IRL: Homestead: Saturday qualifying report

Rice Wins Pole For Toyota Indy 300 INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2004 -- Buddy Rice gave Team Rahal its first pole in the IRL IndyCar® Series, taking the top starting spot Feb. 28 for the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rice,...

Rice Wins Pole For Toyota Indy 300

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2004 -- Buddy Rice gave Team Rahal its first pole in the IRL IndyCar® Series, taking the top starting spot Feb. 28 for the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Rice, driver of the No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, set a track record with his MBNA Pole-winning lap of 24.5920 seconds, 217.388 mph on the 1.5-mile oval. It also was his first pole in the IndyCar Series. Rice is substituting for Kenny Brack, recovering from injuries suffered in a crash last October.

Alex Barron will start alongside Rice after a qualifying lap of 24.6469 seconds, 216.904 mph in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

It was second-closest field by time in IndyCar Series history, as .5790 of a second separated Rice and No. 19 qualifier A.J. Foyt IV.

The season-opening event starts at 2 p.m. (EST) Sunday. It will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.

INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

*This is Buddy Rice's first career MBNA Pole in the IRL IndyCar Series. His previous best start was second in July 2002 at Michigan.

*This is the first IRL IndyCar Series pole for Team Rahal, which joined the series in 2003. The team's previous best starting spot was second by Kenny Brack last year at California Speedway and Gateway International Raceway. Brack is recovering from serious injuries suffered in a crash during the season-ending Chevy 500 last October at Texas Motor Speedway.

*A Honda engine has powered the MBNA Pole winner at this event in both years that the company has been an engine supplier in the IndyCar Series. Tony Kanaan won the pole here last year in Honda's IndyCar Series debut.

*This is the second-closest field by time in IndyCar Series history, as .5790 of a second separated MBNA Pole winner Buddy Rice and No. 19 qualifier A.J. Foyt IV. The closest field in series history came last August at Kentucky Speedway, with .5367 of a second separating the field.

*Buddy Rice set a track record with his MBNA Pole-winning lap of 24.5920 seconds, 217.388 mph. The previous best was 26.5278, 203.560 set by Tony Kanaan during MBNA Pole qualifying March 1, 2003. The banking of the track's corners has been increased since last year's race, increasing speeds.

INDYCAR SERIES POST QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SCOTT SHARP: "Obviously, we are not where we want to be, and we don't know why we're down on speed right now. We came here to test last month, and we ran a 214 mph on our own as a qualifying run, and we just can't seem to get back there right now. The guys have been working really hard and trying to do everything they can to the Delphi car. We have a really well-balanced race car, and I think we will be a lot more solid tomorrow since there is such a big draft with the new banking. The track configuration is going to make the racing pretty even and really exciting."

MARK TAYLOR: "We're happy with where we qualified this afternoon. The Panther Racing Guys really gave me a great car all weekend. It's great to see that Menards/Johns Manville car starting toward the front of the grid, and at this point I'm just ready for that green flag to wave tomorrow."

KOSUKE MATSUURA: "It wasn't good. I expected much better than now because we had a quite a good car yesterday, and we didn't change much from yesterday. I am disappointed."

SAM HORNISH JR.: "We had a pretty good qualifying run this afternoon. You always want a bit more speed, but this is the fastest we've run this weekend, and we're starting in the top 10, so we're in good shape. We spent most of the weekend working on race setup, and I think we've got a good car for tomorrow. With the new track configuration, the race will be totally different than any of the other races I've run here. There should be a lot of side-by-side action, and it will be all about the draft and making the right move at the right time. I'm just really looking forward to starting my first race with Marlboro Team Penske and hopefully I can bring home a strong finish."

HELIO CASTRONEVES: "Well, we tried to take a chance today, and it just didn't work out. Everyone was running so close that we decided to take a chance on the setup of the car for qualifying. The conditions were a lot like they were at the Indianapolis 500 last year, and that worked out for us (Castroneves won the pole in 2003), so we tried something similar. Unfortunately, it didn't work in our favor. The car wasn't handling very well, and I couldn't make the proper changes in the car so I had to come in. I have to hand it to my guys, Marlboro Team Penske did an awesome job adjusting the car so that I could go back out there in time. All things considered, it's great that we're in the top 10, so I'm happy. Tomorrow's the day that counts."

