IRL: Kentucky Schroeder to start sixth

SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 26 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., qualified sixth Saturday afternoon during MBNA pole qualifying for Sunday afternoon's Belterra Resort Indy 300 Indy Racing Northern Light series race at Kentucky Speedway. His blue...

SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 26 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., qualified sixth Saturday afternoon during MBNA pole qualifying for Sunday afternoon's Belterra Resort Indy 300 Indy Racing Northern Light series race at Kentucky Speedway. His blue Kroger/tristarmall.com Dallara Aurora #6 will start Sunday's race from the outside of row three beside A.J. Foyt's G-Force Aurora driven by Jeff Ward by virtue of Schroeder's qualifying speed of 216.554 mph.

Scott Goodyear won his first pole in Indy Racing Northern Light competition ever with an average speed of 219.191 mph. The entire field was on dependable Firestone tires.

Time trials were broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The race will be broadcast live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. A pre-race show, Indy Racing 2Day, will be televised live at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2.

Schroeder got consistently faster in practice as both he and the Tri Star Motorsports team learned the new race track and refined their car's set-up.

Schroeder was 16th fastest overall in practice Friday, when he took his first 84 laps ever on the brand-new 1.5-mile trioval. His fastest lap Friday was at an average speed of 215.646 mph. On Saturday morning he was 13th fastest overall in practice, finding more speed to run a lap at 216.977 mph before qualifying Saturday afternoon. One more practice session will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday before the race gets the green flag at 2:30 p.m.

Schroeder currently leads the point standings for the Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year award by five points over Airton Dare. They are 15th and 16th in the overall point standings for the Northern Light Cup, respectively. Six rookies are among the 27 drivers entered in Sunday's race. In addition to Schroeder and Dare, they are Sam Hornish Jr., Sarah Fisher, Shigeaki Hattori and Stevie Reeves. Every point that Schroeder can earn in tomorrow's race will be crucial, as only one race remains after this one: the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Oct. 15.

Schroeder never saw this track before Thursday, but Fisher has been testing extensively here and she'll start right in front of Schroeder in fourth place. (She was fastest during the open test here July 1-2 with a lap at 218.517 mph.) The other rookies are deeper in the field, as Hattori qualified 17th, Hornish 20th, Dare 23rd and Reeves 27th.

Schroeder called his qualifying run "pretty routine.

"We improved from Friday to Saturday but we didn't improve any today from practice to qualifying," he noted. "We put our trick qualifying stuff on and worked on our ride height and changed gears, and that put us up into that 216 mph area. During practice we don't go out and draft anyone, so it was basically the same speed we turned in practice.

"There wasn't any variation in temperature or wind from the start of qualifying to the end of it," he added. "Conditions were fair for everyone and the fastest cars ended up front."

As far as his race strategy goes, Schroeder said it's the same as always: to finish on the lead lap.

"Tomorrow I'm just going to go out and try to find a hole, run some clean laps, hope to have some good pit stops and go to the front at the end if I can," he summarized.

What are his initial impressions of Kentucky Speedway, which is hosting the Indy Racing Northern Light Series for the first time this weekend and conducted its first race just two months ago?

"It's nice and wide and conducive to good racing," he said. "I like its long straightaways. There are some bumps out there, but with it being so wide you can avoid them. The bumps don't really upset the cars too much. It's a two-groove track basically, but I'm sure some guys will try to go three wide in the turns. You can fit four or five wide on the straightaways if conditions permit. As the race wears down I believe it'll be a two-groove track."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Shigeaki Hattori , Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Scott Goodyear , Jeret Schroeder , Stevie Reeves , Sam Hornis