CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Saturday qualifying report

PAUL TRACY BREAKS FIVE-YEAR OLD TRACK RECORD IN LONG BEACH TO WIN BRIDGESTONE POLE AWARD FOR SUNDAY'S CHAMP CAR SEASON OPENER LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 9, 2005) -- Champ Car's leading active driver in terms of wins has scored four victories...

PAUL TRACY BREAKS FIVE-YEAR OLD TRACK RECORD IN LONG BEACH TO WIN BRIDGESTONE POLE AWARD FOR SUNDAY'S CHAMP CAR SEASON OPENER

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 9, 2005) -- Champ Car's leading active driver in terms of wins has scored four victories on the streets of Long Beach but 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has yet to score one of those victories from the pole position.

He will get his chance tomorrow after storming to the top of the Champ Car grid on a sunny Saturday in Long Beach, breaking a five-year-old track record in winning the Bridgestone Pole Award for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Tracy snapped off a lap of 1:07.485 (104.983 mph) to outlast Friday qualifying leader Bruno Junqueira (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), capturing the 23rd pole of his illustrious career.

The 35-minute qualifying session was completed without incident, giving the competitors every chance to get the most out of their qualifying runs. Drivers were able to bolt on their alternate Bridgestone Potenza tires for maximum grip and run them for their full stints, leaving the outcome of today's session in doubt up to the final minute of green-flag time.

Action got started immediately after the wave of the green flag as Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joined a number of the rookies in taking advantage of a clear track. Times dropped into the 1:08 range just six minutes into the session when rookie Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) broke through, keying a run that ended with defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) moving to the head of the line with 18 minutes remaining in the day.

Bourdais held the spot for three minutes before his Newman/Haas Racing stablemate Junqueira reclaimed the pole that he earned Friday, vaulting to the top with a run of 1:07.820 (104.465 mph). He lowered that time on his next pass and appeared to be headed for the pole -- a prospect that looked even more likely to be his when his chief antagonist Tracy, who held the third spot at the time, rolled into a runoff area. Undaunted, Tracy backed out and rejoined the fray while rookie Timo Glock (#8 Deutsch POST Speed Academy Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made his move by climbing into the top five in qualifying for his series debut.

With seven minutes in the session it appeared that both Forsythe Championship Racing pilots had missed their chances for glory as Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brushed the wall and went into the runoff area. Like his teammate, he was able to quickly get back in the game, and soon started taking chunks out of his best time.

Things improved in the Forsythe pits immediately after as Dominguez and Tracy made their final attacks. Dominguez moved up to sixth on his penultimate lap while Tracy tore off his track-record lap just one minute later. Dominguez put the capper on the day on his next pass as he stole the third spot away from Bourdais with a lap of 1:07.803 (104.491 mph). Bourdais and Junqueira both had a final lap to climb back up the queue, but came up just short as the checkered flag waved.

The pole was the 23rd in the career of Paul Tracy, moving him into a tie for seventh on the all-time list with Johnny Rutherford. Junqueira would settle for second, marking his fourth consecutive top-five Long Beach starting spot, while Dominguez earned his best-ever Long Beach grid position by taking the third line on the charts .

The final lap for Dominguez ended a string of 15 consecutive top-three qualifying runs for Bourdais, who will grid fourth after putting up a time of 1:07.821 (104.463 mph). Justin Wilson (#9 SanDisk Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five as the last driver to get into the 67-second range, carding a lap of 1:07.919 (104.312 mph).

Surprise of the day came from Rocketsports rookie Glock, who claimed the sixth position on the starting grid after hanging a time of 1:08.274 (103.770 mph). The German driver's result left him one spot ahead of the man he replaced at the Lansing-based team as he dropped Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) back to seventh. Tagliani will be joined in the fourth row by 2002 series champion Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who gives the third-year PKV Racing squad its best-ever Long Beach starting spot.

Rookie Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) claimed the ninth spot on the grid while second-year RuSPORT pilot A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

In all, the top 16 were covered by two seconds after two rounds of qualifying on the 1.968-mile street course, which will host the Champ Cars for the 22nd time tomorrow when the green flag drops on the 2005 season opener. The race begins at 1 p.m. Pacific Time, 4 p.m. Eastern, and can be seen live on NBC.

QUOTES FROM TOP THREE QUALIFIERS:

PAUL TRACY (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "This is great. We used our Bridgestone Optional tires yesterday and went faster, so we knew we had an opportunity to better the time today with those tires on. I knew if I could get the right lap and time that lap, that we could get the pole. I went around posting a fast time but it was not good enough to grab the pole. I had one more lap to go, was able to have the last lap clear and clean, then as I headed into the pit, I really wasn't sure where I was going to end up because I knew Sebastien (Bourdais) and Bruno (Junqueira) were on their final lap, so it was a bit of a nail bitter. But we were able to hold on to the top spot to earn the pole position. I am very, very happy for the Forsythe Championship Racing team today.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think the qualifying session went really well. The PacifiCare car was strong again today. I think (Paul) Tracy just got a really good lap and just had us. The car was really good, but we just didn't have what it took to out run Tracy. But tomorrow is the race, and that is really what counts. I hope we can have a great race car, good pit stops, a good start and a great strategy to finish on top tomorrow."

MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am really very, very happy considering that I didn't know anybody on the team until Thursday and this is our second day working together. It has been a real crash course, to say the least. This just shows how professional Forsythe Championship Racing is, and if you're with a good team, you can be fast. I am happy for Paul Tracy to have gotten the pole and happy to be here in the top three."

NOTEWORTHY

* A win from the pole on Sunday would make Paul Tracy only the seventh driver in the history of Champ Car to win as many as 10 races from the pole. Mario Andretti is the all-time record holder in wins from the pole with 25.

* Sebastien Bourdais' fourth-place starting spot broke a string of 15 consecutive top-three Champ Car starts, which established a new series record.

* Timo Glock will start sixth for Sunday's race, marking the best qualifying performance by a driver making his Champ Car debut since Sebastien Bourdais started on pole and Mario Haberfeld started sixth in the 2003 season opener at St. Petersburg.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais , Bjorn Wirdheim , Ronnie Bremer , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta , Johnny Rutherford