Ryan Briscoe made it two in a row, taking his second consecutive Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Marlboro Pole Award. Two weeks ago he quelled the pack on the 2.26-mile Infineon Raceway Sears Point road course and this afternoon, as the final...
Ryan Briscoe made it two in a row, taking his second consecutive Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Marlboro Pole Award.
Two weeks ago he quelled the pack on the 2.26-mile Infineon Raceway Sears Point road course and this afternoon, as the final qualifier in a field of 23 for tomorrow afternoon's Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean, the Australian rookie was the final driver to take timed laps and he beat them all with a lap of 217.133mph, more than 1mph from his closest pursuer.
Briscoe, who threw away a good finish at Sonoma has apologized to all concerned and takes full blame for his mistake at that circuit. But he's not looking at the past. "The car was just awesome," he said. "We really didn't change much from practice, maybe changed the [gear] ratios a bit.
"We've struggled a fair bit all year but today the car was planted. We've got another new engine spec for this race and," Briscoe allowed," it all seems to be coming together. I was expecting the track to be slower when I looked at others' times but I was able to do a shorter distance on the second lap that made it quicker than I was expecting."
The fourth driver out this afternoon in a session that began at 4:30PM CDT, Danica Patrick held the top slot until Briscoe unleashed his quick tour of the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway oval at 215.970mph. "This morning we were easily flat-out on the track but we had to be sure to get good power in a straight line," which Patrick and her team engineer Ray Leto did.
"Honda is giving great power and the balance is good on the car. I've really got to say," Patrick continued, "that we've always had a very good car for qualifying. I don't know what they do but they always improve the car. I like this place; it has three good lanes and it's very smooth so that helps for our setup."
Buddy Rice's first lap of 215.799mph was good for third on the grid and the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner thought he'd been "pretty quick all weekend. Our chassis program is getting a little bit better and we're making it better at the shop. We had a good test here last week and had some confidence coming in," he revealed.
Although he completed only one lap, running out of methanol on his second flyer, Tomas Scheckter will start fourth with his single lap of 215.731mph. The South African joked that they could only afford one lap's worth of fuel with prices so high and volunteered that the engine cut out on him.
Sam Hornish Jr. starts fifth after being 11th in the combined practice sessions this morning and early afternoon. The two-time IRL champ's lap of 215.717mph "felt good. We made a gear change but didn't really have enough time [to test]. I felt pretty confident this morning," Hornish confided, "and the car is really good in traffic."
Dan Wheldon starts third after lapping at 215.484mph. Wheldon, who leads the point standings (with 517 points), could wrap up the title this weekend but doubts that will happen. "Considering the amount of understeer and subsequent time lost in qualifying, that's not too bad," he said.
Teammate Bryan Herta was "a little quicker than we practiced and the few changes we made helped that," he said after turning the seventh best speed of 215.464mph. Making his sixth start of the 2005 season, Buddy Lazier turned 215.424mph to take eighth on the grid and admitted his second lap was "way better. With such a big distance between practice and qualifying, we all had to roll the dice on gearing and run as low as we could."
Scott Dixon's tour of 215.372mph was good for ninth and he has a new consultant helping his side of the three-car Ganassi squad this week, Morris Nunn. "Mo made some comments but it's still hard to come up and make a big difference with such limited track time," Dixon noted. "It's good to have him; he got such a lot of knowledge."
Teammate Jaques Lazier rounded out the top ten with his 215.145mph lap. He was one of the few who thought, "it was definitely a little bit slicker" after the ARCA race at mid-afternoon. "The wind changed direction too," Lazier said. "We've made a big improvement and we've been focusing on race setup. I'm really happy with what we'll have for the race."
Tomas Enge has 11th grid spot while Scott Sharp, who was the third driver to take timed laps starts 12th. Dario Franchitti holds 13th and Helio Castroneves, perplexed by his difficulties here starts alongside. Kosuke Matsuura, who spun in the initial practice session starts 15th with disappointed 2004 IRL champ Tony Kanaan next to him in 16th.
A.J. Foyt IV has 17th grid spot, Roger Yasukawa is 18th, Patrick Carpentier is 19th and Jimmy Kite starts 20th. A frustrated Alex Barron holds 21st, Ed Carpenter is 22nd and Vitor Meira, whose team swapped Honda engines this afternoon has to begin the contest from the final, 23rd position.
Polesitter Briscoe, enjoying his first season of primarily oval racing is hoping to return to the IRL next year. "I come from road racing to this and I love this series. I haven't had this much fun in a long time, despite what the results show."
The Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean is set to take the green flags at 12:45PM CDT and the 200-lap contest airs live on ABC.
Pole winner disqualified, please see Anne Proffit's updated story