Qualifying: Junqueira takes Nazareth pole

Champ Car rookie Bruno Junqueira proved his performance over the last two days was no fluke by taking pole position for Round 3 of the Champ Car series at Nazareth Speedway. Junqueira's pole lap was timed at 19.700 seconds, for an average speed of 172.873mph. Kenny Brack was second and Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr was a surprise third

Qualifying: Junqueira takes Nazareth pole

The pole, which was Junqueira's first since he started from the front in the International Formula 3000 race at the Hungaroring last August, and it comes in only his third Champ Car start for the four-time CART champion team, Chip Ganassi Racing. The Lola chassis claimed the first four spots on the grid, with Junqueira's Toyota-powered example leading three Fords.

"I'm really happy to start the first oval race of my life from the front," Junqueira said. "Everyone said it's important to start from the front here, so I guess I'll find out just how good it is tomorrow. I hope I can do some good laps and I know that I will learn a lot. I hope I can become a consistent frontrunner."

As one of the last drivers to run, Brack was affected by higher track temperatures than the early qualifiers. The ambient temperature was 20 degrees Celsius when the qualifying session started, with a track temperature of 27 degrees. Junqueira had just run when his Ganassi team mate Nicolas Minassian smacked the Turn 2 wall, stopping the action for around 20 minutes.

Minassian was uninjured, but by the time his wreck was cleaned up, the sun came out, bumping the ambient temperature up to 24 with a track temp reading at 35. Of the late runners, only Helio Castroneves, who ended up fifth, was able to approach the times of the cooler morning practice session.

"It was difficult to qualify because of the conditions," Brack commented. "On these one-mile ovals, you have to have the car so well-balanced to go fast. If the temperature goes up or down a degree or two, it can really turn things upside down.

"We were a little conservative, maybe, but we're solidly in the show," Brack added. "The Lola-Ford is obviously a good combination, but it's new to us and we have a lot to learn. Team Rahal had a lot of experience with the Reynard, but it's difficult to start from a clean sheet of paper. It's been interesting and hard, but we've come a long way in a short time, so I have to give the team credit."

Third place marked a CART career-best qualifying effort for Jourdain, whose previous best had been fifth on the grid at California in 1997.

"It's been a good weekend so far," Jourdain said. "All year, we've shown we could be fast. Once we changed to the Ford engine, we knew we could be competitive. Even last year with all the problems we had, we had a good car on the short ovals. My engineer Tom Brown has a lot of experience, and I've been able to do good times on old tyres, so I'm very optimistic."

Oriol Servia rounded out the Lola quartet at the front of the field, while the third row was filled by Helio Castroneves and Adrian Fernandez, who enjoyed his best qualifying performance of the year in his Reynard-Honda. The top 10 was rounded out by Bryan Herta, Paul Tracy, Cristiano da Matta and Tony Kanaan.

Other notables included local hero Michael Andretti in 13th, defending series champion and Nazareth winner Gil de Ferran in 15th, who was suffering from understeer, and Alex Zanardi in 21st.

Max Papis drew the day's biggest cheer when he saved his Lola-Ford from contact after he spun exiting Turn 3 on his way to taking the green flag for his run. The car rotated one and a half times, but Papis steered it backwards down the track and onto the grass away from harm. He went back out on new tyres at the end and qualified 14th.

"It's nice to hear the crowd cheer, but I want them to do it when I take the pole, not when I mess up," he said.

1 B Junqueira Lola-Toyota F 19.700s
2 K Brack Lola-Ford F 19.738s
3 M Jourdain Jr Lola-Ford 19.950s
4 O Servia Lola-Ford F 19.996s
5 H Castroneves Reynard-Honda 20.007s
6 A Fernandez Reynard-Honda 20.059s
7 B Herta Reynard-Ford 20.064s
8 P Tracy Reynard-Honda 20.148s
9 C da Matta Lola-Toyota 20.162s
10 T Kanaan Reynard-Honda 20.187s
11 J Vasser Reynard-Toyota 20.191s
12 D Franchitti Reynard-Honda 20.201s
13 M Andretti Reynard-Honda 20.205s
14 M Papis Lola-Ford 20.297s
15 G de Ferran Reynard-Honda 20.319s
16 R Moreno Reynard-Toyota 20.353s
17 C Fittipaldi Lola-Toyota 20.406s
18 T Takagi Reynard-Toyota 20.414s
19 S Nakano Reynard-Honda 20.455s
20 A Tagliani Reynard-Ford 20.459s
21 A Zanardi Reynard-Honda 20.505
22 P Carpentier Reynard-Ford 20.549s
23 S Dixon Reynard-Toyota 20.681s
24 M Wilson Lola-Pheonix 21.117s

Junqueira shock fastest in Nazareth practice
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