BROOKLYN, MICH (July 27, 2002) - The qualifying lineup for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 looked much the same as the speed charts through three practice sessions as the Red Bull Cheever Racing cars took the top three spots. Rookie driver Tomas ...
BROOKLYN, MICH (July 27, 2002) - The qualifying lineup for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 looked much the same as the speed charts through three practice sessions as the Red Bull Cheever Racing cars took the top three spots. Rookie driver Tomas Scheckter earned his third career pole driving in his 11th Indy Racing League event.
Ninth in the qualifying line, Scheckter posted a speed of 221.868, leaving the majority of the field out of contention for the pole. Only his teammates, Eddie Cheever and Buddy Rice would have a legitimate shot.
"When I hit my lap, I thought it was going to be difficult to beat," said Scheckter, whose best lap of the weekend was 221.987 mph in this morning's practice session. While practice often produces higher speeds when the cars draft each other, Scheckter knew he could run 220.5 mph without help.
"I never knew I could do a lap like that," he said after taking the pole.
Towards the end of the qualifying line, Cheever and Rice awaited their chance to knock the young South African from the pole.
Cheever took to the track and quickly put his Red Bull Dallara on the front row with a lap at 220.328 mph. Two cars later, it was Rice's turn on the two-mile high-banked superspeedway.
On his first lap, Rice turned a lap over 220 mph, knocking Cheever from the front row. On his second lap he improved to 221.831 mph, missing the pole by 0.0053 seconds.
Scheckter and Rice will start first and second marking the first time in IRL history that rookies will share the front row. It's also the first time in series history that one team has swept the top three starting positions. Cheever Racing drivers were the only drivers to top the 219 mph mark in qualifying.
"Our cars virtually ran the same time," said Rice. "It was just a tick off. We're all basically on the same setup."
Sam Hornish, driver of the Pennzoil Panther Dallara, will start fourth, just behind the Red Bull firm of Scheckter, Rice and Cheever. After running 219.085 mph in practice this morning, Hornish qualified at 219.580. "We kind of went out there and surprised ourselves. We got a little more horsepower out of our Chevrolet than we ever expected and ran a faster time."
Nineteenth on the day after two practice sessions on Friday, Mark Dismore found two mph overnight to qualify fifth in his Team Menard Dallara.
"We've been looking for setup, and last night we made some big changes to the car which have really worked. The car is the best it's been all weekend, and I think we're ready to go racing now."
Helio Castroneves, who will start sixth, continues to run consistent laps at 219 mph. His teammate, Gil de Ferran struggled in qualifying, which is uncommon for Marlboro Team Penske.
"I'm really disappointed," said de Ferran after qualifying at 217.427 mph. "We may have been a little too conservative for the qualifying setup, but we'll be in good shape for the race."
De Ferran will start 17th in the field of 25 cars.
"This race, it doesn't matter where you start as long as you are patient," said Castroneves.
Twenty-five cars take the green flag for 200 laps of action at 3:00 p.m. with live television coverage provided by ABC-TV.
Notes from the Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway:
Morning practice was delayed 47 minutes until the Lifeline Helicopter arrived at the track. A helicopter relaying television signals from in car cameras had been hovering at 1200 feet above the track for thirty minutes by the time the safety chopper arrived.