August 31, 2002
MERRILL CAIN: Final qualifying for tomorrow's Shell Grand Prix of Denver. We are joined by your pole sitter this afternoon, Bruno Junqueira, driving #4, Target Toyota/Lola Bridgestone who won the fourth pole of his career today, the third of this season with the best lap of 1:01.703 seconds, a speed of 96.093 miles per hour, establishing a new track record here for the inaugural Shell Grand Prix of Denver. He earns the championship points for the effort and he moves into sole possession of third place in the championship with 102 points on the season. Bruno, you turned your quick lap relatively early in qualifying. Interesting strategy. You went out early and put up a quick lap. Was it nerve racking for you, watching everybody trying to beat your time?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, it wasn't easy. I had to wait like half an hour. And then after I wait a half an hour, then it was not that bad. But yesterday I thought that I had a very good car to be in the top three, and then I decided today to go a little bit earlier and get a clear lap, and I see the strategy paid off. On my second set, I got into a little bit of traffic and couldn't go much -- couldn't go fast on the outing. I went low. But I think my car is really good and then it's just a question to get a clear lap.
MERRILL CAIN: Adrian Fernandez qualifies second today driving the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. He takes the second spot on the grid by virtue of yesterday's qualifying performance leading Friday's provisional qualifying effort with a tie of 1:02.073, a speed of 95.520 miles per hour. The starting spot is Adrian's best since he won the pole in Milwaukee earlier this season. Adrian, I know this is probably not exactly the way you wanted to finish it up. You had caused a red flag in qualifying that wiped out your fastest lap of the session, but you did still have the effort from yesterday which allows you to start second in tomorrow's race.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, at the end I was just trying too hard. There's a good lesson there. I was just trying too hard. Actually, it's the first mistake I've done all weekend. The car was good on the first set of tires. I was in the lap that was quicker than Bruno's lap. Unfortunately, I made a mistake in turn eight, the one before the last corner. And, you know, it was after that I did the fastest lap of the day. With my second set tires, basically, I didn't find any grip for some reason. I was having a lot of push and I just couldn't get the lap. But I'm very happy for Shinji, for the team. It was a great team effort. It's going to be a good stop for the whole team.
MERRILL CAIN: It certainly was a great day for Fernandez racing. Shinji Nakano joins us driving #52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. His earns the third spot on the grid today. His best ever starting position in the CART FedEx Championship series. He takes the third spot with a time of 1:01.808 seconds, the speed of 95.929 miles per hour. Shinji had a previous best qualifying effort of six that he earned in Milwaukee earlier this year. Shinji, if you would talk a little about the performance of the team this weekend and your best qualifying effort. It has to feel great to be up here at the podium.
SHINJI NAKANO: I am very happy to be here today. I think we've been having a pretty good car. In Toronto and Vancouver, we really had a pretty good car, we just couldn't put everything together for the qualifier. This week, it looked like everything went well and the team gave me a good car and I put everything together. That's why I qualified. I'm very happy.
MERRILL CAIN: Congratulations, Shinji.
Q. Bruno, obviously most races you want to be at the front. Is it going to be extra important to start from the front or will pit stops scramble everything tomorrow?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I hope everything is going to be fine. I think this is going to be the toughest track of the year that we're going to race. The engine and the braking on the cars, it's going to be tough on the drivers because of the altitude, and because the track is so slippery, it's easy to make a mistake here. And being in the front, especially after the first lap, if I can lead the race, it is good because I can get a little bit more air. If I get behind, then I can run the engine a little bit cooler. But I mean, I have to think about the race tomorrow. It's going to be a tough race otherwise.
Q. Bruno, for all you guys really, yesterday Tony Kanaan said, "I'm not sure the track is going to get better tomorrow," and you got the pole, I think, with 28 minutes to go, so did you prepare for that? Did you think after practice today it wouldn't get better?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It was really strange, I felt that yesterday morning because I see some -- the first guy that went out on the track, I think the first outing he did 5.4 and he ended up that session doing 4.5. And 9/10th is not a (inaudible), it's the driver learning the track and I felt incredible. I didn't pick up much grip during the first session. And then to qualify as well. And then today I thought maybe to qualify, it is better to go early, get a clean lap, and then wait for a second set of tires.
Q. Merrill, did you decide where the race is going to start? Front or back stretch?
MERRILL CAIN: I believe it's on the front.
Q. Talking about that a little bit, just about the start. If it does start from the start finish line, how tough is it going to be? Do you think that people will keep in mind what the track is like or is it just going to be bonsai like usual?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I don't think so. I think starting on the back it will be a little more dangerous. It's not that easy. There is a lot of bumps and it can create a lot of problems. I think everybody knows that -- actually, today, I find out through that straight I was passing somebody that was going slow and I went on the inside of that straight and I hit a bump and the car almost came -- the whole wheels came out of the ground. I think it's going to be slippery, but I think everybody knows it's so slippery that -- I think if you try too hard, you're going to end up on the wall. There's just not much grip. You cannot make those quick decisions and try to brake so late because the rear end is not there. I think everybody should be a little bit more cautious, otherwise no one is going to finish.
Q. You made a great improvement from yesterday. How much of that is due to talking with Adrian and how much of it is due to learning the track?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Actually, Adrian helped me a lot. This morning, he teached me a little bit. First outing, I saw Adrian and he showed me a line a little bit and I learned from that and I improved a lot this morning.
Q. Shinji, you were a little faster today than Adrian. Any orders from the start from your boys?
SHINJI NAKANO: If you want to get payments, you do.
MERRILL CAIN: We'll leave that one alone. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations on a good effort. Good luck in the race tomorrow.
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