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Junqueira's bid for pole interrupted by squirrel

©Associated Press
August 25, 2002

MONTREAL -- Bruno Junqueira's quest for his third pole of the season was foiled by a squirrel.

Junqueira, who will start third today in the inaugural Montreal Molson Indy CART race, thought he might have a legitimate shot to beat fellow Brazilian Cristiano da Matta as he came onto the road course with new tires late in the 35-minute session. He had posted the top speed for a while early in Saturday's qualifying.

"I don't want to make any excuses, but I was on a pretty fast lap and I almost hit a squirrel running across the track," Junqueira said. "It kind of broke my concentration and I backed off a little."

Da Matta won his sixth pole in 13 tries this season at 123.512 mph. Dario Franchitti will start second.

IRL GATEWAY 250: Short ovals seem to agree with Gil de Ferran, who won his fourth IRL pole of the year with a best lap of 175.120 mph at 1.25-mile Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

All four of de Ferran's poles have come on tracks shorter than 11/2 miles. He credits handling.

Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. will start second.

Meantime, the IRL's top rookie, Tomas Scheckter, will not race today after missing a scheduled technical briefing Friday and his future on the circuit is in limbo.

Eddie Cheever Jr., owner of the Red Bull Cheever Racing team, blistered the 21-year-old driver after qualifying and said, "Technically, he's in breach of contract."

Scheckter, son of former Formula One champ Jody Scheckter, told the Indianapolis Star his management staff made the decision to not attend "on safety grounds."

PRIESTLEY RELEASED: Actor/racer Jason Priestley left an Indianapolis hospital where he spent 12 days recovering from injuries sustained in a crash at Kentucky Speedway.

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