Priestley lands first front row start Renna, Unser, Jr and Sharp battle slippery track conditions to qualify 12th, 14th and 21st. SPARTA, KY - August 10, 2002 - "Wow, we are P2!", exclaimed an excited Jason Priestley at the conclusion of ...
Priestley lands first front row start Renna, Unser, Jr and Sharp battle slippery track conditions to qualify 12th, 14th and 21st.
SPARTA, KY - August 10, 2002 - "Wow, we are P2!", exclaimed an excited Jason Priestley at the conclusion of qualifying for tomorrow's 100 mile Indy Racing Pro Infiniti Series race, the fourth event of the scheduled seven event 2002 season. Priestley will start the HomeMed Pharmacy/Kelley Racing entry on the outside of the front row along side pole sitter A.J. Foyt, IV, improving by one position his previous best, third at Kansas. Foyt's pole speed was 179.571 m.p.h. to Priestley's 179.064 m.p.h.
"I think we had a distinct advantage qualifying almost last," Priestley continued. "I had the opportunity to watch the other drivers including the ones who spun, all in turn two, to see where exactly the quickest line was on the track.
"I certainly watched A.J., Ronnie Johncox and Ed Carpenter, a lot of the other guys that are real fast in this series qualify, so I kind of knew what I had to do. The track was very different from when we were practicing this morning. With these cars, so much of it is just being able to keep your foot in it and understand that the car actually will hold the road and actually will make the corner. I guess in a lot of ways most oval drivers at some time just put their faith in a higher power that they're actually going to make it around the corner."
The substantially different track conditions from what existed during both morning practices had a significant impact of the qualifying efforts of the three Kelley Racing IRL drivers and teams. Between practice and qualifying, a 100 lap NASCAR All-Pro series race was run with all entries on Hoosier tires. In addition, the air temperature coupled with bright sunshine beating down turned the Kentucky Speedway in to the equivalent of a skating rink for the lighter, higher horsepower IRL cars.
Making the qualifying session even more complicated and confusing was the number of entries who waved off their first qualifying attempts because of the greatly decreased speeds, in some cases six to eight miles an hour.
IRL rules allow cars to wave off their attempt following taking the green flag by pulling on to pit road before crossing the start finish line under green. Although Al Unser, Jr was the eighth car in the qualifying order, he was only the second car to post an official time. Scott Sharp was the third car to officially qualify despite being 10th in line and Tony Renna briefly sat on the pole from this 11th place in the order as only the fourth car to stay on the clock for two laps.
Renna will start the newest entry in the stable, the Kruse Special Dallara/Chevrolet from the outside of the sixth row, the 12th starting position. Unser, Jr. will bring the Corteco/Bryant car to the green flag from the outside of row seven, the 14th spot on the grid. The Delphi entry driven by Sharp will start from 21st, the inside of the 11th row.
"The track had changed so dramatically from practice," explained Renna. "It was a hard call for us as to whether we should continue our run or pull in like others had done. Half way through our first lap, we were fastest so far and there is always a danger you might not have time to take another attempt, so we stayed with it. It was a good effort for our Kruse Special team, considering we are a new team at our first race."
"It's not the best possible run we could have made," said Unser, Jr. "But we got it in the show, and that's what's important. Now we can go work on the race setup and go from there. The track was so drastically different, until some of that good Firestone rubber got down, it was pretty exciting out there. If you have a good race setup, race smart and are patient to make your move when the time is right as the race unfolds, you can get to the front in the field and stay there."
"Anytime there's a different series," said a disappointed Sharp. "A different kind of rubber gets put down. It's all a part of the challenge. You've got to find a way to turn that into an advantage, and that's something we need to work on."
Sarah Fisher set more than a new track record, she became the first woman in Indy car racing history to win a pole position. Her lap of 221.390 m.p.h. 24.0661 seconds, breaking the old record set by Scott Goodyear in 2000 of 24.636 seconds. Starting along side Fisher is Billy Boat.
There are 25 starters in Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300, race 12 of the 15 event 2002 season.