Vasser Delivers PKV Racing a Team Best Qualifying Effort of Third; Gonzalez to Start 14th at Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 7, 2004) -- PKV Racing earned its best-ever starting spot this afternoon in cloudy Elkhart Lake, Wis. after 1996...
Vasser Delivers PKV Racing a Team Best Qualifying Effort of Third; Gonzalez to Start 14th at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 7, 2004) -- PKV Racing earned its best-ever starting spot this afternoon in cloudy Elkhart Lake, Wis. after 1996 Champ Car titlewinner Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone) laid down a blistering lap of 1:43.374 (140.972 mph) on his fourth tour of Road America's 4.048-mile ribbon of pavement in final qualifying for tomorrow's Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America Presented by The Chicago Tribune. Vasser's PKV Racing teammate Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) qualified 14th overall in what will be his first race on the Road America circuit.
Vasser's top-three drive marks the best qualifying run for the 10-time racewinner since snaring the Long Beach pole position in 2002. The lap also delivered the second-year team its best ever starting position, eclipsing the previous best eighth Vasser ran in Milwaukee earlier this season.
"Obviously it feels good, especially coming from Vancouver two weeks ago where I qualified a fantastic 15th," said Vasser. "We found some things over the last couple weeks with our damper program that really jumped out at us that have possibly been giving us problems all season. The car's good. All credit to the mechanics and the engineers at PKV. We've had a pretty good car since we unloaded. We had a good car at the test here. We've just been trying to work methodically and make it better every time we hit the track.
"Yesterday was a little bit of a setback for us. We came in two pounds light at technical inspection; just a small mistake. But we were confident overnight that the car was good enough that as long as it wasn't raining, we could put in another good time. This is certainly the best opportunity we've had to win a race all season. Sebastien [Bourdais] has been very difficult to deal with all year long, and he has been the pace-setter here this weekend. So he's going to be difficult and so is Ryan [Hunter-Reay]. It's going to be a tough race. The way things go, you can qualify third, and you never know what happens, or where you might end up on the first corner. But I think if we can settle in and have a good race, good fuel economy, we're going to put ourselves in position to win."
Tomorrow's race will also mark consecutive start number 191 for the durable driver, pulling him within just one start of Al Unser Jr., who holds the all-time Champ Car iron man mark with 192. Vasser is scheduled to break that record in Round 10 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec Canada with start 193. His current streak dates back to his 22nd career start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (1993), with his first Champ Car start coming in Surfers Paradise, Australia in 1992.
Vasser's PKV stablemate didn't enjoy the same fortunes in final qualifying after turning in the session's 14th best time at 1:45.361 (138.313 mph), but Gonzalez believes he can make up the necessary time tomorrow and show what the #21 Nextel machine is really made of in the 52-lap chase.
"It was looking good at the start when we turned a good lap in the 15 minute warm up session," said Gonzalez. "In qualifying, our quick lap was cut short by a red flag, unfortunately. After that, I just couldn't get a good lap in. The good thing is that the car has not showed its potential yet, so we have better things ahead of us for the race tomorrow. We'll just continue to work on the Nextel car and focus on the race."
Watch Vasser and Gonzalez tomorrow, August 8th on Spike TV (4:00 pm ET/PT) or HDNet (2:00 pm ET, Live) as they try to tame the 4.048-mile permanent road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis. in Round 8 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford.