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Andretti team takes front row

©Associated Press

March 2, 2003


HOMESTEAD -- Michael Andretti's debut Saturday as a car owner was massively successful. Tony Kanaan gave the new Andretti-Green Racing team the pole and a front-row sweep for the opening event of the IRL IndyCar season.

Kanaan knocked Andretti off the pole for today's Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"In this team, we all want each other to do well," Andretti said. "I was rooting for Tony like crazy to get a good lap."

Andretti and two partners bought the former Team Green and moved it this year from CART to the IRL. He brought with him Kanaan and Dario Franchitti.

A hard crosswind in the turns and temperatures near 90 made qualifying difficult on the 11/2-mile oval. Former CART champion Andretti, the first driver to take a lap, went 203.014 mph.

That seemed like a good bet to hold up, especially after Sam Hornish Jr. made his run. The two-time defending IRL champion and winner of the last two Homestead races, came up short at 202.982.

Andretti remained at the top of the board until Kanaan, eighth in line, drove his Honda-powered Dallara around the track at 203.560.

"Mike and me are working together to be as strong as we can be," Kanaan said. "After he qualified, he talked to me and gave me time to adjust myself and find out more about the track."

Helio Castroneves was fourth and Gil de Ferran fifth.

A.J. Foyt IV, 18, the grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt Jr., will become the youngest driver to start an IRL event after qualifying 17th at 195.660 mph in a car owned by his grandfather.

Nemechek slides by to win

LAS VEGAS -- Joe Nemechek benefited from Todd Bodine's mistake to inherit the lead, then hung on to win the Busch series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bodine was leading with 32 laps to go in the Sam's Town 300 and racing Nemechek side by side through Turn 4 when he spun out and went sliding through the front-stretch grass.

Nemechek sailed by for the lead in his Chevrolet and held on for his 13th career Busch victory.

"I don't know what was going on there," Lakeland's Nemechek said. "He was underneath me and went up high and I tried to crowd him. I don't know if he lost a tire or what, but he got loose there."

It was Nemechek's first Busch race of the season. He won the pole at the opener in Daytona, but was too ill to drive.

Fellow Winston Cup driver Kevin Harvick was second, 0.603 seconds back, and was followed by Mike Bliss, Cup driver Steve Park and Jason Keller.

The race was delayed 58 minutes by rain.

Jamie McMurray, last week's winner, started a backup car after crashing in practice and moved from the back of the field into second before his day was ruined by an ignition or battery problem.

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