BRYAN HERTA: "We were hoping to go a little bit faster in the XM Satellite Radio car, but I'm pretty happy. The guys did a great job; we just lost a little bit of balance from this morning, and that cost us a little bit of speed. We thought we would get a bit more out of the changes we made after the practice, but that is the thing about qualifying -- you only get one shot at it."

DAN WHELDON: "I'm not sure what was wrong with the car. It's unfortunate because we have a good race car, and the Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew have been working hard. This just makes it more difficult. Our car has been strong throughout the preseason and during the practices this weekend, so this is disappointing. Our race setup was really good yesterday, so I think we'll be fine."

BUDDY RICE: "Rahal, the whole team, has done an excellent job in the offseason. For us to come out and kick the season off with a pole has been excellent. The Honda G Force combination has been beautiful. It's been an excellent weekend. We've been fast. We knew we were going to be in the top five; we just didn't know we were going to run that big of a number." (About substituting for Kenny Brack): "To fill in for Kenny, it's not the best way you want to do it. But to get the opportunity, I've worked with Rahal before, so to come in and fill his seat, those are some big shoes to fill. But hopefully this will help his recovery to come back and get back in the car sooner, because he's got a fast car." (About the race): "It's just going to depend on how everyone's cars are for the long haul. I think the way the fuel tanks are now, they've taken 5 gallons away from us, I think that might change some people's fuel strategies and how they're going to look at attacking the race. Obviously the times have been close all weekend. The top 13 or so were all within one-tenth of a second of each other. That shows how much the series has done to try to make things more competitive, and it's going to be an excellent race. The person who makes the least amount of mistakes is going to be the winner."

ALEX BARRON: "The engineers were monitoring the weather, and with the sun coming out from our session this morning until the run this afternoon, we made some adjustments on the car and were able to improve our speed. The guys have done an excellent job this weekend. We were a little surprised at some of the speeds in qualifying." (About moving around different teams in the past): "Growing up, I had a dream about becoming a race driver, and once I got there, it was quite a bit different than I thought it would be. When you are away from racing for one or two weeks, you realize that is what you really want to do. In my career, I have had a lot of reality checks, but I have been fortunate to work with a lot of really good people. This year, I have a full-time ride with Red Bull Cheever Racing, and Chevrolet is giving us a lot of support." (About the effect of the new banking on tomorrow's race): "You are going to see two-wide in the corners. I'll doubt you'll see three because the banking is different than a place like Texas. It is not only lower but also starts later in the corners. It is not going to be easy."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a good feeling sitting out there and waiting to qualify. That was as fast as the Arca/Ex car could go. We were very close but not good enough. I think the car will be good in the race. I've been working hard this past year to get to 100 percent fitness to get back in the car and go back to racing because this is what it is all about. I'm very excited about the race tomorrow."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We made a mistake in our qualifying run. I should have run fifth gear, but we thought that sixth gear would be quicker. I would like to be starting better, but I'm not worried about the race tomorrow. We'll be in good shape."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It has been a pretty exciting weekend so far. We had at a shot at the pole, but we ended up just a tick short. The Pennzoil Panther Chevy has been strong all weekend. We have an unbelievable race car, and I know we will be at the front throughout the race."

ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm not exactly sure what happened today because we were running a similar setup to Alex (Barron). We had a good weekend leading up to qualifying, but our results weren't quite the results we were looking for. We thought we had a good enough car to put us in the top five. Tomorrow will be better, though, because we have a solid setup for the race. We'll have to run a lot of good passing moves to get us into the lead pack and make sure we're right up there for a good race to the finish."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We didn't qualify very well, but that was expected. We've been working on our race setup all weekend rather than qualifying. I'm happy with the car setup we have. It's good in traffic, and Darren (Manning) and I know that we can run the high groove with confidence. The racing might not be as close as it was last year, but I expect that with the new banking there will be plenty of passing, and there should be some good side-by-side racing."

DARREN MANNING: (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "I'm looking forward to getting a race under my belt. We're not too worried about our performance in qualifying as the race setup was more important to us. The key will be to be patient and take advantage of all our opportunities in the race and work to be among the leaders for the last 30 laps."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers A.J. Foyt IV , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Alex Barron , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing