Al Unser, Jr scores best ever IRL qualifying result to start outside front row for season finale Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Tony Renna and Scott Sharp solidly in field starting sixth and seventh. Chevy 500, JUSTIN, TX -- September 14,...
Al Unser, Jr scores best ever IRL qualifying result to start outside front row for season finale Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Tony Renna and Scott Sharp solidly in field starting sixth and seventh. Chevy 500,
JUSTIN, TX -- September 14, 2002 -- For the first time since Kelley Racing added the third car to the IRL stable, all three will start in the top ten for the season ending Chevy 500 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Al Unser, Jr. rocketed the #7 Corteco/Bryant car to the outside of the front row, his best ever IRL starting position, with a lap of 221.025 MPH/23.6987 seconds. Tony Renna will start the #78 Kruse Special/HomeMed car on the outside of row number three, sixth spot, with his lap of 219.177 MPH/23.8985 seconds. The #8 Delphi driven by Scott Sharp will start seventh on the inside of row four with a lap of 219158 MPH/23.9006.
Vitor Meira won the pole with a lap of 221.594 MPH/23.6378 seconds. Sam Hornish, Jr., Buddy Rice and Eddie Cheever, Jr. complete the top five for tomorrow's 200 lap, 500K race.
Unser, Jr. was second in the qualifying order of the 28 cars attempting to make the Chevy 500. He went right to the top of the scoring tower and then waited with the entire Corteco/Bryant crew pacing and watching until Meira, the 28th and final car in line, made his run. Just .0609 of a second kept the veteran from winning his first ever IRL pole.
"Actually, the lap (221.025 MPH) was more than I expected," said Unser. "But I will take it! I have never had a pole in the IRL so we were kind of hoping that the time would hold but Vitor has been quick all weekend so the waiting was a little nerve racking, especially with him being the last car out to qualify. The Corteco/Bryant crew gave me a perfect car for qualifying and it will be an awesome car for tomorrow's race.
"It's going to be a long race tomorrow, and it's going to be awfully close like it always is here at Texas, so the thing to do is make it to the end. Hopefully we can be part of the lead group at the end, and we'll see what happens. You always hope for the option to pick your own line but sometimes it is picked for you. I just want to be there at the end, running for the win and make the right decision at the right time."
Renna posted his best to date qualifying lap to start sixth.
" I feel our qualifying Kruse/HomeMed Special car wasn't too bad," said Renna. "When you consider the way practice went today with our lower speeds it is actually a pretty awesome run.
"There are few notches we need to fix before the race begins tomorrow, and I think we will be able to do so at the final practice today. But Kelley Racing is a top-flight team and they always give me what I need for race day."
"Having the qualifications early this morning was good because the track conditions were perfect and not to hot or slippery. We were down on our straight-line speed but as I said I know my Kruse/HomeMed Special crew will do what they need to do to give me a faster car tomorrow, and we will be ready to race a good hard race."
Sharp rounded out the excellent Kelley Racing qualifying efforts by putting the #8 Delphi on the inside of row four.
"We have a really good car for the race," said Sharp. "Both yesterday and today we worked primarily on race set-up rather than qualifying so I know I will have a great car for tomorrow. Unlike some of the other tracks, I don't think it matters what position you start the race in here. As long as you have a car that works well in traffic and handles well throughout the race, then you can advance to the front of the field rather quickly. I really want to finish strong here for Delphi and Kelley Racing, but we have quite a few things in store to make Kelley Racing stronger for next year."