IRL: Indy 500: Panther Racing Pole Day report

Meira Puts Panther on Outside of Second Row for Indy 500 Vitor Gives Team its Best Starting Position at Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Vitor Meira gave Panther Racing its best career starting position at the Indianapolis Motor...

Meira Puts Panther on Outside of Second Row for Indy 500

Vitor Gives Team its Best Starting Position at Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Vitor Meira gave Panther Racing its best career starting position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he put the No. 4 Panther Honda on the outside of the second row during Pole Day qualifications Saturday. Vitor, who also improved his own personal best start at Indy, will start in the sixth position, alongside last year's pole winner Tony Kanaan.

The last two days have marked substantial improvement for the entire Panther team. After rain washed out last weekend's attempts at Pole Day, the team waited until Friday to work on its qualification setup. The changes Chief Engineer Bill Pappas and team co-owner John Barnes made to the car were remarkable, as Meira's top speed continued to climb until his qualification attempt on Saturday.

With an average speed of 226.156 mph, the 29-year-old Brazilian solidified his team's chances as a threat to win the 90th Indianapolis 500.

Panther has now followed up its best finish at Indianapolis -- fifth place last season with Buddy Lazier -- with it's highest starting position. The previous best was a seventh place start by Sam Hornish in 2002.

Vitor, who finished in second place in the '500' last season, joked, "I've improved my best start by one position, now I need to improve my best finish by only one position."

This is also Panther's best qualification effort of 2006, topping the 11th place start at Twin Ring Motegi. Meira is currently in eighth place in the IndyCar Series points standings and is just two races removed from his fifth place finish at St. Pete.

Panther is now preparing for its ninth start in the Indy 500 and is heading into the race with a one-car effort for the first time since 2002. This will be Meira's fourth start with Panther and his fourth career start in the World's Greatest Race. Last season's Panther cars qualified ninth (Buddy Lazier), tenth (Tomas Enge) and 11th (Tomas Scheckter). Lazier finished 5th in the No. 95 car, the team's best finish at Indianapolis. Both Enge and Scheckter were running in the Top Ten of the race before Danica Patrick spun on a restart, subsequently crashing both Enge's No. 2 and Scheckter's No. 4 cars.

The 90th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be held next Sunday, May 28th and broadcast live on ABC at noon. Additional coverage is provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio Channel 145.

Vitor Meira Quote:

"This team is awesome; I'm completely amazed at what Panther Racing has been able to accomplish in the few months we've been together. The improvement this month has been spectacular. It's been a short month for us practice wise but we've given it everything we have. A few days ago we were really happy with our race setup and not sure about how we would qualify. Now we are happy with both, and we are ready to go race. We could have had a little more grip but as it warmed up we lost some downforce from the morning practice session. I just can't say enough about (team co-owner) John Barnes and all of my mechanics and engineers at Panther -- we've bonded this month and that's going to help us win this race next week."

-pr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Buddy Lazier , Tony Kanaan , John Barnes , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing