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Zanardi Has Provisional Pole

August 9, 1996

LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) _ Alex Zanardi has the provisional pole position after Friday’s qualifying for the Miller 200 Indy-car race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Zanardi, who has more championship points on road courses than any other driver in the series, had a fast lap of 120.318 mph on the 13-turn, 2 1/4-mile circuit in north central Ohio.

If he is still the fastest driver when qualifying ends Saturday, it will be the third pole position for the 29-year-old Indy-car rookie from Monaco. Zanardi captured his only victory in the series June 23 at Portland, the last time his Honda-powered Reynard was on the pole.

The qualifying record for the track was set last year by Jacques Villeneuve at 121.192 mph. Villeneuve is now driving on the Formula One circuit after winning the Indy-car title last season.

``I don’t really feel any pressure to be on the pole,″ Zanardi said after Friday’s session. ``It’s nice to be in that position because it’s a chance to earn some money and it’s the best seat to watch the race from, but there’s not that much pressure to earn it. The pressure will come in the race.″

Second in early qualifying was Bobby Rahal at 119.961 mph. Rahal, a three-time series champion who won at Mid-Ohio in 1985 and 1986, is traditionally the crowd favorite at the track because he grew up in Ohio, lives in the Columbus suburb of New Albany, about 45 miles from the course, and bases his racing operations in another Columbus suburb.

Rahal, the only Indy-car driver to own his own team, hasn’t won a race since winning his third series title in 1992 and has yet to qualify his Reynard-Mercedes higher than fifth this season.

``I don’t want to rest on this by any means, but being up front in qualifying would make it a lot simpler to be up front in the race,″ Rahal said. ``Obviously, it feels good to be there, since it’s somewhere we haven’t been in a while.″

Zanardi’s teammate, Jimmy Vasser, was third at 119.909 mph. Picking up the single point awarded to the pole winner would be significant to him because he holds a one-point lead over Al Unser Jr. in the driver standings.

``We’re going to try to get that point, but we aren’t going to throw everything out the window to do it,″ Vasser said. ``I could ask Alex to slow down, but it wouldn’t work.″

Qualifying fourth through 10th were Michael Andretti, Andre Ribeiro, Bryan Herta, Adrian Fernandez, Chrisian Fittipaldi, Scott Pruett and Gil de Ferran.

Unser, whose consistency has kept him in the championship hunt although he has yet to win a race this season, was far back in the pack in the early qualifying, 11th at 118.535 mph.

Jan Magnussen and Max Papis, both making their debut in the series, qualified 19th and 20th.

Magnussen moved into the Hogan Penske car in place of Emerson Fittipaldi, who is out for the season with a broken bone in his neck from a wreck two weeks ago in the Michigan 500. After this weekend, Magnussen will take over Paul Tracy’s ride in another Penske car. Tracy broke a bone in his upper back while practicing for the Michigan race.

Papis was chosen to drive the Arciero-Wells Racing car after that team’s driver, Jeff Krosnoff, was killed at Toronto last month.

The 83-lap, 185.8-mile race starts Sunday at 3 p.m.

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