Qualifying at Gateway International Raceway is a tricky-just ask Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp, Al Unser, Jr. and Tony Renna. MADISON, IL -- AUGUST 24, 2002 - The old racing adage, "It isn't where you start that counts, its where you ...
Qualifying at Gateway International Raceway is a tricky-just ask Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp, Al Unser, Jr. and Tony Renna.
MADISON, IL -- AUGUST 24, 2002 - The old racing adage, "It isn't where you start that counts, its where you finish", will be the key ingredient of a successful race strategy for all three Kelley Racing Indy Racing League teams as they line up tomorrow for the start of the Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway just east of St. Louis, MO in Madison, IL.
"We just didn't have the straight away speed to get a good qualifying run," said Scott Sharp, driver of the #8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone Kelly Racing entry. "Obviously we are going to have to make adjustments tonight and tomorrow morning before final warm up to get a better race car for tomorrow afternoon.
"We were good in practice but as the heat and humidity of the day increased, we seemed to lose the handle we had when we put it in qualifying trim. I know my Delphi crew will give me a good racecar. This is one of those tracks where you convince yourself you don't have to start right up front if you have a good car, so that is how I am going to start tomorrow's race.
Sharp starts 10th, on the outside of the fifth row.
Tony Renna put the #78 Kruse Special/HomeMed Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in 11th starting spot on the inside of row six.
"We certainly are going to have to make some changes," said Renna. "Obviously race setup is going to be significantly different than qualifying. We will definitely make changes affecting the downforce so we can run better in traffic. I am confident my Kruse/HomeMed team will give me a good car for tomorrow's race. We weren't really that bad in practice or qualifying but tomorrow's race is where we have now shifted our focus."
Both Sharp and Renna enjoyed position one on the scoring pylon during the two practice sessions prior to qualifying for the Gateway Indy 250 but were unable to capitalize on the success of earlier in the day when they took to the track for their qualifying runs.
Al Unser, Jr. and the #7 Corteco/Bryant team were just glad when qualifying was over and Unser had put the car in 16th position on the grid, the outside of the eighth row. Not exactly where the defending race winner wanted to begin his quest of making it two in a row.
Adhering to the philosophy "Things can only get better from here", the John Worth/Mike Colliver lead Corteco Bryant crew changed chassis setup after chassis setup during practice trying to improve the handling, only to have the engine sour with just a few minutes left in the last practice session.
With a new engine in the car, the car was presented in for qualifying in the ninth place Unser had drawn. When he went out for his warm-up lap, he came over the radio saying there was something wrong with the gearbox. He coasted down pitroad, back into his garage stall and the crew went to work locating and repairing the problem. Unser, Jr. was the last car to qualify of the 25 entries. Because of missing his original opportunity, he only got one qualifying lap per IRL rules.
Following his qualifying run, when the team engineers downloaded the data from the car, they determined the engine had suffered stress due to the gearbox malfunction. While other teams where heading for their hotels, the Corteco/Bryant crew embarked upon their second motor change of the day.
"It has just been one of those days," said Unser, Jr. "I just seemed like nothing went the way we needed it to all day but the guys on the Corteco/Bryant crew never gave up. We are in the field, not where we wanted to start but we will just have to pull together a great race strategy and make a run for it toward the end of the race. I have every confidence my guys will give me a good car and we can be a serious contender for another win here at Gateway."
Gil deFerran won the pole with a speed of 175.120 MPH, 25.6967 seconds. Sam Hornish Jr. will sit on the outside of the front row with a qualifying effort of 174.959 MPH, 25.7203 seconds.