Qualifying 2: Junqueira takes pole

Saturday's Champ Car qualifying session at Denver petered out on an unexciting note. Mindful of the likelihood of incidents on the slippery street course, many of the drivers completed their allotted 15 laps well before the end of the session. Those who waited saw their last-minute efforts wiped out when provisional pole winner Adrian Fernandez spun at Turn 5, bringing out a red flag that ended anyone's chances of improving.

Qualifying 2: Junqueira takes pole

When that happened, Fernandez knew he wouldn't be starting from the pole. That honour will instead go to Bruno Junqueira, who produced a lap of 61.703 seconds (96.093 mph) just nine minutes into the 40-minute session. Junqueira ran out of laps with 11 minutes to go, so he was forced to watch and wait. But with a hand from Fernandez, no one came close, allowing Bruno to claim his third pole in 2002.

"We tried to get a good lap in early and that strategy worked," remarked Junqueira. "It's the best place to start this race, because it's going to be tough tomorrow - tough on cars and tough on drivers. 100 laps is a long race, so I hope Team Target gives me a good car and Toyota gives me a reliable engine. We're definitely shooting for a top three."

Fernandez failed to match his Friday time, but CART's qualifying rules guaranteed him a front row start anyway. He lost a sub-62 second lap for causing the late red flag, and his second best Saturday lap would have put him seventh overall.

A surprise third on the grid will be his teammate Shinji Nakano. The Japanese driver has shown well in the past at slow-speed street circuits like Houston, and Saturday's qualifying effort (61.808 sec) marks a career-best.

"That was good," Nakano said. "The team did a good job and gave me a very good car. This morning Adrian taught me a few things and showed me the line - it was great teamwork. I'm very happy with my best qualifying result so far, but tomorrow is the important one."

Scott Dixon kept Chip Ganassi's Coors Light car fourth on the grid by improving to a 61.888, while Christian Fittipaldi was the last driver to break the 62-second barrier with a 61.992. Christian said he had a lap going that was less than a tenth faster than Junqueira's pole lap that was wiped out by Fernandez's spin.

"I regret waiting way too long to go out," Fittipaldi said. "We should have gone out at the very beginning because it the track was a lot quicker then. It seemed that more rubber on the track made it slower."

Dixon's teammate Kenny Brack was sixth (62.049), heading championship leader Cristiano da Matta and Patrick Carpentier, who made the day's biggest improvement, jumping from 14th to eighth.

"It would be a lot easier starting from the front," commented da Matta. "But seventh on the grid isn't all that awful. I need to keep my nose clean on the first few laps and be very careful tomorrow."

Tony Kanaan had several spins throughout the day and was bitterly disappointed to drop from third to ninth, while 10th place marked Michel Jourdain Jnr's best qualifying performance since the second race of the season at Long Beach.

Team Green had a rotten qualifying session. None of the three drivers were happy with the way their Lola-Hondas handled the bumps and pavement transitions, and Dario Franchitti led the effort from 14th place. Paul Tracy was 15th and Michael Andretti was 17th, beating only Tora Takagi.

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