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Source — Indy Racing
Date Posted — August 24, 2002
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MADISON, Illinois -- There was little doubt after qualifying for the Gateway 100 that Ryan Hampton and Gateway International Raceway are a match made in handling heaven.

Hampton won the pole for the Gateway 100 Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series event with ease Aug. 24, turning a top lap of 31.3049 seconds, 143.747 mph in the No. 34 Conti-Genoa-Frost Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

It was the first Infiniti Pro Series pole for Hampton, who also led both practice sessions before qualifying. Hampton's best qualifying position in two prior starts was 10th earlier this month at Kentucky Speedway.

"I think we found that magic little niche that makes the car go quick," Hampton said. "It's just so darn tight that the horsepower doesn't really count anymore; it's more how you're setting the thing up much more than anything else.

"It's fun. I'm happy. The team is doing what it should be doing, which is (being) up front."

Hampton, 28, from Phoenix, is a veteran of the U.S. F2000 series from which IRL standouts Sam Hornish Jr. and Robby McGehee graduated. Hampton made his Infiniti Pro Series debut last month at Michigan, finishing a season-best seventh.

Cory Witherill, second in the series points, was second at 32.0612, 140.357 in the No. 92 WSA Healthcare entry, trailing Hampton by .7563 of a second. It was easily the largest margin for a pole winner in Infiniti Pro Series history.

Curtis Francois, making his first Infiniti Pro Series start, was third at 32.1977, 139.762 in the No. 9 Budweiser Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry. Arie Luyendyk Jr. was fourth at 32.2016, 139.745 in the No. 5 Luyendyk Racing entry.

Series points leader A.J. Foyt IV was fifth at 32.2420, 139.570 in the No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing entry. It was his best showing of the weekend, as Foyt was ninth- and seventh-fastest during the first two practice sessions, respectively.

Gateway is a tricky, 1.25-mile oval with asymmetrical corners and long straightaways, a track for which chassis setup is more important than horsepower.

"The car is handling exactly as it's supposed to," Hampton said. "It's definitely a driver's track. It takes some skill to get around here quick. It's sometimes who's the bravest, and sometimes it's a matter of setup. I think everything kind of came together for it."

The 80-lap, 100-mile race starts at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. Highlights will be televised at 6 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 19 on ESPN2.


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Article posted by staff on August 24, 2002.