, heat, and mistakes, it's going to be a survival race. Even if you start in the back, you have a shot at winning this race."

TONY KANAAN: (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) "I think it was completely my mistake both times I spun, and lost my fast lap both times. They were my mistakes. It's definitely not a good feeling when you know the track is slippery and you make a mistake. I turned in a good lap and then (team owner) Morris (Nunn) came on the radio and said, 'Okay, don't make a mistake,' and that's when I crashed. But third isn't bad and I think it's going to be better tomorrow. Today there were circumstances where some people didn't do a run on the second set. Adrian did the second set early and I said, 'Let's follow him' because I knew it was going to get crazy at the end and the grip wasn't going to get any better. We're lucky to be here today. If it rains tomorrow, we're still there. It's a good boost, but we still have tomorrow and the race. I think this race is going to be very interesting."

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the CART FedEx Championship Series. Current points leader Cristiano da Matta, along with former series champions Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser, are among the stars battling for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series title with championship-winning teams such as Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Newman/Haas Racing, Patrick Racing and Team KOOL Green. CART Champ Cars are thoroughbred racing machines that reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, showcasing the technical expertise of manufacturers such as Ford Motor Company, Lola Cars, Reynard Motorsport and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC. The 19-race 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series will be broadcast by new television partners, CBS, FOX and SPEED Channel. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.cart.com.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing