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Cunningham wins Freedom 100 pole at Indy
Wade Cunningham
Wade Cunningham won the pole for the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, marking the second time the 2005 series champion will start the race from the inside of Row 1.  Cunningham also started from the pole in 2006 when he led every lap.

Cunningham recorded a two-lap qualifying time of 1 minute, 34.6485 seconds, an average of 190.177 mph in the No. 11 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, setting an event qualifying record. He bettered Jaime Camara's 2005 qualifying effort of 189.870 mph.

Sebastian Saavedra qualified second at 190.023 mph, recording his third front-row start of the season.

J.R. Hildebrand and Ana Beatriz will start in Row 2, and Martin Plowman and 2006 series champion Jay Howard will start in Row 3.

The 40-lap, 100-mile race is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (ET) Friday. The 33 drivers in the Indianapolis 500 also will have their final practice before Sunday's race.


Qualifying Thursday for the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver and speed:
1. (11) Wade Cunningham, 190.177
2. (27) Sebastian Saavedra, 190.023
3. (26) J.R. Hildebrand, 189.866
4. (20) Ana Beatriz, 188.813
5. (15) Martin Plowman, 188.653
6. (37) Jay Howard, 188.641
7. (35) Charlie Kimball, 188.564
8. (16) Pippa Mann, 188.413
9. (28) Daniel Herrington, 188.412
10. (21) James Davison, 187.868
11. (2) Andrew Prendeville, 187.839
12. (7) James Hinchcliffe, 187.755
13. (44) Gustavo Yacaman, 187.303
14. (18) Junior Strous, 186.942
15. (24) Mike Potekhen, 186.891
16. (49) Jesse Mason, 186.873
17. (32) Brandon Wagner, 186.863
18. (5) Mario Romancini, 186.785
19. (9) Jonathan Summerton, 186.387
20. (6) Ali Jackson, 186.119
21. (36) Pablo Donoso, 186.017
22. (55) Rodrigo Barbosa, 185.269


MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 15 Panther Racing): "It was exciting. I love this qualifying format for the ovals. It's just one big adrenaline rush. I felt that first lap and a half of qualifying I did the best I could have done, but I made a small mistake on my second lap. It's just one of those things. We're still reasonably pleased, I think. Tomorrow is just a really big race, and we've got a strong car for the race, so we'll see some action tomorrow. (The Speedway) is everything that everyone describes of it. It's awe-inspiring. It's what dreams are made of, and it's what everyone dreams of as a young boy. The first time I drove around this place was just indescribable. It's pretty intimidating the first time you go out there, but once you get confident in yourself and the car out there, it's just a joy to race on."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Mtrspts): "I felt pretty good. I think our second lap was a little bit slower than what we expected. It's so bad to qualify first because you have no test of what people are doing. It's always special to come back to Indy. It's such a magic environment with all of the fans. Indianapolis is all about the Indy 500, so it's a great environment, and I am really excited about the race. It's good to have the team behind you taking photos. I am hoping to be in an IndyCar next year. Track conditions are pretty good. It's really hot here in Indy, so we were a little bit slower than we expected to be. It's equal for everybody. It wasn't that windy."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 Automatic Fires Sprinklers, Inc.): "It feels wonderful. The whole AFS AGR Racing team has done an awesome job putting the car together. I think we're looking forward to the race. The points are important. The championship is important. We have a very strong car for this weekend. We'll try to do our best. It's unbelievable (racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway). During the first five laps, I was like, 'Where are you?' It's a historic race. It's a historic racetrack. And here I am. It's a lot of feelings. It's happiness and nervousness. I am very happy to be here. It's wonderful and more to be on such an incredible team, and we will try our best to try and search for a championship and win here for this race. I'd like to have the second one in the belt."

GUSTAVO YACAMAN (No. 44 Crepes & Waffles/Tuvacol/SSM): "I'm a little disappointed. It wasn't a very good run. We're losing a lot of speed somewhere; I don't know where. We need to find it somewhere. We were working the car and trimming it out. I've been around the whole month of May, and it's pretty cool. But at the end of the day, it's the points and the prize money."

JUNIOR STROUS (No. 18 Shell V-Power Knaus HTP): "This morning we were really far off. The car was all over the place. We were struggling. The car feels really good now, but we were a bit too slow. The car feels really good now, but we were a bit too slow. We lost a lot of time this morning setting the car up for qualifying. Now we're looking forward to the race. It would be great to win this weekend, but it will be tough. We're already 10th (on the grid)."

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 ARPRO): "It felt pretty good. It's a little bit frustrating. I think we had a pretty good shot at the pole. It's just really close with my teammate here, Sebastian. I think everybody here is going to be a little bit bummed that we didn't get it. The two of us are quite fast and hopefully we can take the front row here. I know we've got a really good racecar for tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the race."

MIKE POTEKHEN (No. 24 Alliance Motorsports): "The car felt good. I don't know if we were just too stuck or what. It just wasn't as quick as we were in practice, so that was a little disappointing. We got a great race car; that's the best thing. We've got a long race ahead of us, and a lot can happen in that amount of time. We'll be all right for the race."

JAMES DAVISON (No. 21 Vision Racing): "The car felt great. It had a perfect balance. It's about where we are expected to qualify, between eighth and 10th. No surprises with the result, now onto the race. That's what matters. The guys have been able to come through the field. My goal tomorrow is a top-five finish, being realistic with expectations, since we don't have the speed at the moment to win the race in this early development stage of a team. We're looking good where we're starting. Obviously, like all drivers, we want to have a good race tomorrow."

JESSE MASON (No. 49 Guthrie Meyer Racing): "The conditions weren't bad. The sock was pointing down on the front straight a bit, so it should help us down the back straight. And it did. We had the car a little lower than we wanted because we only did 10 laps total in practice. We went a bit conservative, but we'll just trim it a bit for the race. I think we got a good race car. We'll see. We're going to be in a lot of traffic, and there's going to be a lot of mayhem in the beginning, so we'll see how it goes." (The Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is wonderful and it is totally unique as a race track. Obviously, everybody here in Indianapolis thinks the place is amazing and that's quite rare to find that and it's quite enjoyable to be here and to have everybody so enthused about the race and what's going on."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 11 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "It's great. We were sitting here in line, 19th to go out, and Sebastian (Saavedra) pops that 47.25 up on the board, 190.4, I think. That's a good time running by yourself. We were only running marginally quicker than that this morning at 9 with the cool ambient temperatures and a cold track. So I dug deep, and the car was great. I can't complain. The changes that were made from second practice to qualifying obviously worked. We didn't do the quickest lap time, but we were more consistent on the second lap." (On the Firestone Freedom 100): "It's a long race. Forty laps, and anything can happen. In 2006, it went green for 40 laps, and that is a completely different race than what is was last year where we had the 10-lap shootout at the end. You just have to work hard and have the best car you can and take the conditions as they come. You never have a perfect car and when you do, you win. So it's not often that happens, and you have to battle through the day. We'll just see how tomorrow comes. I love Indianapolis. I love oval racing. To be back full time this year with Sam Schmidt, who has great oval success, and obviously we showed it in qualifying trim. We were able to put our foot down and put the car up on top. It's pretty awesome, really."

BRANDON WAGNER (No. 32 Davey Hamilton/Kingdom Racing): "It's awesome to be at the Speedway for the first time. Just making laps earlier in the month was just breathtaking. Being from Lafayette, so close, I've been here so many times to watch races, but to be on the track and get to race here tomorrow is just an awesome privilege. I had many dreams of racing here. That qualifying effort just wasn't what we were hoping for. I don't know if we were geared exactly correct. That tailwind down the backstretch kind of messed us up a little bit, but it is what it is. We can't do anything about it now. We've got a good race car, and we'll be good for Friday. We'll work our way through traffic and hope for a top-10 finish."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I didn't feel that great. Qualifying was not quite as quick as we were hoping it would be. I think the wind picked up a little bit just before our run, and it sort of chanced what I was going to do with the gears. This track is so unique in the way you have to qualify. On most other ovals, you don't have to worry about having to do a gear shift. I think we made a mistake on that. Obviously, it's a long race, and we've been seeing cars fall off (on speed) quite a bit on a long stint. Qualifying is one thing, but the race is where you get the points and the prize money."

PIPPA MANN (No. 16 Panther Racing): "We're probably a little bit conservative, looking at the speeds, but I think we have a good race car for Friday. We worked really hard on the car. The car was possibly a little too good to drive. Around here, the car has to be scary to be fast in qualifying trim, and we didn't quite nail that down. The wind and temperature were a little bit of a factor, but it was pretty much the same for everyone. When you have single-car qualifying like this, somebody gets a little cloud and gets a little extra, and somebody gets the sunshine gets a little less. It's a random draw, and that's what we have at all the ovals we go to." (On the Speedway): "It's really an amazing racetrack to drive. It's obviously completely different than anything in Europe, where I come from. I'm looking forward to the race." (On the Firestone Indy Lights series): "The competition is really, really close. We will be starting a little farther back. We'll get out there (Friday) and see what happens."

