Qualifying 1: Carpentier fastest

Patrick Carpentier earned himself an extra championship point, and a place on the front row, by setting the quickest time in the first qualifying session at Mid-Ohio.

Qualifying 1: Carpentier fastest

Carpentier popped in a lap of 1m07.040s (121.253 mph) just before the red flag flew for Paul Tracy's spin on the pit straight. Since less than two minutes remained, the chequered flag waved as well and Carpentier was guaranteed the overnight pole and a front row start for Sunday's extended 92-lap race.

Newman-Haas team-mates Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi ended up second and third respectively in their Lola-Toyotas, while Carpentier's team-mate Alex Tagliani was fourth quickest on 1m07.440s.

"Sometimes you need a little break and I got one today," remarked Carpentier. "I crossed the Start/Finish line and the team came on the radio and said, 'P1, P1!' Then the next thing I heard was, 'Red Flag! Red Flag!' but I didn't know if I was still fastest. When the team said I was, that's when I started to celebrate."

Carpentier is now just one point off third place in the CART championship, currently held by Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain Jnr. His contract has not been renewed by the Forsythe team, and he has been linked to teams in CART, the Indy Racing League and NASCAR.

"Lately I've been into and out of a lot of teams, but I'm just focusing on driving the car and scoring points to move up in the championship," Carpentier said.

Da Matta was fastest in the morning practice and he turned a 1m07.095s on his third qualifying lap. That was more than 0.7s faster than the next best driver at that time, though Carpentier subsequently beat him right at the end.

"I'm not happy with my grid position, but I'm happy with the car and the engine and the way things have been going this weekend," da Matta said.

Fittipaldi said there is much more to come from his car and reckons the pole time will be lowered to between 1m6.0sand 1m6.5son Saturday.

"It depends on traffic," he added. "When people wait and go out at the last minute, it produces a doimino effect. Nobody wants to get out of the way when they are not on a fast lap and everybody plays the game. That's why you had a lot of angry drivers after the session."

Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon filled the third row, while the top ten was rounded out by Michael Andretti, Tora Takagi, Kenny Brack and Junqueira.

It wasn't the best day for Team Green. Tracy wound up 15th after his spin, while Dario Franchitti followed up a practice crash with an off-course excursion in qualifying and wound up 11th on 1:07.958.

"The car had no mechanical grip on the first run," said the Scot. "It was a lot better for the second run, but I caught up with Shinji Nakano who was kind of running a walking pace and he held me up. I think we had a top-five car otherwise."

Team Rahal, which calls Mid-Ohio its home track, struggled with Jimmy Vasser 12th and Michel Jourdain 18th and last. Jourdain's car stopped on course with a fuel feed problem at the same time Tracy spun, and the Mexican was deemed jointly responsible for causing the red flag.

Max Papis was 16th in a substitute role for the injured Adrian Fernandez.

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