MADISON, Ill., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2001 - Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. will start on the pole for the Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway, but Scott Sharp continued to be the fastest driver at the track Aug. 25.
MBNA Pole Qualifying was canceled due to morning rain and wet track conditions. Entrant points were used to set the starting grid, in accordance with Indy Racing League rules.
So Hornish will start on the pole in his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Buddy Lazier, just 25 points behind Hornish in the tight Northern Light Cup championship chase, will start on the outside of the front row in the No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
The weather cleared and track dried by 1 p.m. (EDT), allowing a 90-minute practice. 1996 Indy Racing co-champion Sharp led for the second consecutive day in the No. 8T Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, this time with a lap of 26.5389 seconds, 169.562 mph on the 1.25-mile oval.
Sharp was fastest in the rain-shortened practice Friday with a lap of 26.7440, 168.262. He will start third in the race Sunday, which starts at 3 p.m. (EDT) and will be televised live on ESPN. Sharp is third in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series standings, 88 points behind Hornish with three races remaining.
"The Delphi guys have done a great job this weekend," Sharp said. "They took our setup from the test and improved upon it. It would have been nice to qualify today because we definitely had a shot at the pole. Luckily, we're third in points, so we're still starting near the front.
"This track is very condition-sensitive. As temperatures change, the track temperature can rise, causing the car to slide around a lot. It's hard to say if today's setup will work for tomorrow's conditions, but we're still happy."
Hornish was second fastest today in practice at 26.6738, 168.705, and Lazier was third at 26.7672, 168.116.
"It makes it a little bit easier, at least going into Turn 1," Hornish said of starting up front. "But it is still a long race after that.
Buddy is starting second. We thought we were capable of getting the pole without the rain help. We will just have to take it as it comes."
Said Lazier: "Obviously we have to finish ahead of Sam and the Panther Racing team. We're 25 points behind, but that's not a lot. It's getting interesting, but there's a dark horse out there. Scott Sharp isn't out of it yet, and he's been very fast here this weekend. It could easily become a three-car race."