RODRIGO BARBOSA (No. 55 ELFF Racing Team): "We did a really good job this week but could have been better in qualifying. We'll just look to the race right now. We've got to get a top 15 tomorrow. That's what I want. We'll be better for the race. (The Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is amazing. It's amazing to be here -- I love it. When I was little, I watched it on TV and dreamed of being here."

DANIEL HERRINGTON (No. 28 LeBleu/Bryan Herta Autosport): "Yeah, it wasn't bad. We made a few more changes here before qualifying to get a little more speed out of it. So far, pretty good, but this is the worst part. You just have to sit here and wait and see if your time can hold up. But we made a few changes in the car, and that helped pick up a little bit of speed. It seemed like it did pretty well for us. Now the most important thing is to get a good race car."

JAY HOWARD (No. 37 Palm Beach International Raceway): "It was good. At 9:30 this morning, I got a phone call while I was actually on the sofa. And I got a phone call saying, 'You need to come qualify the car and come and get in the show.' So it was pretty cool to come here, and I've actually borrowed everything. I've got Scott Dixon's helmet on, so thanks to him and everyone who loaned me the stuff until tomorrow. But, yeah, it was a good run, and we can't be unhappy with that. Just to come here and hop in the car, and let's take a guess, let's go, it was pretty good. I came here, I actually flew up here, because I live in Palm Beach now. I actually flew up here just to be here, just to watch and just to be around it because I love it, even though I wasn't actually going to be taking part. And then the phone call this morning made everything just a million times better, so that's good. We're in the show. Let's see what happens tomorrow."

ALI JACKSON (No. 6 Andersen/Moyvalley Golf & Hotel Resort): "Obviously, we're not fast enough. The car is very stuck; it should be a good race car. I think a lot of our lack of speed is because of me missing the test that we had on the 5th of this month. So I sort of missed that, so I've been trying to catch up. And the gearbox issue the first session, so I only had a 45-minute practice session before qualifying. But the car's safe enough, and we'll just have to see what the race brings us tomorrow. Obviously, we should be able to move up the field, and I'm totally confident that we'll do that and just when other people make mistakes, take advantage of that. The transition to Anderson Racing has been good. I'm not going to say anything bad about Guthrie Meyer, but that's one of the reasons I missed the test, because I wasn't able to get my seat and stuff back from them. So that sort of hindered Anderson and my progress. But the team is 100 percent. Totally professional, everything to be expected."

PABLO DONOSO (No. 36 Genoa): "I closed the deal Wednesday to run in this race. I can't miss this race. It's good to be here. This is the best track in the world. I'm more focused on the road courses with this team. We improved through the day. In the morning, the car wasn't too good. The only thing now is to get the car to work in the draft and pass people in the race. We will try and finish the race and pick up some points."

JONATHAN SUMMERTON (No. 9 Andersen/Allied Interior Products/Lafarge): "It's disappointing being where we are. We just changed the car for the qualifying, and it didn't go where we wanted it to, so hopefully we have a good race tomorrow. I think we should. If we can come away with good points this weekend and hopefully use it for some experience gained, and then go to the next race and hopefully put it on pole there. Starting from where we are, if we can get to the top eight, that'd be great. I think it's doable, so hopefully we have a good car for the race, and I'm sure we will and we can move forward."

ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling): "Not really happy with it. I probably should have done better than that. We were faster in the open test, and we were pretty quick this morning in both sessions. I'm certain there is more speed there. I'm happy to be in the field, but I think we should have gotten more out of the car than that. This place is pretty tricky. Last year, there were just so many cars running so close, and that wasn't normal for here. My experience is certainly going to help, I think. The rookies are going to have a lot of trouble with the turbulence. It's completely different here than at any other track we run."

MARIO ROMANCINI (No. 5 Revita/Win Brazil/Allied): "It was a little bit slippery from the heat, but from the beginning we didn't have a good setup for qualifying. We knew we weren't quick enough to run for the pole, but I think we will have a strong car for the race, and that's what matters. I just want to drive a smart race and score some points. We just need to stay out of trouble and finish the race. I'm pretty sure we will have a lot of yellows."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 35 Palm Beach International Raceway): "We had a starter break at the qualifying line, so we had to push start it. The engine wouldn't turn over. It was a bit tense and very frantic there for a few seconds, but we got it fired, luckily. It wasn't an ideal run (because) we didn't quite get the engine as warm as we wanted before we went out. We didn't get the setup quite right. With everyone running in practice, there was a little more rubber down than we anticipated. The wind was blowing across the car instead of at our back. We're pretty happy. We have a good race car under us. We're in good shape. We're where we need to be to have a good result. From the front four rows, we can make anything happen. The competitive level of this series this year is higher than it's been in a long, long time. And that lends itself to really tight races and good competition."

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