RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 29, 2001 - Jaques Lazier made quite an impression in his first race with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, winning his first career MBNA Pole by taking the top spot for the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International...
RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 29, 2001 - Jaques Lazier made quite an impression in his first race with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, winning his first career MBNA Pole by taking the top spot for the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway with a lap of 160.417 mph.
Lazier's time was 16.8311 seconds on the ¾-mile oval in the No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. His previous best starting spot was 10th last August at Kentucky Speedway.
Sarah Fisher will start a career-best second after a lap of 159.891 in the No. 15 Walker Racing Kroger Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Her previous best start was fourth last August at Kentucky Speedway.
Eddie Cheever Jr. was third at 159.202 in the #51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, rallying to find speed after crashing during practice earlier in the afternoon. Buddy Lazier - Jaques' older brother - was fourth at 159.199.
The 250-lap race starts at 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. It's the first event in Indy Racing League history on a track shorter than 1 mile.
"I'm so excited about tomorrow, wheel-to-wheel competition," Fisher said. "You'll have to get your elbows up." Lazier, from Vail, Colo., is the third driver in as many races for the team led by former Indy Racing standout Schmidt. Davey Hamilton suffered severe lower leg and foot injuries in a crash June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, while Richie Hearn drove for the team June 17 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
"I think this weekend was just a feeling-out process between myself and Sam Schmidt to see if it's a good fit," Lazier said. "So far, it definitely has been. I think we want to finish out this season and look to next year.
"This is just the beginning of hopefully a wonderful building block between Sam Schmidt and myself." Lazier gave a preview of his qualifying speed by leading the last practice before time trials at 160.809 in muggy conditions with an air temperature in the 90s.
The strong qualifying run by former short-track standout Fisher was quite a contrast from practice Thursday, when she crashed.
"This is a bullring, and this is what I grew up with," Fisher said. "You don't know what the limit is until you find it, and we found it yesterday. This is awesome for us. We've made huge gains from yesterday to today."
All-time Indy Racing pole leader Greg Ray didn't participate in qualifying after crashing during practice today. Team Menard decided to withdraw from qualifying before Ray was examined to determine his driving status. He has not been cleared to drive and will be re-evaluated Saturday morning by Dr. Henry Bock, Indy Racing League director of medical services.
Billy Boat and Jeff Ward also crashed during qualifying. Boat hit the outside retaining wall on his warm-up and was not able to make a qualifying attempt. Ward spun in Turn 4 on his qualifying lap and tapped the outside retaining wall on the main straightaway past the start-finish line. Neither driver was hurt.