Junqueira Rolls To Indy Pole
May 11, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
If the Indianapolis 500 is the answer to the great Indy Car Civil War between Championship Auto Racing Teams and the Indy Racing League, Bruno Junqueira scored a significant victory for the CART contingent on Saturday.
The sophomore driver turned in an impressive run of 231.342 mph in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry to win the pole for the 86th edition of the Memorial Weekend classic.
"This is just a fantastic feeling to be able to come here with such a great team and be able to go out and win the pole," said Junqueira, who made his first Indianapolis start last year. "I want to thank Chip Ganassi and this Target Team for giving me such a fantastic car and for the opportunity to race in the biggest race in the world."
Junqueira's run came early in the day as several teams decided to qualify near the beginning of the session because of the threat of rain that surrounded the speedway. Qualifying was stopped several times for light showers, but the weather prevented the late day "Happy Hour" rush to the qualifying grid as in most Indy Pole Days.
Robbie Buhl gave Junqueira the most serious run for the top spot with a speed of 231.033 mph in his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing machine. The run came after Buhl had waved off a previous qualifying attempt when the team decided it wouldn't be fast enough to their satisfaction.
"We knew we had a car that could turn a pole lap because we were fast all wek during practice," said Buhl. "The first time we went out to qualify today, I could feel the car jusn't wasn't as good as I knew it could be so we waved it off. It turned out to be a good decision because the next time we tried, it was the kind of run I knew we were capable of.
Veteran Raul Boesel rounds out the front row, as the Brazillian put the Team Menard entry in the third position. Boesel, who was tabbed by car owner John Menard to drive the car in place of P.J. Jones, who was injured in a practice crash earlier this week, turned in a speed of 230.613 mph.
"This is just fantastic," said fan favorite Boesel after his run. "I can't thank John Menard enough for having the confidence in putting me in the car. We have a tremendous chance to bring home a win in the 500 and a great starting spot."
A total of 24 cars earned spots in the 500 on Saturday. Among the noteables in the field are Tony Kanaan (5th), Eddie Cheever (6th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (7th), last year's pole winner Scott Sharp (8th), Winston Cup regular Robby Gordon (11th), and the Team Penske duo of 2001 race winner Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran 13th and 14th respectively.
Sarah Fisher made history by becoming the fastest woman to make the Indianapolis 500 with a speed of 229.439 mph, good for ninth on the starting grid. The 21-year-old Fisher was tabbed by Dreyer & Reinbold to team with Buhl and proved she was up to the call.
"To be starting in the Top 10 at Indianapolis is a dream come true," said Fisher. "What a mountain this has been to climb, not having a ride when the season started and to be here at Indy with such a good team and teammate. This is just almost too good to be true."
It was a disappointing day for several pre-race favorites including Paul Tracy, who wrecked his Team Green entry in the morning warm-up session, and Michael Andretti, who made it into the field but was only able to muster the 23rd fastest time.
Qualifying continues on Sunday beginning with position 25.