KANSAS CITY, Kan., Saturday, July 7, 2001 -- Infiniti was fast in practice, but Oldsmobile was faster when it counted in qualifying. Scott Sharp put Kelley Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara on the pole for tomorrow's inaugural Ameristar Casino Indy 200...
KANSAS CITY, Kan., Saturday, July 7, 2001 -- Infiniti was fast in practice, but Oldsmobile was faster when it counted in qualifying. Scott Sharp put Kelley Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara on the pole for tomorrow's inaugural Ameristar Casino Indy 200 with a 216.175 mph run on the new 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. It was Sharp's second pole of the season (he sat on the pole at the Indianapolis 500), and the fourth of his career. He extended Oldsmobile's streak of IRL pole starts to 46 consecutive races.
Sharp stepped up from his 215 mph pace in practice to post the fastest speed in scorching 100-degree heat in the heartland. "We put it all together finally," Sharp said. "We trimmed everything out to the maximum, hit the balance just right and it all came together. The hotter conditions actually may have helped us."
Oldsmobile engines powered eight of the ten fastest qualifiers and 19 of the 21 qualifiers. Eddie Cheever Jr. will start alongside Sharp on the front row in his Infiniti-powered entry that qualified at 216.085 mph. Eliseo Salazar was third fastest at 215.197 in A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile Dallara, followed by Robbie Buhl's Infiniti. IRL points leader Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top five with a 213.226 mph lap in Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara.
With similar weather predicted for tomorrow, drivers, crews and engines will have to endure withering heat in the 200-lap, 300-mile race. "Qualifying is going to go out the window as soon as the race starts," Sharp noted. "Getting a car that can be fast for 40 or 50 laps is going to be much harder, and that's where my focus is. What's important to me is bringing it home first tomorrow."
Salazar, fourth in the points standings, will start behind Sharp in the second row on Sunday. "This could be a one-groove race, so I'm glad to be up front," he said. "I'm really not affected by the heat because I do all of my training in Miami in these conditions."
Hornish had languished in the middle of the pack during practice sessions, but stepped to the fore in qualifying. "We're still trying to figure out the chassis setup, but we usually don't find it until race morning anyway," Hornish laughed. "A lot of people who were faster than us in practice qualified behind us, so that shows what drafting can be worth."
Felipe Giaffone, fifth in the championship points and the top rookie, turned in a solid qualifying performance and put Treadway-Hubbard Racing's Oldsmobile G-Force sixth on the starting grid at 212.732 mph.
"This is an awesome track," said the Brazilian. "We're going to have to guess what the car will do tomorrow because we haven't raced here before. I know that I will have to push hard, and to do that I need a good car behind me -- and that's what I have right now. It's not the fastest car for qualifying, but it should be good tomorrow."
Sharp's teammate Mark Dismore qualified seventh in Kelley Racing's second Oldsmobile Dallara. "I was just hanging on in qualifying," he reported. "We underestimated the lack of grip. I was able to get through both qualifying laps flat, but not comfortably. We're going to have to put a lot of downforce in the car for the race."
The Ameristar Casino Indy 200 will start at 12 noon CDT on Sunday, July 8. The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live on ABC at 1:00 p.m. EDT and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.