Penske and Chevy sweep front row at Nazareth Speedway NAZARETH, Pa., April 20, 2002 -- The front row for tomorrow's inaugural Indy Racing League Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway is wearing red and white -- and dressed in Chevrolet red ...
Penske and Chevy sweep front row at Nazareth Speedway
NAZARETH, Pa., April 20, 2002 -- The front row for tomorrow's inaugural Indy Racing League Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway is wearing red and white -- and dressed in Chevrolet red Bowties. Penske Racing teammates Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves will start first and second respectively in the IRL's first race on the rollercoaster 1-mile oval.
De Ferran earned his first pole in IRL competition with a fast lap of 172.778 mph in Marlboro Team Penske's Chevrolet Dallara, a heartbeat faster than Castroneves' 172.576 mph run. Jaques Lazier will start Team Menard's Chevrolet Dallara third on the grid with a 171.977 mph qualifying lap. Chevrolet engines powered ten of the top 12 qualifiers and a Chevy won the pole for the third time in four races.
"It's turning out to be good weekend for Helio and me," said de Ferran. "The cars have been great, but I can't get too excited about Saturday because I know Sunday is going to be really hard work.
"It's all about getting through Turn 3 well," de Ferran explained. "On my second lap the car was really good in Turn 3, so I closed the next lap even better."
Conditions changed dramatically from Friday's heat wave, with cloud cover, cool temperatures and intermittent sprinkles during the qualifying session. A good starting position is critical because the narrow Nazareth track makes passing difficult.
"The car changed a lot from this morning," said Castroneves, who earned his third front-row starting position in four races this season. "As soon as I started turning in Turn 3, the car started sliding, and that's what I've been fighting all weekend.
"It's very important to start in front here," Castroneves added. "It's going to be very difficult getting around slower cars, so being patient in the race is everything."
Jaques Lazier set the early pace in qualifying before he was bumped off the front row by the Penske teammates.
"I think we had something for them today, but unfortunately we had an early qualifying draw and went out soon after the Silver Crown cars," Lazier said. "We picked up too much of their rubber. We have a stronger race car than we do a qualifying car. We were able to put some long, consistent runs on our tires and our Menard-built Chevrolet engine is awesome."
Jaques' older brother Buddy qualified Hemelgarn Racing's Chevrolet Dallara sixth, his best qualifying performance of the young season.
"It was a good lap, but it was sprinkling a little," said the elder Lazier. "We've made huge gains since yesterday; the car picked up a hint of push, other than that we're almost flat out -- can you imagine Indy cars flat out here?
"It felt like we left some on the table, but it was a good, strong run," Lazier added. "It should be an awesome race car. It's hard to pass here, but the good cars will find their way to the front. The engines like this cool weather and the downforce increases too, but you have to be careful getting the tires up to temperature."
IRL points leader Sam Hornish Jr. will start Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara from the outside of the fourth row. He qualified eighth at 170.782 mph; Hornish started on the first or second row in the three preceding races.
"We've got our work cut out for us tomorrow," Hornish conceded. "Going into Penske's home track, we knew it was going to be tough right off the bat. It's definitely a driver's track and a patience track.
"We worked on our setup yesterday trying to make sure that we had a good car for the race," he explained. "Qualifying is important here, but the race setup is more important. It's going to be the guy who's the smartest who wins the race, not necessarily the fastest."
The Firestone Indy 225 will start at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 21. The 225-mile, 225-lap race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network.