NAZARETH, Pa. (May 4, 2001) - Rookie Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who tested extensively at Nazareth Speedway during the off-season, put the knowledge he gained to good use Friday when he topped the speed charts on the opening...
NAZARETH, Pa. (May 4, 2001) - Rookie Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who tested extensively at Nazareth Speedway during the off-season, put the knowledge he gained to good use Friday when he topped the speed charts on the opening day of practice for Sunday's Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway (1 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).
Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) put together a lap of 166.248 miles per hour (20.485 seconds) Friday morning, during the first of two practice sessions on the 0.946-mile oval. His speed held up on a much warmer track on Friday afternoon, making Junqueira the fastest of 25 drivers who put in practice laps for Sunday's third round of the FedEx Championship Series.
Junqueira and his rookie teammate, Nicolas Minassian (Target Toyota Lola), had participated in the first oval test of their Champ Car careers at Nazareth last November, and both recorded further laps here two weeks ago during a CART rookie test.
Junqueira will be seeking his first career pole position when qualifying begins 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Target Chip Ganassi Racing is the two-time defending polesitter at Nazareth, with former FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya having qualified fastest in 1999 and last year.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team Rahal was second fastest at 164.896 mph (20.653 seconds). His best time of the day came in the afternoon session. Papis will be seeking his second career pole position, and his best start since an outside pole at California Speedway in 1999, when qualifying begins Saturday.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was third fastest at 164.681 mph (20.680 seconds). Like Junqueira, he recorded his top time of the day in the afternoon.
Rounding out the top-five drivers were Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola), fourth at 164.585 mph (20.692 seconds) and fourth-year driver Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Ford Lola) of Herdez Bettenhausen, fifth at 163.409 mph (20.841 mph). Brack's top speed of the day came in the afternoon; Jourdain Jr.'s in the morning.
Defending Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota and FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was sixth fastest at 163.088 mph (20.882 seconds). His fastest lap came in the afternoon. FedEx Championship Series points leader Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing was ninth fastest at 161.786 mph (21.050 seconds).
Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota Practice
Da Matta enters the weekend with a 37-30 lead over de Ferran in the FedEx Championship Series championship.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA, Target Toyota Lola:
"The test here helps a lot. On the other hand, I'm racing against guys who race 20 times a year, and have much more preparation than me. I'm happy things went well for me today. The first time I did an oval was [testing] here last year. I remember the first time I was on the track I turned in and all I saw was the wall. Being such a short track, you never stop turning left. On the bigger tracks, it's turn, then turn again, then turn again, but here, you never stop turning. I think here, the driver makes a lot more difference, and this is why I like it here. I never thought about ovals before, and people in Europe can say what they want, but this is hard. The corners in Europe become slow compared to the ovals."
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Reynard:
"This is the first short oval with the Lola for me and [teammate] Kenny [Brack], and we have less experience with the car. We are quite far from maximum performance. I did mostly long runs, but I gave it a shot in the afternoon, and it was a good lap time. The conditions were slower in the afternoon, but it was a good lap time. This is a new car, and it is a different beast. We need to set our minds in a different way. If we keep it simple, we may not have the best car all the time, but you can sneak up on it step-by-step. We are gaining a lot of experience in a short period of time. I am spending a lot of time with my engineer."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard:
"Today, basically, it was very hot. It's a little bit of tropical weather, which is what I'm used to. It was really tough. We go back to 1999 with the same level of downforce. In the afternoon, doing long runs was really tough, there was lots of turbulence. But if you take it easy, you could be there at the end of the day. "
Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing will be seeking the best start of his rookie season when qualifying begins 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday. His current best start is 20th in the season opener at Mexico.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team Rahal will be chasing his second career pole position during Saturday's qualifying session. His only earlier pole also came on a one-mile oval, at Chicago in 1999.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske owns five career FedEx Championship Series pole positions, but only one on an oval. That came at The Milwaukee Mile in 1999.
Team Rahal's Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) has been awarded the championship point he earned in claiming the pole position for last week's postponed Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer at Texas Motor Speedway. The point was awarded in accordance with Section 7.1 of the 2001 CART Champ Car Rule Book, which states, "One point will be awarded to the fastest qualifier. This point will be awarded at the conclusion of qualifying and is not contingent on the position of the entrant in the starting lineup." Brack, who has won two of three possible poles thus far this season, now moves into ninth place in the championship with 12 points.
PacWest Racing Group driver Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) has officially withdrawn from this weekend's Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota following the death of his six-year-old son, Giuliano. Complications at birth left Giuliano - who was born 27 minutes following his twin brother, Bernardo - a quadriplegic, with a form of cerebral palsy. Since his birth in 1994, Giuliano had required 24-hour care. He passed away Thursday morning, due to respiratory complications. "Our family has been blessed with three wonderful children, and ... God decided to take one of them to a better life," said Gugelmin. "Giuliano was a brave young boy who battled his way since he was born. He blessed and enriched our lives, and made us appreciate just how fortunate we are to have enjoyed him for six years. We are comfortable in knowing that he will be with us forever and will always remain in our thoughts and hearts." With his withdrawal, Gugelmin's streak of 130 consecutive FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to his first career start at Mid-Ohio in 1993, comes to an end. It was the longest streak among active drivers.
Qualifying for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota will air 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.