IPS: IRL: Michigan: Firestone qualifying report

BROOKLYN, Mich., Saturday, July 26, 2003 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Tomas Scheckter and Scott Dixon swept the front row July 26 during MBNA Pole Qualifying for the Firestone Indy 400. Scheckter won the MBNA Pole with a lap of 32.3657 ...

BROOKLYN, Mich., Saturday, July 26, 2003 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Tomas Scheckter and Scott Dixon swept the front row July 26 during MBNA Pole Qualifying for the Firestone Indy 400. Scheckter won the MBNA Pole with a lap of 32.3657 seconds, 222.458 mph.

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MBNA POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

Tomas Scheckter won his fifth career MBNA Pole today and his second of the season. He also won the MBNA Pole in June at Texas.

Scott Dixon will start on the front row for the sixth time this season. He won the pole for the last three events and this will be his fourth consecutive front-row start.

Both Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers will start on the front row for the third time this season. Scheckter won the pole at Texas, and Dixon started second, while at Kansas, Dixon won the pole and Scheckter started second.

Scheckter won the fourth consecutive pole for Target Chip Ganassi Racing this season. Dixon won the MBNA Pole for the last three races (Richmond, Kansas, Nashville).

Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers have won six MBNA Poles this season. Scheckter won the MBNA Pole today and at Texas. Dixon won the MBNA Pole at Richmond, Kansas and Nashville and started on the pole at Motegi after qualifying was rained out and the field was determined by practice speeds.

The separation between Scheckter and Dixon was .0047 of a second, the fifth closest in IRL IndyCar Series history.

Al Unser Jr. qualified fifth today, his best qualifying effort since he qualified second in Sept. 2002 at Texas.

Scheckter will attempt to become only the third driver in the history of MIS to win two consecutive Indy-style events. Scheckter won the 2002 IRL IndyCar Series event at MIS. In 1979, Bobby Unser won the second race in the Norton Twin 126 event and came back later that year to win the Gould Grand Prix 150. In 1984, Mario Andretti won both the Michigan 500 and the Detroit News Grand Prix 200.

Scheckter and Dixon sweeping the front row marks the third consecutive year that teammates have started 1-2 at MIS in open-wheel events. Scheckter and Buddy Rice started 1-2 in 2002 driving for Red Bull Cheever Racing. In 2001, Team Rahal teammates Kenny Brack and Max Papis started 1-2 in the CART race at MIS.

MBNA POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES: SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):

"I'm just happy that we have had the chance to qualify, I think, every race at the front. It is good for the team. It doesn't really bother me (that his streak ended). It is nice to make sure that we have had the chance to be there for many races."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): (About teammate Dixon):

"We definitely work together. I think we have a good working relationship where I respect him, and he respects me. I'm completely honest if I find something out. I think that is also one of the qualities in the team now. If I don't win a race, I certainly want Scott to, and if there is anything I can say to help him, then I will say it. That is why we can elevate both of our performances." (About last year's win): "If there is one thing that matters in racing it is who finished first, and I have to take good memories out of here. Also, the way we did it, coming from the back like that. It was such a great race. I definitely took good memories out of it." (About the Gen IV Chevy Indy V-8): "It is great to see Sam Hornish Jr. up there. I had a lot of great races with him last year. The only people I feel sorry for are Honda and Toyota people.

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):

"I think the guys at Dreyer and Reinbold have given us good race cars. We are struggling a little bit power wise, but the Chevy guys are working hard. We see some good things to come. Basically, get through this weekend work hard, race hard, and I know we are going to get some help here from the Chevy guys real soon."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):

"It feels pretty good. We had some good laps yesterday, and a lot of people were upset about that thinking that, we had something that had a lot more horsepower. I think this puts us to even as far as the horsepower goes. It is wonderful. A lot of people were complaining about it yesterday. I would rather be fast and have them be unhappy than be in the back and have the rest of the pack be happy. It is going to be a long race, too. It is 400 miles. We are going to have to stay out of trouble, have clean pit stops and conserve fuel."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):

"I'm extremely happy with our qualifying effort today. I thought we'd do a 221.2 mph or 221.3 mph, so we were surprised with a lap of 221.953 mph. I think the wind helped a little, especially on the backstraight. At a track like Michigan, starting position isn't the most important factor, but it's always good to be up front to avoid any problems. The key for the race will be a good, consistent car in traffic. Marlboro Team Penske tested here a couple of weeks ago, and it seemed to pay off in qualifying. I hope the same will be true for the race."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"The car feels good, but it is just not quite fast enough right now. I think we feel like we are going to be a lot better in the race, and I hope we are right about that."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"I'm not really satisfied with that run, but it is only qualifying. It is a long race. The race is going to be decided in the last lap, anyway, so I might not even have the package set up today. We will look forward to tomorrow. It was cloudy today, which is better for everybody. We don't get so hot in the car."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):

"It is important to start up front here at Michigan, but in the IndyCar Series, if you have a good handling race car and good strategy, you can win the race from anywhere. We made some changes to the Corteco car after the morning session, and they seem to have worked well. All today shows is that the Corteco/Bryant special is running good and handling good, so we need to go out there and do a good job on race day. The Corteco crew has been doing a fantastic job. They've been getting me in and out of the pits like nobody else. I'm really proud of the Kelley Racing team, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Firestone Indy 400."

