INDIANAPOLIS Kevin Harvick is a California boy with no special ties to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ryan Newman is a Hoosier with big dreams of winning on his home track.
Both wanted the pole for the Brickyard 400 and both shattered the track record trying to get it in Saturday's qualifying.
Harvick was the winner and relished the moment as if it was he, not Newman, who grew up fantasizing about victories on the historic 2 1/2-mile oval.
''Anything you do here means a lot to me,'' Harvick said. ''Obviously there's a lot of history with open-wheel and stock cars and it's an important place for my team.''
Harvick turned a lap at 184.343 mph in his Chevrolet minutes after Newman broke the track record with a lap at 184.238 in his Dodge.
As Harvick pulled off the track, Newman was still on pit road and greeted him with wide-open arms as if to say 'Wow!'
''I didn't expect to be quite that fast,'' Newman said. ''I also didn't think my time would stand up. I knew a lot of fast cars were coming.''
Speeds were overwhelmingly fast on Saturday, with 11 drivers topping the record of 182.960 set by Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart last season.
But Harvick was the best, earning just the second pole of his career. The other? At another famous race track Daytona International Speedway last summer.
''It's pretty neat that my two poles are at Daytona and Indy,'' Harvick said. ''That was an awesome lap. I saw Bill (Elliott) and Ryan put up some pretty good laps, so we knew we had to go for it.''
By qualifying first, Harvick gave car owner Richard Childress poles in three of the biggest races of the year: Jeff Green, who no longer drives for Childress, won the pole of the season-opening Daytona 500, Steve Park won the pole at Daytona last month and now Harvick has it at the Brickyard.
Elliott, the defending race winner, qualified third in a Dodge
''I felt like I was out of control, the track is so fast,'' Elliott said. ''But I love this race track. I love racing here. It's always been good to me.''
Ward Burton qualified fourth in a Dodge his best qualifying effort of the season and Michael Waltrip was fifth in a Chevrolet. Kurt Busch qualified sixth in a Ford and was followed by Joe Nemechek, Bobby Labonte, Jimmie Johnson and Jeremy Mayfield.
Stewart, still looking for his first victory on his home track, qualified 15th. Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth qualified 17th and three-time race winner Jeff Gordon was 19th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who trails Kenseth by 232 points in the standings, will start 36th.
Starting from the back of the pack won't be easy, with track position so critical and passing extremely difficult at Indy.
''Strategy could really end up being important,'' Gordon said. ''This track has never been the best for putting on a great (NASCAR) race. It's a flat, fast track and that doesn't make for good racing for us.
''Don't get me wrong, it's dramatic. But this place is more about hype than it is great racing.''
The hype of Indy can certainly be overwhelming, especially to Indiana natives.
Stewart was so emotionally drained last year after winning the pole and dominating the race, only to fade at the end, that he snapped afterward and punched a photographer.
Junqueira earns another pole at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. Bruno Junqueira earned his second straight pole at Road America on Saturday as he looks for his first race victory of the season.
Junqueira won the second qualifying round ahead of Sunday's Mario Andretti Grand Prix with a lap time of 1 minute, 43:703 seconds. His Newman/Haas Racing teammate Sebastien Bourdais, a rookie, qualified second in 1:44.242.
Patrick Carpentier used his last lap to jump into third place with 1:44.306.
Most drivers were able to improve their times from Friday, despite rainstorms Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
But Junqueira continued to dominate at the permanent road track, the site of his first CART victory, in 2001.
He ran faster than his competitors in every practice, and his run Friday, at 1:43.917, would have also earned the pole.
He again didn't bother with the 10-minute practice before qualifying.
''I think it rained so much this morning, then I didn't feel that the track would be up to speed,'' he said. ''I know the car I have, and I'm just waiting for the time to go on the track.''
For Carpentier, surging to grab the third spot was especially important for his team after a difficult race last week. Carpentier was in second when he crashed into Mario Dominguez, ending his day.
''I'm pretty happy this week,'' Carpentier said. ''I think we have a good car.''
He said the car performed better Saturday after some changes, allowing him to build more momentum.
''It was more stable, and I could attack the corners a little bit more,'' he said.
Junqueira moved within 18 points of Paul Tracy, who fell to sixth place Saturday after running third in Friday's qualifying.
Junqueira said he must win Sunday if he wants to overtake Tracy in the points standings before the season ends. Road America's long straightaways and fast corners suit his style.
''It's a time of year that's important to me,'' he said.
But nobody's counting out Tracy, who earned his fifth victory in 11 races last weekend at the Vancouver Molson Indy.
''It's a long race so anything can happen,'' he said before qualifying. ''The key is being able to run fast all the time, not just during one lap.''
Carpentier said starting at the front would be an advantage because of the rule that requires drivers to pit every 13 laps.
''You have to stop on lap 13, and everybody does. It's a bit harder to go from the back to the front,'' he said.
Junqueira said drivers aren't conserving fuel as much, making the race faster.
''Now there's no fuel conservation and it's much more difficult'' to pass, Junqueira said. ''If it doesn't rain, we're going to go faster and faster in the race.''
But Junqueira said his quick times in qualifying don't guarantee a win. He finished third last year because of a poor pit stop.
''It's a very difficult race track to push hard, hard all the time,'' he said. ''It's very difficult to break away and open a gap.''
Peninsula Clarion © 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us