IRL: Eddie Cheever Jr has the pole at California Speedway

FONTANA, Calif. (March 23, 2002) - Eddie Cheever earned his first Indy Racing League pole position after averaging 221.422 mph around the two-mile California Speedway. "A very large percentage of the time we did today can be attributed to ...

FONTANA, Calif. (March 23, 2002) - Eddie Cheever earned his first Indy Racing League pole position after averaging 221.422 mph around the two-mile California Speedway.

"A very large percentage of the time we did today can be attributed to the Nissan (Infiniti) engine," Cheever said. "They have worked very hard. It's a big challenge to take on a company like General Motors, and I think they've done a great job."

Cheever's first pole also marked the first time an Infiniti powered car has been awarded the pole position. The manufacturer took the track by storm, capturing four of the top-six qualifying positions.

Jaques Lazier and Sam Hornish, who qualified second and fourth, respectively, were driving Chevrolet powered-Dallaras.

Cheever's teammate Tomas Scheckter qualified third. Scheckter set the fastest lap of the weekend in Friday's practice, touring the 2-mile circuit over 222 mph. "I want to be on pole, and that's what drives me, to win and to be in front," said Scheckter.

"Unfortunately this morning again there was a problem with my No. 52 car, and I had to jump to the "T" car.

"I just have to say thank you to the guys. They did a great job in managing to get the car off. The team has to be happy with both cars in the top three, but as a driver, you always want to be in front."

Scheckter tried to go to the front early in the season opener at Homestead and found himself tangling with his teammate, sending Cheever into the turn four wall. After a second lesson in oval track racing on the mile at Phoenix, the young South African has gained a wealth of experience. "It's a long, long race and I think I'm just going to take it easy, get into a good position and a good rhythm and hopefully attack in the last 50 laps."

Robbie Buhl qualified the Team Purex Infiniti-powered G Force fifth with a lap at 219.268 mph. See Buhl hard crash

Team Purex has announced Memo Gidley as Buhl's replacement. Gidley, who has never competed in an Indy racing event, will have to pass a physical and have his helmet inspected before the IRL will allow him to become officially entered in the event.

Laurent Redon qualified sixth in his best effort since joining the IRL part time last year. Redon, who will run the full season in 2002, qualified ninth in the Conquest Racing entry at Homestead.

Rounding out the top ten were Buddy Lazier, Jeff Ward, Al Unser Jr. and Felipe Giaffone.

Jimmy Vasser, who won the 1998 California 500 CART-sanctioned race at California Speedway continued to struggle, qualifying 19th. "We are still trying to work some of the bugs out and learn some things with the IRL engine and rev limiter," said Vasser.

In qualifying, Vasser, "basically put my foot to the floor and drove it around. It wasn't too exciting but I think the race will be very exciting."

The Yamaha Indy 400 takes the green flag at 12:30 p.m. local time with live television coverage on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. EST.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Jaques Lazier  , Laurent Redon , Sam Hornis
Teams Conquest Racing