IRL: Boat earns first pole in three years at Nashville

Lebanon, Tenn (July 19, 2002) - Two races after switching to Infiniti power, Billy Boat drove his Curb Records Dallara to a new track record at the Nashville Superspeedway. Boat earned his first pole position in three years after touring the ...

Lebanon, Tenn (July 19, 2002) - Two races after switching to Infiniti power, Billy Boat drove his Curb Records Dallara to a new track record at the Nashville Superspeedway. Boat earned his first pole position in three years after touring the 1.33-mile speedway at 203.774 mph. Boat's last pole came while driving for A.J. Foyt at Atlanta in 1999.

"It's good to be back," said Boat with a smile. "I knew it had to be a long time, but I wasn't sure."

Boat's team switched to Infiniti power two weeks ago at Kansas and immediately saw a gain in speed. "I said when we made that switch that the first thing we had to do was we had to get to the front of the speed charts in practice, then we had to sit on the pole, then we could think about winning a race. We've done those things now, so we're looking to try to win this thing tomorrow night."

Boat was fastest overall after two practice sessions today when he turned a lap at 203.998 mph in the second session. One of Boat's crew-members admitted to receiving a tow on a lap at 208, but the 203 they ran on their own.

Helio Castroneves will start alongside Boat on the front row.

In the first practice session, Castroneves' best lap was recorded at 199.757 mph. He improved drastically between practice sessions, turning a lap at 203.414 mph. Castroneves qualified at 203.363 mph driving a Chevrolet-powered Dallara.

"I'm very happy for Marlboro Team Penske, to be here for the first time on a concrete surface," said Castroneves. "It's quite a challenge, not only for the drivers but for the engineers to setup a car on a bumpy circuit like this."

Defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. will start third. "We didn't work real hard on our qualifying setup," said Hornish, who was seventh overall in practice. "The Pennzoil Panther team worked real hard to get a good race setup.

"Last year we led quite a bit. We led the most laps, but had a fuel injector problem. This year hopefully we'll be running on all cylinders and maybe come away with a win."

Despite Hornish's misfire in last years race, he still managed a sixth place finish.

Tomas Scheckter will start fourth after qualifying at 202.984, five one-hundredths of a second off his best lap in practice. "It's nice to see the Infiniti engine on the pole again," said Scheckter, who earned the pole two weeks ago at Kansas.

After qualifying, Scheckter conceded the pole to Boat, adding, "I'd rather have a race win for one of the Red Bull cars." Scheckter very nearly earned his first victory two weeks ago when a cut tire ended his day while enjoying a comfortable lead late in the race.

Alex Barron, who nearly broke the 203 mph barrier with his run at 202.950 mph, will start fifth, an Indy Racing League career best. "We are pretty happy with the speed," said Barron. "The numbers we put up were just as quick as practice and I think everyone had a tow in practice."

Richie Hearn put big numbers on the speed charts today. Fourth overall in practice at 203.568 mph, Hearn qualified at 202.915 mph to start sixth. "I ran a little bit faster this morning, but it's not too far off," said Hearn, pleased with his performance.

Another driver pleased with their performance was Sarah Fisher. "We're making great strides together as a team after only two races, and we've kicked it up a few notches in the process," said Fisher after qualifying seventh. Starting behind Fisher are Felipe Giaffone, Eddie Cheever and her teammate Robbie Buhl in the tenth starting position.

Buhl missed most of the first practice session when his car experienced fuel pump problems. "The car was good, stuck solid," said Buhl. "In fact, maybe stuck a little too well. We're just working to trim the car out and maintain the good drivability.

Indy Racing League drivers will have a 30-minute warmup session at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. It's the last chance for drivers to make final adjustments to their cars for tomorrow nights race.

Notes from the Firestone Indy 20 at the Nashville Superspeedway:

Country music star Brad Paisley will perform at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, just prior to the start of the Firestone Indy 200, which is scheduled to take the green flag at 7:30 p.m.

***

The Firestone Indy 200 is the only race on the 2002 schedule to take place on a concrete track. The IRL has competed twice at Dover, which is also concrete, in 1998 and 1999.

***

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will return to Indy Racing League competition at Michigan on July 28. "Meijer and Coca Cola contracted with Treadway Racing to sponsor our car at both Indianapolis and Michigan. It was left up to me to decide if I would drive at Michigan, and I made up my mind in the last few days that's what I want to do."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske