HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 1, 2002 -- On a blustery day in southern Florida, reigning IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. was gone with the wind, putting the all-new Chevy Indy V8 on the pole for Saturday's 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 1, 2002 -- On a blustery day in southern Florida, reigning IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. was gone with the wind, putting the all-new Chevy Indy V8 on the pole for Saturday's 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hornish set the track record for Indy Racing League cars with a fast lap of 202.884 mph in Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara, eclipsing the 201.551 mph mark set last year by Jeff Ward with an IRL Aurora V8 engine.
The Chevy Bowtie came back to open-wheel racing with a vengeance, sweeping the front row for the IRL's season-opening event. Helio Castroneves ran the second fastest lap at 202.414 mph with Marlboro Team Penske's Chevrolet Dallara. Chevy engines powered 22 of the 26 qualifiers for tomorrow's 200-lap race.
"We're very happy with the new Chevy engine so far," said Hornish. "Our race engine is as good as our qualifying engine because they're exactly the same.
Hornish has two previous pole starts, both earned with championship points when rain canceled qualifying. Today he won his third career pole the pole the old-fashioned way -- by turning the fastest lap on the low-banked 1.5-mile oval.
"We thought we could run a little quicker than that in qualifying, but we didn't know how much the wind had changed," Hornish explained. "I'm happy about setting the record, but we've really been working on our race setup. We're here to race, and I can't wait to give the new Chevy Indy V8 its first victory."
"It's very exciting to see a Chevy Indy V8 engine on the pole in Chevrolet's first Indy car race since 1993," said GM Racing Group Manager Joe Negri. "With Chevy's performance today, it is clear that General Motors is strongly committed to continuing its success in the Indy Racing League. This is the first event with an all-new engine, and we are only beginning the development program for the Chevy Indy V8. We are confident that we will continue to improve the Chevrolet engine's performance in the future."
Jaques Lazier will start Team Menard's Chevrolet Dallara on the inside of the third row after qualifying with a 201.391 mph lap.
"With the conditions today it's a balancing act in turns 2 and 4," Lazier said. "You're hitting the rev limiter at the start-finish line on the front straight, and only pulling 10,400 rpm on the back straight.
"We ran our race motor today," Lazier noted. "Every horsepower is hard to come by, and we're very concerned with reliability. The Team Menard engine shop worked very hard over the winter to make sure that we can go the distance at every race. I'm very happy with the progress we've made."
Castroneves' Penske Racing teammate Gil de Ferran was the first driver to make a qualifying run today. The two-time CART champion will start sixth on the grid with a 201.373 mph qualifying speed in Penske's Chevrolet Dallara.
"I gave it everything I had today," said de Ferran. "I nailed it the whole way around. The wind made the car move around quite a bit, but that was the same thing we faced this morning."
Gusty winds played havoc with several teams' setups as the cars were pushed by a tailwind on the front straight and slowed by a headwind on the back straight.
"You hit the limiter hard on the front when you're going with wind, and then you go have a hard time battling the wind on the back," said Buddy Lazier, 16th fastest qualifier at 197.425 mph in Hemelgarn Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. "I made the qualifying run in fourth gear, but in hindsight we might have gone quicker in fifth gear. I was flat out and we had a real good balance with the car, but it didn't go the speed we wanted.
"We'll have to be ready to adjust for whatever conditions we have tomorrow, and this team is very good at that," Lazier noted. "I've got a real good race car."
SCHEDULE The 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami will start at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, March 2. The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.