Scheckter Leads Cheever Sweep
July 27, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
It's the first time in Indy Racing League history that one team has swept the first three starting spots for a race. It's also the first time rookies swept the front row for an IRL race, as Buddy Rice will start second.
Scheckter edged Rice for the pole with a lap of 32.4518 seconds, 221.868 mph in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. He tied Gil de Ferran for the IRL season lead with his third pole, this one with a new crew. Scheckter's crew was switched to work on Rice's car this week.
"When I hit my lap, I thought it was going to be difficult to beat," Scheckter said. "I never knew I could do a lap like that, but we had done some stuff. We had taken some chances on a couple of things, and it paid off.
"It means a lot. Especially with the week we've had with my team being taken away from me and a new team on the car, we still managed to be on pole."
Rice, making his IRL debut, qualified second at 32.4571, 221.831 in the No. 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara. He fell just 53-thousandths of a second short of Scheckter.
Team owner-driver Eddie Cheever Jr. qualified third, taking the inside of the second row, at 32.6785, 220.328 in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara.
Reigning league champion Sam Hornish Jr. was "the best of the rest," qualifying fourth at 32.7898, 219.580 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara. Mark Dismore rounded out the top five at 32.8325, 219.295 in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Pittsburgh Paints Dallara.
The Michigan Indy 400, the IRL debut at the 2-mile MIS oval, starts at 3 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. ABC will televise the 400-mile race live.
Series points leader Gil de Ferran struggled, qualifying 17th at 33.1146, 217.427 in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara.
Red Bull Cheever Racing now has four MBNA Poles this season, as Cheever earned one, but no victories. The team also posted the top three speeds Friday and in practice this morning. But Rice has learned quickly that those statistics are irrelevant for the team, which is focused only on victory after so much qualifying speed and subsequent race disappointment this season.
"My deal with Eddie right now is just to come out, make sure I finish races, and just run up front," Rice said. "Obviously we have a really good car. We have good power by Infiniti. You just have to go out, cruise around and make sure that hopefully all three of us are on the podium together. That's our whole goal right now."