IRL: Indy 500: Chevy pole day qualifying report

Chevy wins Indy 500 pole in return to Brickyard. INDIANAPOLIS, May 11, 2002 -- Bruno Junqueira had a target on his car, a red Bowtie on his engine and a bull's eye on his back for seven long hours of Pole Day qualifying today at Indianapolis...

Chevy wins Indy 500 pole in return to Brickyard.

INDIANAPOLIS, May 11, 2002 -- Bruno Junqueira had a target on his car, a red Bowtie on his engine and a bull's eye on his back for seven long hours of Pole Day qualifying today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Twenty-three drivers took shots at Junqueira, but none could knock him off the pole.

Junqueira, the first driver on the track when qualifying began under threatening skies, posted a four-lap average speed of 231.432 mph in Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Chevrolet G-Force. His speed was unsurpassed, and the 25-year-old Brazilian will lead the field of 33 cars to the green flag on May 26.

"That was the longest seven hours of my life," said Junqueira. "The car was so good I just kept it flat-out all four laps. I was confident that speed would give me a good position on the start but I didn't know if I would be on the pole or not.

"I don't think being first on the track was a benefit," he explained. "I had the chance to go out, and I'm happy I did."

Junqueira's first lap at 231.635 mph was the fastest of his four circuits around the 2.5-mile speedway. He ran 231.506, 231.278 and 230.952 mph on his next three laps.

Junqueira's speed eclipsed the 226.037 mph track record for naturally aspirated engines set last year by polesitter Scott Sharp with an IRL Aurora V8 engine. All 24 first-day qualifiers bettered Sharp's pole-winning speed.

Junqueira put a Chevrolet engine on the pole at the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since Rick Mears won the pole and the race with a Chevy Indy V8 in 1991. Chevrolet engines won the Indy 500 pole five consecutive years in 1987-91. This was the sixth straight Indy 500 pole for GM engines as the new Chevy Indy V8 succeeded the IRL Aurora V8 engine that powered every IRL pole winner from 1997 through 2001.

"We are very pleased to have a Chevrolet engine on the pole for the most prestigious race of the year," said GM Racing Group Manager Joe Negri. "We anticipated that speeds would increase because the Chevy Indy V8 is making more horsepower than its predecessor, but we were surprised at the speeds recorded today."

Chevrolet powered four of the five fastest qualifiers and 18 of the 24 cars currently in the field.

"We focused on qualifying setups and that effort has borne fruit," Negri noted. "The level of competition between Chevrolet and Infiniti is intense, and ultimately it comes down to the team and driver that does everything perfectly in qualifying. We congratulate Bruno Junqueira, team owner Chip Ganassi and Target Chip Ganassi Racing on an exceptional performance today."

Veteran Raul Boesel will start Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara on the outside of the front row after posting the third fastest speed at 230.613 mph. Boesel was a last-minute substitute for P.J. Jones, who was sidelined by a crash during practice.

"If you told me three days ago that I would be in this position, I wouldn't have believed it," said Boesel. "This team has come close so many times and I've come close so many times, maybe this is the combination that will achieve our dream of so many years.

"I always had confidence that I would be in this position with a good car," Boesel continued. "It takes the right combination to get the car running well, and Team Menard knows very well how to do it. Every day we improved a little bit, and we left the best for last. Every engine they have is good!"

IRL points leader Sam Hornish Jr. will start Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara from the seventh spot on the grid after averaging 229.585 mph over his ten-mile qualifying run.

"We knew we weren't going to be on the pole, but the Panther guys put me in a comfortable race car for the qualifying run, and that's all I can ask for," said Hornish. "We always focus on the race. We don't always qualify well, but we usually find our way up front. Chevrolet has been helping us out this year and we're happy to be in the race with them. I'd like to give Chevy a victory in their return to Indy."

Qualifying will continue on Sunday, May 12, from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. EDT. "Bump Day," the final day of qualifying, is Sunday, May 19. The 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 12:00 noon EDT (11:00 a.m. local time) on Sunday, May 26. The 200-lap, 500-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Bruno Junqueira , Raul Boesel , Rick Mears , P.J. Jones , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing