IRL: Fontana: Panoz qualifying report

Patrick again leads Panoz family in California Speedway qualifying FONTANA, CA - Newly crowned Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick led the 7-car Panoz family in qualifying for the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series season finale on the...

Patrick again leads Panoz family in California Speedway qualifying

FONTANA, CA - Newly crowned Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick led the 7-car Panoz family in qualifying for the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series season finale on the 2-mile California Speedway today.

Driving her #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone challenger to the fourth-quickest speed of 21 drivers at 218.199mph, Patrick earned her ninth top-five starting position in 17 races (three of those were pole position).

On a blustery, cooling and sunny mid-afternoon in the California desert Patrick noted, "The wind was a factor. We were trying for a two-gear qualifying strategy and we just ran the one gear this time. There is no way to predict the wind," she explained. Although she was hoping to set a new rookie record with four pole positions, Patrick would "take a win in my rookie year on Sunday. This track is like many of the tracks we have raced this year and we have been competitive. I think we will have a chance to win."

Teammate Buddy Rice will bring the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda to the starter's green flag in fifth place after turning 218.029mph early in the session. The 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner "didn't do any qualifying runs until the end of the last practice session so that was a pretty decent run. This is a big handling track and that is what we worked on," he explained.

Veteran Scott Sharp will start ninth in the #8 Delphi/Fernandez Panoz/Honda, based on his lap of 217.261mph. Sharp thought he had a good run and said his team guessed right on gearing with the fierce wind that pushed cars down the front straight and served as a boat anchor on the back stretch.

"Our guys worked really hard the past couple of weeks and came here with an all-new setup," Sharp said. We are [still] developing it as we go, but we are making good headway and hope it pays off for us tomorrow."

All seven members of Team Panoz utilize the sole IndyCar chassis designed and built in the United States, are hoping to add to the Team's two wins during the 2005 season and are poised togo into the long off-season with momentum.

The season closing Toyota Indy 400 is set to take the green flags at 12:45PM Pacific time and airs live on ESPN.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Buddy Rice , Danica Patrick