Mario Dominguez captured his first career pole position today and starts from the front row in the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford street race in Houston this Saturday night. It was a long time coming for the Mexican-born driver, now ...
Mario Dominguez captured his first career pole position today and starts from the front row in the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford street race in Houston this Saturday night.
It was a long time coming for the Mexican-born driver, now running for Forsythe Racing in his fifth Champ Car season. The pole establishes a new track record in Houston with a time of 58.026 (104.850 mph).
"I think it's great, the fact that we got our first pole", Dominguez said. "Hopefully we can turn that into a win tomorrow. We're going to try our best. It's been a while since I won in Miami."
Paul Tracy took the top spot during the first half of qualifying, and ended up with the second fastest time on the day with a quick 58.426 (104.132 mph). California native A.J. Allmendinger turned in a fine lap to snare third quickest on the day at 58.572 (103.872 mph).
Sebastien Bourdais, who had set the provisional pole on Thursday but was later disqualified, jumped on track immediately when the second qualifying round opened. Bruno Junqueira, who had inherited the pole from his teammate held back in the pits, secure in the fact that he had a guaranteed front row starting position.
Eight cars were under a minute when the Red Flag waved for sophomore driver Andrew Ranger who impacted a tire wall lightly at turn two. Nelson Philippe was very quick with a 59.232, right behind Bourdais at that point. Tracy had established a new track record with a 59.030, followed by Mario at 59.074, then Justin Wilson at 59.135.
The Green flag flew after the Ranger incident was cleared. Oriol Servia finally got on track, and Bruno Junqueira made his way out to test the waters.
"I mean, I had a front row spot guaranteed", Junqueira said. "I could take a gamble when there was not many cars on the track. Especially on my first run, I didn't get much traffic. It was a clear run, apart of my brush with the wall. On the second run the car wasn't that good so I pit early."
But it was Dominguez who dominated the second half of the session, establishing record after record until he had run his allotted 15 qualifying laps.
When Tracy came into the pits to change tires, Dominguez stayed out, shooting for the pole and one championship point. Within two laps Dominguez dropped down into the 58-second bracket with a time of 58.236, seven-tenths ahead of the field.
Allmendinger started to make his move and quickly dropped Tracy down to fourth best with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Alex Tagliani, Wilson and Junqueira slotted into spots 5th -- 8th, and Bourdais managed to bring his car up into fourth as Tracy moved past Allmendinger on the charts to take 2nd.
Dominguez lowered the track record once again before completing his final qualifying lap and spent the last nine minutes in the pits watching to see if someone else could knock him from the top rung.
The top competitors ran quicker laps as the session wound to a close, but no one could best Dominguez time.
"It was very, very nerve-wracking. We decided to go out at the beginning, get the lap done." Dominguez said. "We knew the car was fast, get the job done, that was it. Yesterday was red flags. You don't know what's going to happen. We just said, let's go out, put in a good lap and see what happens."
All but four cars made their way around the 1.69-mile street-circuit in less than a minute, half of those in the 58-second range.
Junqueira will start on the outside of row one, with Tracy and Allmendinger on row two, followed by Bourdais, Tagliani, Justin Wilson, Servia, Philippe and Power rounding out the top ten.
For Tracy, tomorrow night's start will be an interesting proposition considering that Dominguez at the start of the Long Beach Grand Prix bumped him from behind last month, which started a chain reaction incident.
"There's nobody in front of Mario to hit this weekend. I'm lined up squarely behind him. Payback brother", the Canadian said with tongue-in-cheek.
"It's going to be a hard first corner." Tracy went on to say. "It's difficult to get through the first corner by yourself cleanly. There's going to have to be a lot of caution taken to get through the first corner here, then go racing. This is a tough, physical track. It's going to be dark. It's hard to do five laps in a row without beating yourself up and beating up the car. We have 100 laps tomorrow night. It's really going to be a test for the equipment and the drivers."
Englander Katherine Legge, the first female to compete in Champ Car since Lynn St. James in the 90's, moved up a bit from Thursday's opening qualifying session to finish in fourteenth today. She'll start on the 7trh row along side fellow rookie Nicky Pastorelli. Jay Heylen brings up the rear of the field with his seventeenth qualifying spot.