IRL: Indy 500: Chevy Pole Day report

Four Chevys in the Field for Indy 500 Chevrolet Powers Panther Racing Trio to Ninth, 10th and 11th in Pole Day Qualifying INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2005 - On a chilly day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chevrolet drivers Buddy Lazier, Tomas Enge...

Four Chevys in the Field for Indy 500
Chevrolet Powers Panther Racing Trio to Ninth, 10th and 11th in Pole Day Qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2005 - On a chilly day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chevrolet drivers Buddy Lazier, Tomas Enge and Tomas Scheckter warmed up for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 by qualifying ninth, 10th and 11th on a rain-delayed Pole Day. Chevy Indy V-8 engines powered the Panther Racing trio to nearly identical 226 mph speeds over their four-lap, 10-mile qualifying runs. Richie Hearn qualified Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Meijer Chevrolet 20th to place four Chevys among the 22 qualified entries. Qualifying continues next weekend to determine the 33-car starting grid.

Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, joined the Panther team for this year's race and showed that he still has the touch on the historic 2.5-mile speedway. Lazier averaged 226.353 mph in the Panther Racing/Jonathan Byrd's Chevrolet to post the ninth fastest speed of the day.

"Panther Racing has given me a great opportunity and I want to make the most of it," said Lazier. "This is a fast car, a real rocket. We've been trimming out the car, and I wish I had a little more time to practice because every time we practiced we went quicker.

"It was just about a perfect run," Lazier reported. "Just one time the wind caught me in Turn 2 and that cost me a little bit. I'm pleased with the run, but I had targeted 227s, so we were came up just a little short of what we wanted."

Tomas Enge, who competed in the Formula 1 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2001, had a different perspective on the track after his 226.107 mph qualifying run. Still recovering from broken ribs he suffered in Japan, Enge turned his fastest laps of the week on his qualifying sprint.

"The run was quite clean without any problems," said Enge. "The Chevrolet engine was running perfectly and my mechanics did a great job. My run was very consistent, with all of the lap times within .1 mph.

"I think we had some small things we could have improved, but I'm happy that my first qualifying attempt is behind me," said the racer from the Czech Republic. "Now I can concentrate on the race."

Tomas Scheckter was considered a pole contender after posting a 227.804 mph lap, the fastest speed in Friday's practice, but he couldn't repeat his performance in today's 50-degree temperatures. Scheckter averaged 226.031 mph on his four-lap qualifying run, placing him 11th in the field.

"Chevrolet has been working hard, and to be honest, we expected a little bit better speed than that," said the South African. "But that's Indy, and we'll take it.

"We have a good race car, and I look forward to the race," Scheckter continued. "We seemed to be pretty trimmed out, so I'm not sure we could have taken out much more downforce. Those were just the cards we were dealt."

Richie Hearn qualified 20th in Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Meijer Chevrolet at 222.707 mph.

"I'm pretty disappointed with what we ran," Hearn conceded. "We ran faster with full tanks earlier in the week. The speed's just not there right now."

Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 will continue on May 21-22. The 89th running of the 500-mile race is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 29. The 200-lap race will be broadcast live on ABC.

-gm racing-

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Series INDYCAR