Jimmy Vasser needed to make a statement. It was loud and clear Saturday after a record-shattering qualifying run at Michigan International Speedway at Brooklyn, Mich.
Vasser, whose lead in the PPG Cup standings had been shaved to eight points over Al Unser Jr., earned the pole for the Marlboro 500 with a lap of 234.665 mph around the 2-mile oval.
In earning his fourth pole of the IndyCar season, Vasser easily bettered the old track qualifying record of 234.275 by Mario Andretti, which had stood since 1993. Four poles is the most by any IndyCar driver this season.
Vasser built a big lead in the PPG Cup standings by guiding his Reynard Honda to four victories early in the season. The fourth win, however, came at Michigan during the inaugural U.S. 500 over Memorial Day weekend. He hasn’t won since.
Despite Unser not winning all season, Vasser’s lead had slipped to 107-99 returning to Michigan this weekend. The one point for winning this pole extended his lead to 108-99.
Italian rookie Alex Zanardi, a teammate of Vasser with Target-Chip Ganassi Racing, had the second-fastest lap at 233.501. Another rookie, Canadian Greg Moore, was third at 233.501. As for Unser Jr., he finished fourth at 233.115.
Greg Sacks held off record-setting pole winner Joe Nemechek on the last lap to win the Humminbird Fishfinder 500-Kilometer race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
It was the first victory in 13 Busch Grand National starts for Sacks, who earlier this month replaced Steve Grissom in this car and in the Winston Cup series.
Sacks drove his Chevrolet Monte Carlo across the finish line about two car-lengths ahead of Nemechek’s Chevy.
Sacks, whose only Winston Cup victory came in the 1985 Pepsi 400 at Daytona, averaged 139.438 mph in the same car in which Grissom won the season-opening Goody’s 300 at Daytona. Sacks, 43, won $28,145.
Spokane’s Chad Little finished 21st, and collected $12,605.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.