Fisher and Chevrolet on front row in Richmond IRL Race RICHMOND, Va., June 27, 2003 - Sarah Fisher returned to her short-track racing roots tonight at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway oval, qualifying her GMAC/AOL Dreyer & Reinbold ...
Fisher and Chevrolet on front row in Richmond IRL Race
RICHMOND, Va., June 27, 2003 - Sarah Fisher returned to her short-track racing roots tonight at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway oval, qualifying her GMAC/AOL Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara on the outside of the front row for Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge. After a rain shower briefly interrupted qualifying, Fisher circled the smallest track on the IRL circuit at 167.004 mph, nearly a full mph better than her fastest speed in practice. She was bumped off the pole by the next driver in the qualifying order, Scott Dixon, who turned a lap at 168.138 mph in Ganassi Racing's Toyota G Force.
"This is a place where Chevy is strong," said Fisher, who turned in the best qualifying performance of the season for Chevrolet. "They've got it together and they keep coming on strong. We all work really hard, and the folks at GMAC and AOL have been trying to get a result. This is one that bumps you up in the numbers.
"Racing in sprint cars and midgets has a lot to do with Richmond," she explained. "I love to hustle an Indy car and this is really the only place you can do it.
"Everything has be to perfect here in Richmond," said Fisher. "Chevy's got the engine geared in the right torque band to give us as good an opportunity as they can. It's a setup track, so being able to work with your engineer to get the perfect car counts a lot. To be able to hustle the car as a driver is important. It's all of those categories working together."
Fisher was one of eight drivers who had to cope with dramatically different track conditions after the rain.
"I think we put together a really good lap," she offered. "The conditions were good, but it was a green track. I had a little push, but we came away with a good run."
Sam Hornish Jr. strengthened his bid to repeat as winner of the SunTrust Indy Challenge when he recorded the fourth fastest speed in qualifying for the 250-lap race on Saturday night. Hornish circled the tight .75-mile oval at 166.297 mph in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara.
"We knew what we had to do to come out and qualify," said Hornish. "The wind coming across the track hurt the setup of the car a little, but at the time we were the fastest, so I guess we didn't miss it by too much.
"Today was just a setup for tomorrow night; we really have to have a good setup that will keep the tires on the car all night long and be able to make passes toward the end of the race," he continued. "One of the key things here is that when the sun is out you get a lot of heat buildup in the track surface because it's so black. You get a lot of that grip back when the sun goes down, and the car will change a lot over the course of the race.
"The feel of this track is different from other tracks we go to," Hornish noted. "Both ends are different; you usually get a big push coming out of Turn 2, and you're hanging on for dear life coming out of 3 and 4. The back end of the car is moving around. It's really a track that involves the driver."
Vitor Meira was the second driver on the track after the rain delay, and the cooler temperatures also affected his car's performance.
"It was good, but not enough," said Meira, who qualified the Johns Manville Team Menard Chevrolet Dallara in the 10th spot at 165.299 mph. "The track cooled down a little bit and the front tires took a long time to warm up. From my first lap to the second lap there was a big jump in speed, mostly because of the tires. I think the Team Menard Chevrolet deserves a pole, but the race is still to come, so we'll see. The car had understeer everywhere, but the track was really green and changed a lot after practice. This tight track is much more intense, and it allows the driver to show up a little more."
Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Buddy Rice compares the Richmond oval to an arcade game: "This short track is cool and it will be fun to race on, exactly like a video game," Rice declared after qualifying his Chevrolet Dallara 13th on the grid at 164.178 mph. "Things happen fast, so you have to be on your toes. We should have a solid race car and get another good finish like we did in Colorado. It's a help to come to these handling tracks."
Buddy Lazier cited the rapidly changing weather conditions as a positive factor. He qualified Hemelgarn Racing's Chevrolet Dallara 21st at 159.865 mph.
"I think the weather may have helped us a lot," said Lazier. "We've been really struggling here. With a one-day practice session, if you unload and you're not right, it makes for a long day because we haven't had a lot of time between sessions to fix or make any big changes. We're heading the right direction, but unfortunately I think that that not testing here hurt us. Hopefully tomorrow night will be significantly better than today. If the conditions change a lot tomorrow night, it could be just what we need."
The SunTrust Indy Challenge will start at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 15. The 250-lap, 187.5-mile race will be televised live on ESPN and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.