CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan qualifying report 96-05-11

VASSER ADDS TO STELLAR SEASON WITH INAUGURAL U.S. 500 POLE BROOKLYN, Mich. (May 11, 1996) -- Jimmy Vasser, already in the midst of a history-making season of personal achievement, cemented his status in PPG Indy Car World Series annals on ...

VASSER ADDS TO STELLAR SEASON WITH INAUGURAL U.S. 500 POLE

BROOKLYN, Mich. (May 11, 1996) -- Jimmy Vasser, already in the midst of a history-making season of personal achievement, cemented his status in PPG Indy Car World Series annals on Saturday by capturing the pole for the inaugural U.S. 500 at Michigan International Speedway.

Vasser guided a Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda around the 2-mile oval at 232.025 miles per hour to earn the pole for the historically significant U.S. 500 on May 26 at MIS. It was the second pole of the season for Vasser, who won his first career pole at the IndyCar Australia, and the fourth in six races for Honda engines and Firestone tires.

Vasser also collected a record $100,000 for winning the Marlboro Pole Award and another PPG Cup point to extend his series-leading advantage to 21 points over Al Unser Jr.

"It's a great accomplishment for Honda, for Firestone and everyone on the team," said Vasser, who has grabbed all three of his career IndyCar victories this season. "As a driver, I like to be able to deliver. When the team and manufacturers put a great race car in your hands it feels great to provide them with a good result. To me, that is why the pole at the U.S. 500 is so special."

Vasser was able to outrun Adrian Fernandez, who established himself as an early pole favorite after recording the fastest laps in the two previous practice sessions, including an unofficial track record of 235.608 miles per hour on Saturday morning.

Fernandez qualified a career-best second with a lap of 231.108 mph in his Tecate/Quaker State Lola Honda. He eclipsed his previous best qualifying effort of fourth at the 1994 IndyCar Australia in his third appearance at MIS.

"We ran 233 on our own in the morning, but sometimes it is so hard to guess the conditions. We were flat out all the way," Fernandez said. "I changed my line on the second lap [of qualifying] and it may have given me the extra speed. In general, I am very happy. The Tasman car was great and we were consistent all weekend. This was my best qualifying and I hope more is to come."

With the U.S. 500 going three abreast for the inaugural event, Bryan Herta also landed a front-row position. Herta posted a lap of 230.774 mph in his Shell Reynard Mercedes for his fourth career front-row position. It also marked the first front-row start on an oval by a Rahal-owned car since 1993 when Bobby Rahal qualified second.

"We have not done well this season to be honest, and this is really a good starting spot for our crew's turnaround," Herta said. "Now if we have a good race, this could spring us toward a strong season. Our guys have worked hard and they deserve this qualifying spot."

Rookie Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), who won the Rio 400 pole, gave Target/Chip Ganassi Racing a representative in the first two rows by qualifying fourth at 230.751 mph. Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) matched his career-best qualifying performance in 17 career MIS appearances by taking fifth with a speed of 230.213.

ESPN will have one-hour broadcast, featuring live practice action and taped qualifying coverage from MIS, Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. EST. The U.S. 500 will be televised live Sunday, May 26 on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. EST.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Alex Zanardi , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing