Sharp leads Indy Panoz qualifiers with front row start INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2005 - After a sequence of storms washed out Saturday's MBNA Pole Day qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, the Indy Racing League changed its intended ...
Sharp leads Indy Panoz qualifiers with front row start
INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2005 - After a sequence of storms washed out Saturday's MBNA Pole Day qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, the Indy Racing League changed its intended format to permit 22 Day One qualifiers for this edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
On a cool, cloudy and blustery day Scott Sharp was the first driver to take four timed laps around the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval and produced the benchmark for all to beat with his average of 227.126mph in the #8 Delphi Fernandez Panoz/Honda/Firestone challenger.
The 2001 Indy 500 polesitter, Sharp was almost giddy with the result as he retained the third best speed once six hours of qualifying were complete. "I'm ecstatic," Sharp declared. "For us to come out in qualifying trim this morning, post our best time of the month and back it up, well, that is just peaking at the right time. This team focuses much more on the race and to end up at the front is tremendous."
While Sharp was ecstatic, rookie Danica Patrick felt dismay with her fourth-place grid spot in the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda. After setting the fastest practice speed of the meeting this morning (229.880mph) Patrick expected to have a chance for Pole but couldn't back it up.
"I had some severe (wind-induced) oversteer and almost spun it on my first lap. That really hurt my qualifying average (227.004mph) and, even though I was able to make up a lot of ground, when you are two miles an hour off, you have a lot of catching up to do. My Panoz has been handling beautifully all week and I think we'll be a threat in the race," Patrick said.
Teammate Vitor Meira will start seventh in the #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda, making his third Indy 500 with a speed of 226.848mph. The Brazilian passed up his first attempt and went out later in the afternoon. "I was flat and the Panoz handled extremely well with the changing wind conditions," Meira indicated.
2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Kosuke Matsuura will start eighth in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda after posting 226.397mph as the fifth driver to take timed laps. Matsuura was "expecting mid-226 and that's what we did. The Panoz was very good but it was a little bit windy out there. I am happy with our starting position."
Of the 22 qualifiers, ten chose the sole American-designed-and-built chassis competing in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series tenth anniversary season.
The next round of qualifying to fill the traditional field of 33 resumes next Saturday and sees the return of reigning 500 winner Buddy Rice, knocked out of today's qualifying by a practice crash on Wednesday. Team owner Bobby Rahal was gratified by the strength of the Panoz chassis, which "was not damaged at all." Rice sustained a bruised back but is recovering well.
Once the field is complete next Saturday, Sunday the 22nd is reserved for bumping of the slowest cars. The 89th Indianapolis 500 takes place May 29th.