PacWest Racing's Mauricio Gugelmin posted the fastest speed of the first qualifying group, then looked on as rain drowned the chances of anyone going quicker. The result was the fourth pole position of Gugelmin's CART career - all on Firestone...
PacWest Racing's Mauricio Gugelmin posted the fastest speed of the first qualifying group, then looked on as rain drowned the chances of anyone going quicker. The result was the fourth pole position of Gugelmin's CART career - all on Firestone tires - but his first since the 1997 season finale.
Gugelmin's best lap over the 2.106-mile temporary circuit was 132.185 mph. Adrian Fernandez, also in the first qualifying group, was second at 131.815. A light shower slicked the track just before the second group - consisting of the season points leaders - was to begin qualifying, then a downpour accompanied with lightning halted the latter group completely with 11 minutes left in the session. Once the threat of lightning cleared, the session was completed on a drying track, but no one from the second group was able to surpass the time of anyone in the first group.
"Usually it's best to be in the last qualifying group because more rubber is on the track and speeds pick up," said Dwayne Joyner, Firestone Senior Project Engineer. "Today was a rare exception to that rule. Still, Mauricio posted a very competitive lap time that was more than a half-second quicker than the fastest practice time, and is deserving of the pole position he earned today. He also was complimentary of the role the Firestone tires played in helping him negotiate the bumpy track, and many drivers shared similar thoughts with us. We're not sure what Mother Nature has in store for tomorrow's race, but we are confident the Firestone Firehawks will be up to the task whether it be wet, dry or a mixture of both."
Mauricio Gugelmin, PacWest Racing Toyota/Reynard/Firestone: "I'm happy to run fast but I don't think we needed the rain to get where we are. I think we had a great race car, but sometimes a little bit of luck doesn't hurt anybody. We ran very consistent this morning and the Firestone tires have been very consistent throughout the run. The car is riding the bumps here really nicely, which is a good place to be. When I was using tires with a lot of laps this morning, over a stint I was still doing very low 58-second laps. The balance is very close - a little more push when you have new tires - but apart from that they are perfect. It should be very easy to have good stints tomorrow over the long distances." <pre>
Qualifying session temperature ranges: Before the rain: 85-86 degrees ambient (F) 109-118 degrees track (F). After the rain: 81-85 degrees ambient (F) 92-103 degrees track (F).