IRL: Pikes Peak Jeret Schroeder Qualifies Fifth

FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 17 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., duplicated his best qualifying effort in Indy Racing Northern Light competition ever by earning the fifth starting spot Saturday afternoon for Sunday afternoon's Radisson Indy...

FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 17 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., duplicated his best qualifying effort in Indy Racing Northern Light competition ever by earning the fifth starting spot Saturday afternoon for Sunday afternoon's Radisson Indy 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

The 30-year-old driver will start on the inside of row three beside Eliseo Salazar on Sunday by virtue of his fastest of two laps in quals, which was run at an average speed of 174.216 mph around the 1-mile oval.

The 200-lap race will be broadcast live on ABC at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday; a pre-race show called Indy Racing 2Day will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. EDT on ESPN2.

Schroeder also earned the fifth starting spot at Phoenix International Raceway in March.

Greg Ray won the MBNA Pole with a new track record of 179.874 mph. That is substantially faster than the second-place starter, Robbie Buhl, with a lap at 175.362 mph and the old mark of 178.571 mph set by Billy Boat on Aug. 15, 1998. Kelley Racing teammates Mark Dismore and Scott Sharp will start behind Ray and Buhl and in front of Schroeder in the 26-car field.

Schroeder was the sixth driver to qualify, which he did at 12:59 p.m. Saturday. He held the pole for about six minutes until Buhl set a faster time, and he held second until 1:39 p.m. when Ray set his new record and pushed him to third. Dismore and Sharp were the last two drivers to qualify, pushing Schroeder from third to fifth in the last two minutes of time trials.

Schroeder was the fastest of the six rookies in the field by far. Among the other drivers in the Indy Racing Northern Light series' Class of 2000, Airton Dare qualified 16th and Shigeaki Hattori was 17th. Sam Hornish Jr. will start 19th tomorrow, with Sarah Fisher 22nd and Doug Didero 25th.

Earlier in the day Schroeder set the third-fastest lap of the drivers in the first group during the morning practice session with a circuit at 173.863 mph, so he picked up 0.353 mph when he qualified a few hours later.

"Our qualifying speed was faster than I thought it would be; we're set for a good day tomorrow," said Schroeder with a satisfied smile after climbing out of his Dallara. "We have a good race car. We figured some things out since Indy and the car is running up front, which is where we expected to be."

When asked what his goals were for tomorrow's event, Schroeder said, "To stay on the lead lap and finish. I'm anxiously awaiting the checkered!"

Schroeder hasfinished every Indy Racing Northern Light race this year; he had gearbox problems at Texas Motor Speedway last week. Despite a long pit stop , he finished 21st after starting 10th.

Schroeder is 13th in points overall and first in the standings for the series' Rookie of the Year award going into tomorrow's race. After tomorrow's event is concluded only three more events remain: Atlanta July 15; Kentucky Aug. 27 and a return trip to Texas Oct. 15.

Schroeder had never even seen PPIR before he arrived here on Wednesday, but he likes it and thinks it's pretty straight-forward.

"It kind of reminds me of a small Vegas, and it's kind of like Loudon [New Hampshire] too. It's a little like Milwaukee too, except it has more banking," he said.

Schroeder has been steadily getting faster as the crew has been fine-tuning the set-up since the first practice session on Friday.

"In the first practice session the car started out with a pretty significant push, and we were having difficulty getting over the bump between turns one and two," Schroeder said. "We made a small change and got the push decreased quite a bit and we're getting over the bump better," he said after the second practice session Friday afternoon.

The area's high altitude is always a consideration here. "All the cars have to deal with the same thing here; it's all in how well you fine-tune the package," Schroeder said. "There is going to be a lot of attrition and you'll have to concentrate on keeping your position and trying to advance your position. It's going to be a physically demanding race."

Traditionally the event is also very fast, usually taking only about an hour and a half to complete.

"We're ready for a good day tomorrow; everybody keep your fingers crossed!" Schroeder concluded.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Eliseo Salazar , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Jeret Schroeder