Tomas Scheckter led the final IndyCar Series practice session. Scheckter turned a lap at 32.4822 seconds, 221.660 mph. Scott Sharp was second fastest in his No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone at 32.5256, 221.364. Alex Barron, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood No Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, was third fastest at 32.5471, 221.218.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. won the pole Saturday for the Michigan 100 Infiniti Pro Series race. Luyendyk turned a lap of 38.2216 seconds, 188.375 mph in his No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

INFINITI PRO SERIES QUALIFYING NOTES:

Arie Luyendyk Jr. won his second career pole today. His other pole came at Michigan in 2002.

Interestingly, the drivers that won the pole position for last year's IndyCar Series and Infiniti Pro Series events at Michigan also won the pole this year. Tomas Scheckter won the pole in the IndyCar Series in 2002 and 2003. Luyendyk won the pole for the Infiniti Pro Series race at MIS in 2002 and 2003.

Ross Fonferko qualified a career-best fourth today. His previous best qualifying effort was sixth at Nashville. He finished third at Nashville in his first career Infiniti Pro Series start.

INFINITI PRO SERIES QUALIFYING QUOTES:

MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"It's a tough track. The difference between the first line and the second line is quite a lot. You have to commit to one line and see how the car works. I'm a bit disappointed with qualifying. There was a bit too much grip in the car, but it gives us a good place to start from. We'll have to just work our way through. We'll see what everyone else is doing, running on the inside line or on the outside line, and try to get our car to work well there."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"The season so far has been going pretty mediocre. It feels good to be on top again, and hopefully we can duplicate that tomorrow. We definitely have the setup here. Last year, we had the pole, and we ran really well. Not much has changed from last year. The beginning of this year, we struggled with going to new tracks on a limited test budget with a crew that kept changing. Now, I have a strong crew behind me. The organization of the team is coming around, and that shows in our qualifying effort today. The faster tracks are definitely easier in these cars. I've always loved the faster tracks, but I like the challenging tracks, too. It is sometimes more enjoyable to race at some of the shorter tracks. It is really important here to be really smooth, and that is one of my strong points in driving. I've always been a fairly smooth driver. That is probably why I show through so much on the big tracks. I think the race will be great. I think you will see two big packs. I don't know necessarily if the whole field can stay together, but I know at least the top five cars will be together, and they will be running strong to the end. As I learned last year, it is really hard to lead here. I tried. I ran away with the start. I had about a 25-car (length) lead, and two laps later, I was in fifth. It is really hard to lead here. I think you will see a lot of drafting tomorrow, a lot of close racing. It is going to be the one who leads that last lap. It is going to be hard to lead. I will try though."

JONATHAN URLIN (No. 3 Budget Rent A Car of Canada Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"Obviously, we were searching for more. We're never happy with where we are, but we'll take it. We're up there with the front guys, and if we can just stay in the lead pack with them, we'll be able to have some fun tomorrow. It's going to be great. I have complete trust in 95 percent of these guys, whether it is racing history from other series with them or whatever. I feel confident running side by side with any of these guys."

ROSS FONFERKO (No. 6 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"It has just been phenomenal. I never expected to come into this series and be able to perform this well. I'm just happy that I've been able to. Obviously, being with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, a multiple-car team, is a good team to start out with. It has helped immensely. The crew has been working hard. Tomorrow is going to be a whole different ballgame. The draft is going to be huge on this track. I hope I pick up on it quick. I know timing is a big part of it. I've always thought I was good at timing, so I hope that helps in tomorrow's race."

ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"It is a little disappointing. I'm just glad that I didn't get beat by the Panther guys. They have been the sword in my side all season long. It has gotten back to last year, where Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) and I are running up front a lot again. I'm looking forward to it. Starting out on the front row is good. We are just going to go out in this final practice so we can get a really good race car. This team won last year and I am trying to do that for them again. He and I want to run up front, and it is hard to get someone to work with you. We have been friends for a long time. Any time you have someone out there who is willing to help you out verses someone else, that is great."

Rookie Ross Fonferko led the final Infiniti Pro Series practice session. Fonferko turned a lap of 38.1322 seconds, 188.817 mph in his No. 6 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Freedom 100 winner Ed Carpenter was second fastest in his No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti Firestone at 28.3329, 187.828. Jonathan Urlin, driver of the No. 3 Budget Rent A Car of Canada Dallara/ Infiniti/Firestone was third quick at 38.3908, 187.545.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Max Papis , Scott Dixon , Kenny Brack , Alex Barron , Sam Schmidt , Mario Andretti , Bobby Unser , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter , Sam Hornis , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing