Twenty-one-year-old Indy Racing League driver Sarah Fisher became the first woman in open wheel racing history to win a pole award after turning a fastest lap of 221.390 mph on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway today.

Fisher takes the first MBNA Pole Award of her four-year IRL career and will start on the inside of the front row for tomorrow's "Belterra Casino Indy 300." Her mark sets a new IRL track record, disposing of the previous benchmark set by Scott Goodyear at 219.191 mph during the speedway's inaugural 2000 season.

The fastest woman ever to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway needed only one qualifying lap to claim a similar title at Kentucky Speedway in the No. 23 Team Smart Blade/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force Infiniti machine. Fisher, who was set to qualify fifth, opted to waive her first attempt and instead qualified 20th. She was limited to a one-lap qualifying effort by IRL rule.

"Being a woman in racing is nothing I've looked at seriously," Fisher said. "I've always been a driver."

Her Kentucky Speedway success is the most recent high point of her 2002 season that began with a requested release from her previous driving contract with Walker Racing. Fisher made her first start of the 2002 season on April 21, in Nazareth, Pa., when she finished fourth substituting for injured Dreyer & Reinbold veteran Robbie Buhl.

"It's been a long year for me, not having a job at the beginning of the season," Fisher said. "Unfortunately for Robbie Buhl, but fortunate for me, I was able to drive for him in Nazareth and that's when the whole thing started over. It's been a recycle of my first year in Indy cars because I've had to regain my confidence."

The pole win continues her successful record at Kentucky that includes a third place finish in the inaugural "Belterra Casino Indy 300." "It (Kentucky Speedway) fits my driving style to a 'T', I can get around this place."

Fisher also commented that she's found a renewed enthusiasm for racing with her new Dreyer & Reinbold team. "I'm ready to go. I've never been this excited to race. I'm here an hour before the race and telling the crew to just get me in the car."

Fisher starts next to Billy Boat who took the outside pole with a speed of 221.364 mph. Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing driver Felipe Giaffone (220.430 mph) and Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves (220.387) make up Row Two.

INDY RACING INFINTI PRO SERIES QUALIFYING

Earlier in the afternoon, A.J. Foyt, IV (Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing) claimed his second pole of the inaugural Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series season with a qualifying speed of 179.571 mph and will start on the inside of Row One next to circuit-mate Jason Priestley (No. 7 HomeMed Pharmacy) in "The Kentucky 100" on Sunday morning. Priestley qualified second with a speed of 179.064 mph.

"The track was very different than what we practiced on this morning. The (NASCR Hills Bros.) All Pro cars went out there and laid down a different kind of rubber that didn't work well with our Firestone tires," Foyt, IV said. "When I got out of the car, I was disappointed, but I didn't realize all the guys were going to have the same problem."

Foyt, who owns Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series wins at Kansas and Michigan, posted a qualifying time that was four miles per hour slower than his top speed in the morning practice session.

Kentucky Speedway Gates open at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday for both races, and the first 15,000 fans to enter will receive an IRL bobblehead of either two-time "Belterra Casino Indy 300" champion Buddy Lazier, 2001 IRL Champion Sam Hornish, Jr., or Al Unser, Jr. The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series leads off the day's action when it contests "The Kentucky 100" at 11:00 a.m. "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" follows at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets for all events are still available and can be purchased in five easy ways:

  • By phone at 1-888-652-RACE
  • On the World Wide Web at www.kentuckyspeedway.com
  • In person at either the speedway's Ft. Mitchell ticket office or at the Kentucky Speedway Fan Center off Ky. Hwy. 35 in Sparta, Ky.
  • At Tickets.com and all Tickets.com retail outlets located in Greater Cincinnati area Meijer Hader Hardware and Play-It-Again Sports stores.
  • In person at all Greater Cincinnati AAA locations.