CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio de Janeiro qualifying report

ZANARDI GRABS FIRST IndyCar POLE AT RIO 400 RIO de JANEIRO (March 16) - Rookie Alex Zanardi of Chip Ganassi Racing continued his mastery of Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway on Saturday as he captured his first...

ZANARDI GRABS FIRST IndyCar POLE AT RIO 400

RIO de JANEIRO (March 16) - Rookie Alex Zanardi of Chip Ganassi Racing continued his mastery of Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway on Saturday as he captured his first career PPG Indy Car World Series pole during qualifying for the inaugural Rio 400.

Zanardi, who had the fastest laps during the previous two days of practice, ran a lap of 167.084 miles per hour around the 1.864-mile oval to grab his first pole since winning one in a Formula 3000 race in Brands Hatch, England in 1991.

Zanardi, a 29-year-old Italian, led a sweep of the top-three qualifying spots for Honda engines and Firestone tires. He was joined on the front row by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser, who won the season-opening Grand Prix of Miami on March 3. Vasser qualified at 166.952 mph in his Reynard Honda. They became the first teammates to take the front row in a PPG Indy Car World Series race since Scott Brayton and Arie Luyendyk were first and second, respectively, at the Indianapolis 500 last May.

Andre Ribeiro was the top Brazilian qualifier, finishing third at 166.758 mph in his Lola Honda for Tasman Motorpsorts. Rounding out the top five were rookie Greg Moore and Parker Johnstone. Moore, the second-youngest driver to start an IndyCar race when he competed at Miami, came in at 165.525 mph in a Reynard Mercedes for Player's/Forsythe Racing. Johnstone, who missed the season opener after a practice accident, followed at 165.518 mph in a Reynard Honda for Brix Comptech Racing.

Scott Goodyear of Walker Racing was forced to withdraw from qualifying after sustaining a fractured vertebra in his mid-back during a single-car accident during Saturday's morning practice. Goodyear, who was airlifted from the track to a local hospital, will need six to eight weeks to recover from the injury and an additional six to eight before he can get back into a car. Christian Fittipaldi also was involved in a practice incident, but neck x-rays were negative. He was unable to qualify, but will be starting from the rear in today's Rio 400.

The Rio 400, the first Indy Car oval event run outside of North America since the series ran in Argentina in 1971, will be televised on ABC-TV, beginning at 3 p.m. EST.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Jimmy Vasser , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing