CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland qualifying report

Herta Qualifies On Pole Portland, OR (June 20, 1998) -- Bryan Herta earned the right to compete for a potential purse of $350,000 in Sunday's Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline (5 p.m. ET, live, ESPN) by...

Herta Qualifies On Pole

Portland, OR (June 20, 1998) -- Bryan Herta earned the right to compete for a potential purse of $350,000 in Sunday's Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline (5 p.m. ET, live, ESPN) by earning the pole position Saturday at Portland International Raceway.

Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) posted a track-record lap of 121.341 miles per hour (58.358 seconds) to earn his second pole of the season and fifth of his career. He collected the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award and secured the chance to add an additional $340,000, including the winner's purse of $100,000, by capturing his first career FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday. The remaining $240,000 comes from the Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus, which has accumulated at a rate of $15,000 per race since Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) drove to victory from the pole at Cleveland last July.

The potential Marlboro payout is a record for the six-year history of the award.

The top two qualifiers from Friday's provisional session reversed positions as Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) qualified second at 121.156 mph (58.447 sec). Franchitti was Friday's provisional polesitter at 120.386 mph (58.821 sec).

Scott Pruett (Visteon Reynard Ford) maintained Friday's third-place position after improving to 120.747 mph (58.645 sec). Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) was fourth at 120.722 mph (58.657 sec), followed by teammate and defending series champion Zanardi at 120.259 mph (58.883 sec). The top 14 qualifiers were covered by less than one second.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

BRYAN HERTA (Shell Reynard Ford): "We made a few changes but we really didn't change that much [from Friday qualifying]. We felt that the race track kept changing and coming back to our setup, and I was really pleased about that. I couldn't get a time on my second set of tires. I was worried about Scott and Dario, but they had a few problems of their own and we were able to hang onto it. I came here on a mission. I felt that we could get the pole based on testing. I'm really stoked about it. It seems like we're working awfully hard. The nature of the track and the conditions seems to be that to go fast, you really need to put yourself out on that thin line. I'm expecting it to be a physical race I don't know how to describe it, but the desire to win a race is big, and as you keep getting closer, it just gets bigger. The longer you go without it, the more you want it. I want to do this because I'm good enough to do it, and I think you have to win to win to prove you're good enough. I want to do this -- not for anybody else or for the sponsor or the team. I want to do it for myself."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Reynard Honda): "We started off kind of slow, trying to conserve tires. Our qualifying plan was to run one set of tires if we could. On the last lap, we made a mistake in Turn 10. I'm glad we got the front-row start, and I'm looking forward to the race."

SCOTT PRUETT (Visteon Reynard Ford): "For the Visteon team, we made a big step forward. I think we have a good race car. I'm pleased and happy. We've got a great place to start the race tomorrow, and if we keep racing like we have, it's going to be a great. This biggest reason to qualify first this weekend is the Marlboro Pole Award money. We'll see what kind of deals we can make [with Bryan Herta] on the side. It's always great to start up front."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Reynard Honda), after being fined $20,000 and being excluded from Saturday's qualifying session for contact with Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez/Viva Mexico! Reynard Ford) during qualifying Friday: "I'm not happy about the fine or the decision to exclude me from qualifying I think we had a very competitive car but as a result of my incident with Michel I didn't get a chance to show its real potential. I'm disappointed, but that's life. We'll start the race from where we start."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY:

Herta's pole was the fifth of his career and his third on a permanent road course. His other poles came at Phoenix in 1995, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca last year and Long Beach in April.

After qualifying a provisional 18th Friday afternoon, Zanardi switched to his secondary car for Saturday morning practice and improved to third overall, at 119.890 mph (59.064 seconds). He later qualified fifth at 120.259 mph (58.883 seconds).

Tracy will start 20th after being excluded from Saturday's qualifying. He averaged 118.752 mph (59.630 sec) during his quickest qualifying lap Friday afternoon.

Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) improved from 17th place Friday to eighth Saturday, at 119.781 mph (59.118 sec). By taking the green flag Sunday, Rahal will have started all 15 CART events at Portland International Raceway. Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), the only other driver to have competed in all 14 previous events, qualified 18th Saturday at 118.986 mph (59.513 sec).

Herta's pole kept Firestone's pole-winning streak intact at 10, dating to last year's season finale at California Speedway, where Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) earned the pole.

Two of the last four CART winners at Portland International Raceway have scored their victories from the pole, both of those victories having been scored in even years. Unser Jr. won from the pole at Portland in 1994, while Zanardi matched the feat in '96.

Two of the last three drivers to win the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline registered their first career victories in the event. Zanardi earned his first career CART triumph in 1996 and Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) notched his last season.

WHAT'S ON TAP:

Qualifying for the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday, one-half hour prior to ESPN's live race broadcast.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett