Bruno JUnqueira earns first CART FedEx Championship Series road-course pole by taking top spot in Road America qualifying. ELKHART LAKE, Wisc., (August 17, 2002) - Bruno Junqueira ( ...
Bruno JUnqueira earns first CART FedEx Championship Series road-course pole by taking top spot in Road America qualifying.
ELKHART LAKE, Wisc., (August 17, 2002) - Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) came into the Grand Prix at Road America Featuring the Motorola 200 weekend as the defending race champion, but had never taken a road-course pole in his two years of battling CART's finest before Saturday.
He erased the zero out of that column on a windy Saturday at Elkhart Lake, besting the field by more than half a second in earning the pole for Sunday's CART FedEx Championship Series race at the picturesque 4.048-mile road course. Junqueira snapped off a best lap of 1:42.151 (142.659 mph) to claim his third career pole and first on a road course. His lap was the best of the weekend and was more than a half-second ahead of the rest of the field in the session, but holding on to the pole in the last minute of qualifying would prove to be anything but easy.
Junqueira had time for one more lap after carding his polewinning effort - a lap that started less than 30 seconds after the checkered flag fell to end the session. Under the rules, Junqueira's car was still on the timing clock and hustling around the back half of the course when he came up on the slower car of Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone). Junqueira tried to avoid Nakano but lost the rear end of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine, sending him spinning into the tire barrier on the inside of Turn 12.
The car sustained left-side damage and came to a stop in the middle of the racetrack, effectively blocking the track and stopping the flying laps for the final qualifiers, including provisional polewinner Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone). The accident was thought by some to have negated Junqueira's pole lap under new CART qualifying rules that specify that a driver must lose his fastest time after bringing out the red flag in a qualifying session. However, since the checkered flag had already flown, there was no red flag and Junqueira would keep the pole, his second of the 2002 campaign.
Da Matta would benefit from the new rule change as well, taking the starting spot on the outside of the front row by virtue of his provisional pole from Friday. The series points leader posted just the sixth-best qualifying time of the final session but will start in the front row for the seventh time this season.
For the second straight day it was Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) leading the Reynard charge, posting the second-best time of the day (1:42.684/141.919mph) and earning a starting spot on the inside of the second row for Sunday's event. Tagliani matched his best road-course qualifying run of the season with the finish, tying his grid spot for the season opener in Monterrey. The Player's/Forsythe Racing driver also started third at Road America last season and led 21 laps in the event before mechanical trouble doomed him to a 13th-place finish.
Paul Tracy (#26 Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) made one of the bigger jumps of the day, vaulting into a second-row starting spot after making an orbit of the track in 1:42.927 (141.584mph). Tracy will be looking to join some of the series greats when the emerald banner flies over Road America on Sunday as he will try to join Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) as the only drivers to win three CART races at the venerable Wisconsin circuit.
Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his third top-five starting spot of the season and second in the last three races with a fifth-place effort while Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would settle for sixth after failing to improve the Friday time that had him third in the standings. Last year's Road America polesitter Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) will start seventh, alongside Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone). Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) would capture the ninth spot to earn his best starting position of the season while Nakano would round out the top 10.
Tomorrow's Grand Prix at Road America Featuring the Motorola 220 will take the green flag at 3 p.m. Eastern Time for 60 laps worth of battle in a race that will be televised live on SPEED Channel.
CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think Team Target has given me a good car all weekend. I said yesterday I thought we left something on the table after qualifying. On my fourth and final lap I was pushing hard and I saw [Shinji] Nakano about ten car lengths ahead of me. He got into the gravel trap and I thought he would continue with speed. It was a shame because I spun and hit the inside of the tire wall. I just thank my team for a great car because I really enjoy driving here."
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Today I didn't have as good of a run as we did yesterday. We didn't have a good lap on the first set of tires and we got caught out on them when the red came out for Adrian [Fernandez]. Even though we never really had a clear lap, I'm happy with the car. I'm not sure if we could have challenged for pole, but we have a good car for the race tomorrow."
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "The car was very good today. The Player's team had a good car here the past three years, so we had some good data coming in. I don't think we had the speed to take the pole, but I think the car has two or three more tenths in it. So we'll chat about that tonight and see if we can move up tomorrow."
* Bruno Junqueira earned the championship point for winning the pole on Saturday, giving him 87 for the year and moving him to within nine points of Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) for second place in the standings.
* Junqueira is the first driver this season to win the pole at a track where he is the defending race champion. Junqueira won last year's Motorola 220 after starting from the 10th position on the grid.
* Two drivers would drop their Friday qualifying times due to Saturday troubles. Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would fail to post a time after his engine expired in a cloud of smoke just five minutes after leaving pit lane during final qualifying, while Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would roll out his team's backup car after crashing heavily into the Turn 14 tire barrier in Saturday's practice.
* Junqueira's capture of the pole on Saturday marked the 12th time in the last 18 road-course qualifying sessions that a Toyota-powered machine ended the day at the top of the charts.