CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Qualifying report



MILWAUKEE (June 3, 2005) -- Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was one of the pre-race points of emphasis as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford rolled into Milwaukee this weekend, but the reason was more for his endurance than it was for his speed as he prepared to celebrate his 200th consecutive series start.

The 39-year-old Californian showed Friday that he had his own point of emphasis however, ripping through the 17-car field in practice and in qualifying to score his first Bridgestone Pole Award since 2002. Vasser stormed around the 1.032-mile Milwaukee Mile oval in 21.081 seconds (176.235 mph) to earn the ninth pole of his career, as well as the first for the three-year-old PKV Racing squad.

Vasser earned the final spot in the qualifying order after carding the fastest time in the day's two-hour practice session, and used that spot to great advantage in knocking A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) off the pole with the first of his two qualifying laps. The pole moves him into a tie for 27th on the all-time series polewinner list, knotting him with Jud Larson.

The session took place in tricky conditions as the clouds thickened and temperatures dropped as single-car qualifying began. The first four pilots to make qualifying attempts struggled with the new feel of the track, failing to break into the 21-second range, but once Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) broke the ice, it triggered a flurry of activity at the top of the charts that saw the pole change hands 10 times in the next 12 attempts.

The top time dropped nearly a tenth of a second with each passing qualifying attempt, working its way down from Ranger's 21.954 (169.227 mph) to Justin Wilson's (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) effort that stopped the clocks at 21.125 (175.867 mph). Wilson eluded the first challenger to his throne as Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) could not match the Briton's effort.

But Wilson's time at the top of the speed sheets ended immediately after as his RuSPORT teammate Allmendinger snapped off a quick lap of 21.109 seconds (176.001 mph) with the second of his two qualifying laps. But Allmendinger would hold his first Champ Car pole for less than two minutes as his fellow Californian upended the youngster with his first green-flag pass, to end a 51-race pole drought for the 1996 series champion.

"You can muscle a car a little bit, but you can't carry it around on your back around here," Vasser said of the Milwaukee Mile. "The Gulfstream car did most of the work today. The guys at PKV deserve all the credit. Everybody's got to come together at the same time, the tire, the tire pressure, the engine's got to be running real good. Everybody has the same Ford-Cosworth engines, but sometimes you the got the breeze a little bit better. I think all the things lined up for us today."

Allmendinger's time would be enough to hold on to the second starting spot, allowing him to match the career-high qualifying performance that he established last season in Montreal. Wilson scored the third spot while 2002 series champion Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put his car in the fourth position, setting a new qualifying high for him in his return to the Champ Car World Series.

Tracy ended up fifth with Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joining him in the third row. Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 Briggs & Stratton Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will grid seventh with Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scoring the eighth spot. Wirdheim's time of 21.584 seconds (172.128 mph) notched him the highest starting spot among the six rookies starting the event, giving him a four-spot advantage over the rookie Ranger, who will start 13th.

Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start ninth in his first race in the Newman/Haas machine that Bruno Junqueira had carried to the series points lead after the year's first two races. His time of 21.609 seconds (171.928 mph) slotted him into the ninth spot, ahead of Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who rounded out the top 10 qualifiers.

The stars of the Champ Car World Series will take to the Milwaukee Mile for 225 laps of battle Saturday afternoon in a 1 p.m. Eastern Time start. The race will be carried live on CBS Sports in the first of four consecutive Champ Car races to be broadcast live on CBS Sports.


Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm very happy. RuSPORT has been doing a great job. I'm very pleased with the result and we keep working away at it. I just kept telling myself when I was waiting to go out in the car to just relax and enjoy it. One of the great things about being at RuSPORT is I keep gaining experience and I keep learning what to look for on ovals. Hopefully we can get a good start (in tomorrow's race). It's a long race. I'm really going into it with no expectations. I'll do all I can do and we'll see where we end up."

A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): I was very pleased overall because I think as a team, for myself, I was just kind of looking to be in the top three rows. I think overall the car is better for the race than it is for qualifying. To be starting outside pole is great. Great for the team, as Justin said, to be 2, 3. Unfortunately, I still have a red and white car starting next to me like last time I was on the front row. At least it's a different guy this time. Overall I'm very pleased for the team and how the weekend went so far. Hopefully we can have a great finish tomorrow.

Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'd much rather talk about pole positions and possible race wins than 200 consecutive starts. I've got the grey hair to show it. I'm proud of the 200 consecutives. I mean, granted, I still have to start the race I guess tomorrow. But you know we're working real hard at PKV, making a lot of changes as some of you can tell technically in our driver lineup, in our management. It's been a very difficult road to get the team in the Champ Car series up near the sharp end of the grid. It's ultra-competitive, it's as competitive as I can ever remember it to run good."


* In taking the top two spots for tomorrow's race, Jimmy Vasser and A.J. Allmendinger become the first U.S.-born duo to make up a series front row since the 1998 season finale in Fontana where Scott Pruett and Vasser turned the trick.

* Today's qualifying result marks the first time since the 2002 Miami race where neither Newman/Haas Racing not Forsythe Championship Racing qualified a driver in the first two rows.

* Bjorn Wirdheim qualified eighth today at Milwaukee, marking the highest that a rookie will start in Milwaukee since the 2001 event when Scott Dixon started eighth. Dixon would go on to earn a podium finish that day, running third.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Scott Pruett , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Andrew Ranger , Cristiano da Matta