NA-F2000: Phoenix - Morioka PR

From: Linda Mansfield, 75534.2635@CompuServe.com Morioka Qualifies Second at Phoenix PHOENIX, Ariz., March 22 - Zak Morioka of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Miami, Fla., recorded the best qualifying effort of his U.S. Formula Ford 2000 career ...

From: Linda Mansfield, 75534.2635@CompuServe.com

Morioka Qualifies Second at Phoenix

PHOENIX, Ariz., March 22 - Zak Morioka of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Miami, Fla., recorded the best qualifying effort of his U.S. Formula Ford 2000 career Saturday on the 1-mile oval at Phoenix Int'l Raceway and will start second in Sunday's USFF2000 race here.

Morioka, driving the Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports Van Diemen Quicksilver Ford No. 27, was one of nine drivers in the 42-driver field to break the old track record of 28.728 seconds/125.313 mph set by Howard Katz last March.

Matt Sielsky won the pole with a time of 28.382 seconds, 126.841 mph, to earn the pole, but 18-year-old Morioka will start alongside him on the front row with a speed of 126.422 mph (28.476 seconds). David Rutledge qualified third and Buddy Rice fourth. Urbatan Helou Jr. rounded out the top five in the unofficial qualifying standings. The top 20 from time trials are locked in for tomorrow's race, while the rest of the 34-car field will be determined from a last-chance race later Saturday.

Morioka was fastest in the morning practice session Friday with a speed of 128.80 mph, which was faster than the speed Sielsky ran to earn the pole. He was 11th in the afternoon session Friday, but he was working on other things in that session and never really got a clear lap in then.

The qualifying effort was especially gratifying since last year Morioka had to run the last-chance race to make the field here.

"I have been working hard on my oval qualifying," Morioka said. "It is quite different than qualifying on a road course because you have to go out and run two fast laps on cold tires during time trials on an oval, and you have several laps and warmer tires when you qualify on a road course. I had a taste of the pole there for a few minutes, but I'm still very, very happy. Our car is better in traffic than running by itself too, which gives me even more confidence. I have a lot of confidence in my car, which is prepared by Hayes Motorsports, and that is making the difference. This year I trust and believe in my car."

Morioka added that he actually got a little sideways between turns one and two on his fastest lap, which cost him a little bit of time. "I would have gone even faster without that mistake, but I'm still very happy," he said.

Sunday's 50 lap, 50-mile race is scheduled to get the green flag at noon, with the Indy Racing League event getting the green flag at 2 p.m. local time.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers David Rutledge , Buddy Rice , Howard Katz