IRL: Indy 500: Pole day qualifying report

Junqueira survives seven-hour wait to win MBNA Pole. INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 11, 2002 -- The wait was worth it for Bruno Junqueira. Junqueira, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, won the MBNA Pole for the 86th Indianapolis 500 on May 11 with a ...

Junqueira survives seven-hour wait to win MBNA Pole.

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 11, 2002 -- The wait was worth it for Bruno Junqueira.

Junqueira, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, won the MBNA Pole for the 86th Indianapolis 500 on May 11 with a four-lap average of 231.342 mph in the No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone. Junqueira was the first qualifier of the day at 11 a.m. (EST) and had to wait seven hours until his pole and a $100,000 pole bonus from MBNA became official.

The last driver to win the pole at Indianapolis as the first qualifier was Emerson Fittipaldi in 1990.

"These were the longest seven hours of my life," Junqueira said. "First thing, I have to thank Team Target to give (me) a great car. I had a lot of confidence to be the first to go out. I didn't know exactly how the track was. The car was so good that I just kept flat out all the four laps, and I got a very good average speed.

"Then I was pretty confident that that speed could give me a good position on the start, but I never knew if I could get the pole or not. I had to wait and exercise my patience."

Robbie Buhl and Raul Boesel completed the front row under threatening skies and intermittent rain sprinkles. Buhl was second at 231.033 in the No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, and Boesel was third at 230.613 in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Junqueira delivered the first Indy 500 pole for a Chevrolet engine since Rick Mears in 1991, and Buhl became the first Infiniti-powered driver ever on the front row at Indianapolis.

It was the first 230-mph front row since 1996 and only the third in Indianapolis 500 history.

Twenty-four of the 33 starting spots for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" were filled today on the 2.5-mile oval. Second-day qualifying is scheduled to start at noon (EST) Sunday. The 86th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for 11 a.m. (EST) May 26.

2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone qualified fourth at 230.326 in the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone. His teammate, Tony Kanaan, was fifth at 230.253 in the No. 17 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone.

1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. closed out the second row at 229.786 in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. He earned the top qualifying spot among the six Indianapolis 500 champions in this event.

Buhl gave Junqueira the closest scare during his seven-hour wait for the pole. Buhl made his second qualification attempt at 2:48 p.m. after waving off his first attempt after three laps at 1:51 p.m. Buhl's first lap of 229.576 prevented him from toppling Junqueira, as Buhl's final three laps ranged between 231.4 and 231.5 mph.

"You want to be smart," Buhl said. "You want to be fast, but you don't want to be stupid. You don't always have a car capable of being on the front row here, but we knew it was possible."

Buhl's strong qualifying run was just half of a superb day for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Buhl's new teammate, Sarah Fisher, qualified ninth with a four-lap average speed of 229.439 in the No. 23 Team Allegra/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, the fastest qualifying run by a woman in Indianapolis 500 history. The previous record was 225.346 by Lyn St. James in 1995.

"I've got nothing to lose, and I'm completely willing to give it my all for the greatest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500," Fisher said. "Race Day is our goal this year. It's going to be a lot of work, but that is where Robbie Buhl will come into play. He is the most awesome teammate ever.

"Robbie is a first-class guy. He's very down-to-earth and will share anything and everything with you."

While Cheever enjoyed a strong qualifying run, other past "500" champions had mixed results. Two-time winner Al Unser Jr. qualified 12th at 229.058 in the No. 7T Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Defending champion Helio Castroneves was 13th at 229.052 on his second attempt in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone after leading Fast Friday practice at 232.087, the fastest speed of the month.

"Unfortunately, the car was slightly slower on my second attempt, and we had to take the time because we were concerned about the weather," Castroneves said. "I was surprised because it looked like the Marlboro Team Penske car was fast enough to win the pole based on how we've been running all week. It's too bad that it didn't work out."

1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier was 20th at 227.495 in the No. 91T Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, with 1999 winner Kenny Brack 21st at 227.240 in the No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk didn't qualify after two attempts in the No. 55 Meijer G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone. Luyendyk was the last driver on the track, at 5:58 p.m., but the Treadway & Associates team waved off the run before Luyendyk took the green flag to start the qualification attempt.

Paul Tracy and Jon Herb were unhurt and cleared to drive after separate accidents during practice sessions. Tracy's No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone suffered heavy damage in a morning crash in Turn 2, while Herb's No. 16 Racing Professionals Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone suffered minor suspension damage in an afternoon crash.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Jon Herb , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Raul Boesel , Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Lyn St. James , Rick Mears , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing