Carpentier sweeps to pole

Forsythe Championship Racing's Patrick Carpentier is putting together a late charge as he looks to stay in the hunt for his first Champ Car World Series title. Coming off a pair of podium finishes that included a win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Carpentier kept his hot streak going during Friday's qualifying for the Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona.

Carpentier sweeps to pole

The Las Vegas resident snared his first pole of the season and the fifth of his career by carding a fast time of 26.190sec (206.186mph) around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval in his Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola.

"The team is getting great momentum these last few weeks," he said. "The guys did a great job with the Indeck car today. We made some changes and tweaked a few things with the car after the first practice session. That made a little difference and grabbed us some more speed. The car is stable out there and feels good. I am happy with the results today and to be starting out in front, it will be an interesting race tomorrow and I am looking forward to it."

The pole not only gives Carpentier the top starting spot for Saturday night's 166-lap event, it also moves him into a tie for third place in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford standings. The Canadian driver earned a championship point for taking the Friday pole, giving him 215 on the year and tying him for third with team-mate Paul Tracy. The pole is the first for Carpentier since he took top honours at Laguna Seca a year ago in a race he would go on to win from flag-to-flag.

Carpentier was joined on the front row by fellow Las Vegas resident Jimmy Vasser (Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola), who scored his first front-row start of the 2004 season by hanging a time of 26.278 (205.495mph) on the board. The second-place start for Vasser is his best since he won the pole for the 2002 event at Long Beach, a race that he would dominate for most of the day before settling for second.

Entrants for the single-car qualifying session were presented in reverse order of morning practice times, meaning that not Carpentier, but his Forsythe stablemate Rodolfo Lavin would go out last after the second-year driver paced the opening practice. They all watched as Michel Jourdain Jr. (Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola) streaked to the pole near the session's halfway point after getting around the Sin City oval in 26.324 (205.136mph). Jourdain was soon joined by his RuSPORT team-mate A.J. Allmendinger on the front row after the rookie posted a 26.362sec run, but the battle got serious directly after as the line of those waiting to qualify dwindled to five.

August test session leader Bruno Junqueira was the first to step up, moving up to the top spot with a quick time of 26.310 (205.245mph), knocking Jourdain out of the running for the $10,000 Bridgestone Pole Award. Carpentier would be next and he dropped a big chip in the pot to move to the top, but he still had to wait while a trio of drivers prepared to take their best shots.

Vasser was next and he vaulted to second on the speed sheets, but his perch was a precarious one as series points leader Sebastien Bourdais rolled off pitlane. Bourdais has been the scourge of the Champ Car qualifying seas this season, winning seven poles including four in a row, and starting in the top three in each of the year's 11 races. He saw his pole streak ended but kept his Champ Car-record top-three streak intact, scoring his 13th consecutive top-three start - a streak that dates back to last year's season finale. He scored the third position on the strength of a lap of 26.300 (205.323mph), a time that was earned on the first of his two qualifying laps. His second lap was a consistent 26.308, but was not good enough to move him onto the front row.

Practice session leader Lavin was the last driver to take a shot at the day's pole but would have to content himself with the sixth position after earning a time of 26.339 (205.019mph). Lavin's qualifying effort matched his best-ever Champ Car oval-track qualifying effort, and puts him in the top three rows for the first time since he started second in Vancouver.

Jourdain will start a season-best fifth for the second consecutive event while Lavin ended up splitting the RuSPORT duo after settling into the sixth position. Milwaukee oval winner Ryan Hunter-Reay would end up eighth on the day, one spot ahead of his Herdez Competition team-mate Mario Dominguez.

PKV Racing's Roberto Gonzalez set a new Champ Car career best by finishing his day in the 10th spot, earning his first top-10 start with a time of 26.579 (203.168mph). Vegas resident and defending series champion Tracy will start 11th, marking his worst starting position since last year's event at EuroSpeedway Lausitz.

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