INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2004 Buddy Rice and Rahal-Letterman Racing's "huge accomplishment" earned them top spot in a tense, late afternoon qualifying session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team decided, late last year to change its chassis ...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2004 Buddy Rice and Rahal-Letterman Racing's "huge accomplishment" earned them top spot in a tense, late afternoon qualifying session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team decided, late last year to change its chassis affiliation to the only IRL chassis designed and constructed in the United States.
The move paid off for the Arizona native and his Ohio-based crew as they captured MBNA Pole Position for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race with a four-lap average of 222.024mph around the historic 2.5-mile oval in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone challenger. It is Rice's second MBNA pole position of the season; he earned the first pole of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February.
"The Panoz G Force/Honda combination has been in contention all year," Rice declared. "We missed one test day then came back more than competitive earlier and have to credit the terrific technical support all season. This month the guys at Panoz G Force have been truly helpful; they know what it takes to capture poles, wins and championships. This is an unbelievable feeling; it really hasn't sunk in yet," he said.
Despite practicing only race-day setups during the previous week, Bruno Junqueira and his Newman/Haas Racing team brought their #36 PacifiCare Panoz G Force/Honda to the inside of the second row today, qualifying fourth with a run at 221.379 for the four-lap sprint. "This effort was good because of how late this program came together," Junqueira explained. The rain hurt this team on Friday, because that was their day to work on qualifying setups and then, in the postponed morning practice, they developed a gearbox problem. "We had [dialed in] too much oversteer for qualifying and I was almost sideways in Turn 1 the first lap," he said. "Otherwise I would likely have run 222."
Adrian Fernandez starts sixth in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda with a four-lap average of 220.999mph. "The car felt really good and I was flat out through the four laps. The G Force is very sensitive sometimes," the Mexican noted. "Our car has been running good in traffic and getting up to speed and all that, so I think we have a very strong car for Race Day."
Of the 22 cars that qualified today on this cool, gray day when rain kept practice from occurring until well after noon, eight of the top 12 used the American way to the top with Panoz G Force. Qualifications continue Sunday and the final day to set the field of 33 for the 88th Indianapolis 500 is next Sunday, May 23rd. The race will take the green flags on Sunday, May 30th at Noon EDT and will be carried live on ABC TV.