IRL: Homestead: Rahal Letterman Racing Saturday report

MEIRA AND RICE CLAIM TOP-FOUR STARTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI PATRICK WILL START NINTH IN HER INDYCAR DEBUT Homestead, Fla. - Vitor Meira claimed a front row starting position with a fast lap of 214.317 mph to spearhead a stellar qualifying effort ...

MEIRA AND RICE CLAIM TOP-FOUR STARTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI
PATRICK WILL START NINTH IN HER INDYCAR DEBUT

Homestead, Fla. - Vitor Meira claimed a front row starting position with a fast lap of 214.317 mph to spearhead a stellar qualifying effort that saw his Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick join him in the top-ten on the grid.

Meira, despite being a veteran of three IndyCar seasons, is driving in his first IndyCar season opener and his first race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He piloted the #17 Rahal Letterman Team Menard/Johns Manville Honda/Panoz/Firestone to the second on the season opening grid. Meira a two-time pole winner in the IRL IndyCar Series missed claiming the pole for Sunday's Toyota Indy 300 by a mere tenth of a second. Rahal Letterman Racing sat on the pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2004 when Buddy Rice claimed the season opening pole.

"It is huge to actually start the season from the first race," said Meira. "This will be my first race at Homestead. It would be great to win my first IRL race here at Homestead since there are so many Brazilians here. I'm sure we would have a good party on Sunday night. This team has a lot of confidence after our season last year. Buddy was fast and I was very competitive, and having Danica on the team is very good for our team. She is very talented and having three cars working together is better than two cars. So I am very happy about today's run and I think the Rahal Letterman Team Menard/Johns Manville car will be good for the race."

Buddy Rice was the second quickest Honda and will start fourth on the season opening grid. Rice is coming off a breakout season in which he finished third overall in the championship.

"We're definitely pleased with that 24 second (24.98) lap," said Rice. "That was our fastest of the weekend so it is good to improve with each session. I'm very happy with the Argent Mortgage/Pioneer car and our team's performance this weekend. We believe we have a good setup for the race as well. Qualifying is nice but the race is what everyone wants to win. That is our goal too. We just can't make any mistakes. Last year, we had a puncture after leading the first 40 laps. That is tough luck but that is part of the game. I know we'll have a strong car. We need to have a consistent car throughout the race."

Danica Patrick claimed a top-ten start in her highly anticipated IndyCar Series debut. Patrick out qualified four drivers who finished in the top-ten in the championship last season.

"We made a lot of improvements to the Argent/Pioneer Honda from the practice this morning. Earlier it was difficult to keep the car flat, but this afternoon it was easy and that is what we needed. To be honest I am relieved that the first one [qualifying attempt] is over with. I was definitely nervous before hand, but now I am just looking back wishing I would have done this or that different. One thing that never has changed for me from my days in karting through Atlantic and to now in IndyCar, is I still come away ticked off sometimes that I wasn't a little quicker. On my last lap I scrubbed a little bit in the last couple of corners and maybe that extra tenth could have made the difference to put me a little further up the starting grid. Heading into tomorrow I'll be smart and try not to make any stupid moves that could possibly put me in a bad frame of mind from the get go. I just want to run clean, be smart, hit my marks on the pit stops, not do silly things and finish the race to the best of my ability at this point. Hopefully over the course of the season my ability will grow and so will my results."

-rlr-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Rice , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira