IRL: Kentucky: Qualifying report

Fisher wins MBNA pole at Kentucky, make racing history SPARTA, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 10, 2002 -- Sarah Fisher may have downplayed the achievement and its historical significance, but she turned a lap heard 'round the world Aug. 10 at Kentucky ...

Fisher wins MBNA pole at Kentucky, make racing history

SPARTA, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 10, 2002 -- Sarah Fisher may have downplayed the achievement and its historical significance, but she turned a lap heard 'round the world Aug. 10 at Kentucky Speedway.

Fisher, 21, became the first woman to win the pole position for a major-league open-wheel race in North American motorsports history, capturing the MBNA Pole for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. She turned a track-record lap of 24.0661 seconds, 221.390 mph in the No. 23 Team Smart Blade/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone.

"I couldn't really care about history," Fisher said. "It's been a really long year for us. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing hasn't had a pole ever and to give them a pole is great.

"It's just Saturday; it's not Sunday yet, and I don't want to get to overexcited because we have a real big job to do tomorrow. I think I've got my confidence back, and that's a big part of it because when you lose your confidence you lose belief in yourself, you lose belief in what the car has the ability to do, and we've got it back."

The only other woman who has won the pole for a major North American oval race was Shawna Robinson, who claimed the top spot for a NASCAR Busch Series race in 1994 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Fisher, from Commercial Point, Ohio, will lead the field to the green flag at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday in the 29th start of her Indy Racing League career. Billy Boat made it an all-Infiniti front row, taking the No. 2 spot at 24.0689, 221.364 in the No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

"I just got beat by the girl the least," Boat said. "The guys did a great job. We're going to be starting up front, and the race is what we're concerned about.

"Sarah did a great job. She's been quick all weekend. We knew that if anybody was going to beat us, she was going to be the one."

2001 IRL Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone will start third after a lap of 24.1709, 220.430 in the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was fourth at 24.1757, 220.387 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, while defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top five at 24.1807, 220.341 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Series points leader Gil de Ferran will start 10th after a lap of 24.2671, 219.557 in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Two-time defending event champion Buddy Lazier, attempting to become the first IRL driver to win an event three straight years, qualified ninth at 24.2329, 219.866.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., back after missing two races for treatment of an alcohol-abuse problem, qualified 14th at 24.4036, 218.328 in the No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Fisher gave an indication that she was on the verge of history during the two pre-qualifying practices. She was second fastest in the opening session at 222.304 and led the second session at 222.447.

Tricky track conditions during MBNA Pole Qualifying caused speeds to slow and teams to adopt interesting strategy.

Nine of the 25 drivers in the field, including Fisher, either waved off their qualifying attempt after a warm-up lap or didn't make an attempt during their designated spot in the qualifying order. Instead, those drivers were willing to lose one of their two qualifying laps in a gamble to get better track conditions as the track cooled.

"The racetrack was kind of a moving target, trying to find what was going to be the optimum setup," Boat said. "It was a little bit of an advantage going later in qualifying as the racetrack started to come in. I kind of compared it to when I raced midgets and you would go out early when the racetrack was wet, on a dirt track, and the thing would come in as you ran on it. It was a similar situation."

It was a perfect situation for Fisher. She turned her historic pole lap on her one and only trip at speed around the 1.5-mile oval and withstood five more attempts by other drivers, including Castroneves, to keep the top spot.

"It was just really neat," Fisher said. "I've always wanted to produce the results that I produced in midgets and sprint cars."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Shawna Robinson , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing