IRL: Indy 500: Panoz G Force Bump Day report

Greg Ray - one of three American drivers aboard the American-made Panoz G Force chassis for the 2003 Indy 500. Eight of the nine Panoz G Force qualifiers for this year's Indy 500 have tasted success in IRL competition, but next week this group...

Greg Ray - one of three American drivers aboard the American-made Panoz G Force chassis for the 2003 Indy 500.

Eight of the nine Panoz G Force qualifiers for this year's Indy 500 have tasted success in IRL competition, but next week this group has their sights set on the ultimate career victory.

Three more US-made Panoz G Force chassis made the field for the "greatest spectacle in racing" today with Alex Barron leading the attack aboard the Mo Nunn Racing chassis originally entered for two-time Indy winner, Arie Luyendyk.

Barron (25th) was joined by Richie Hearn (28th - Sam Schmidt) and Airton Dare (33rd - AJ Foyt) in making the field - all three are former IRL winners.

They join pole day qualifiers Scott Dixon (4th - Ganassi), Tora Takagi (7th - Mo Nunn), Gil de Ferran (10th - Penske), Tomas Scheckter (12th - Ganassi), Greg Ray (14th - Access) and Felipe Giaffone (16th - Mo Nunn) in the Indy 500 field.

"We are very pleased with the way today has turned out," Panoz G Force Director of Sales, John Biddlecombe said.

"We have nine cars in the field for next week and eight of those nine have won an IRL IndyCar race before - Tora Takagi is the only one who hasn't and I think it is only a matter of time before he does.

"I genuinely believe we will have the 2003 Indy 500 winner in our ranks. The teams have been very pleased with the cars on longer runs during the week - running on full tanks and old tires.

"We don't want to be over confident but everybody at the factory at Braselton in Georgia is really looking forward to next Sunday."

Barron recorded an average speed of 227.274mph on his four lap run - the fastest qualifying speed of the day. He also recorded the fastest practice lap of the day today at 227.830mph.

At the start of the month the American was without a ride for the Indy 500 despite making one start this year in a Penske entered Panoz G Force in the Japan Indy 300 - filling in for the injured Gil de Ferran.

But injury to Luyendyk enabled Barron to join Greg Ray and Richie Hearn as the three American drivers contesting the Indy 500 in an American-made car.

"I only got into this car for the first time on Thursday, so it's been kind of a whirlwind four days for me, personally," Barron said.

"But it's a tribute to this Mo Nunn Racing program, and to a racing legend like Arie Luyendyk, to hand me a car that I can qualify so easily.

"Today was the first time we actually ran the car in qualifying trim since we got rained out yesterday. We actually had a few little problems crop up in practice this morning because the track was so different than it had been on Thursday and Friday.

"So we pulled the car out of the qualifying line, made a few changes, and waited before we could run a few more practice laps before we got back in line. The car felt great, although we played it pretty conservatively.

"I know we could've gone faster, but there was no use taking any risks that we didn't have to today. That's the benefit of driving for a three-car team that's been hard at it all month. There was a pretty good-sized database of information on what we needed to do to make the car balanced under the conditions we ran under today."

-pmg-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Arie Luyendyk , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Sam Schmidt , Mo Nunn