After an encouraging debut race for the team at Gateway last week, Jaques Lazier signalled his arrival at Team Menard in emphatic fashion by raining on the Infiniti parade and securing pole position for the inaugural Delphi Indy 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway.

Infiniti powered drivers Robbie Buhl and Eddie Cheever both entered Saturday's MBNA Pole Qualifying session at the Chicagoland Speedway as hot favourites to win pole position for Sunday's eleventh round of the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series, the inaugural Delphi Indy 300. However Jaques Lazier proved that even without Greg Ray, Team Menard are a true qualifying colossus as he took his first IRNLS pole for the team since joining them prior to last Sunday's Gateway Indy 250.

Lazier set a blistering pace around the high speed 1.5-mile Speedbowl, stopping the clocks in a scintillating time of 24.6776-seconds to establish a new track record and beat the Infiniti powered Cheever to pole by almost a full tenth of a second.

Cheever could only force a best lap of 24.7484-seconds out of his Team Cheever Dallara-Infiniti as he too broke the 221mph average in the fastest IRNLS qualifying session outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Scott Sharp used the prodigious qualifying power of Kelley Racing's Dallara-Aurora to remain right in touch with the leaders and set a fastest lap of 24.7635-seconds on his qualifying run as he claimed third on the grid while Friday pace setter Robbie Buhl lost a vital tenth of a second overnight and dropped to fourth place on the final starting grid.

Mark Dismore in the second Kelley machine and Felipe Giaffone were the only other drivers to dip under 25-seconds and they share the third row, Dismore ahead, while Eliseo Salazar returned to something like his early season form as he posted seventh fastest time.

For the second race in succession the two IRNLS title combatants will start together on the grid as Sam Hornish Jr qualified a safe eighth and Buddy Lazier ninth. It will be interesting to watch the tactical battle that plays out between these two on race day as Lazier must beat Hornish to retain any hope of securing back-to-back titles and hope that the seemingly indestructible Hornish encounters some mechanical glitches with his Panther Racing Dallara-Aurora.

Of the new faces, Laurent Redon excelled for Conquest Racing and will start 13th after improving three places on his overnight position while Ricky Treadway again looked more than capable of handling an IRNLS car in anger as he set 15th fastest time. Richie Hearn lost time and qualified a disappointing 20th for Sam Schmidt Motorsports while Sarah Fisher was only 22nd quickest, one place ahead of Chris Menninga and two places ahead of Jon Herb in the debuting Racing Professional G Force.

All 25 cars lapped the ultra-smooth circuit in under 26-seconds and just 1.3-seconds separated the entire starting field.

 

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