Tracy overcomes damaged nosecone

Updated: October 23, 2004, 10:58 AM ET
Associated Press

Paul Tracy

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia -- Canada's Paul Tracy overcame a damaged nosecone in practice to claim the pole position Saturday for the Lexmark Indy 300, breaking up a battle between teammates Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira.

Tracy hit a tire barrier on a chicane and slightly damaged his nosecone with four minutes left in the opening 15-minute practice, forcing an early end to the session.

When the 35-minute qualifying session started, Tracy's mechanics were still working. He came out midway through the session and had the fastest time -- 1 minute, 33.556 seconds over the 2.795-mile temporary Surfers Paradise street course.

Tracy will start Sunday's 57-lap race next to Bourdais, who has openly criticized the Canadian for his driving style.

Bourdais, who won Friday's opening qualifying session and secured a spot on the front row, needs to finish Sunday's race with seven points more than Junqueira to claim the 2004 Champ Car drivers title.

"The car was good, it was a fantastic job by the team," said Tracy, the 2003 champ. "We made a mistake and hit the wall, but we came back. It should be an interesting race -- I know that Sebastien may not be so anxious tomorrow."

Junqueira will start in the second row next to American rookie A.J. Allmendinger, who switched to a backup car just before the second qualifying session and posted the fourth-fastest time of the weekend.

Earlier, Newman/Haas teammates Junqueira and Bourdais jockeyed for the lead during the second session before Tracy returned to the track after his accident.

Mario Dominguez, the 2002 winner, qualified fifth, followed by last year's winner, American Ryan Hunter Reay.

Earlier this week, Bourdais was critical of Tracy's driving style.

"He's not the guy I like most in the race, that's for sure," Bourdais said. "He's a very nice guy outside the car but when he puts the helmet on it's a different kind of personality.

"He doesn't think what the consequences of his acts are when you are going 280 kilometers an hour, it's a bit borderline, I think."

Last year, Bourdais won pole position but tangled with Tracy at the first turn. Last month at Laguna Seca, in California, the French driver also won pole but was hit by Tracy and had a flat tire that forced him out of contention.

"It's always frustrating when you cannot defend yourself because you have to think about Tracy going to go for the win no matter what," Bourdais said. "It's not my vision for the sport."

Tracy, who won Surfers in 1995, is trying to become the first driver to win the race twice.

Oriol Servia also switched to his backup car just before the second qualifying session, but did not post a time and will start at the back of the grid Sunday. Under Champ Car rules, Servia's fourth-fastest time of Friday was wiped out when he switched cars.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press