IRL: Indy 500: Saturday day seven report

RAIN WIPES OUT MBNA POLE DAY; TWENTY-TWO SPOTS DECIDED ON SUNDAY INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 14, 2005 -- Persistent rain forced MBNA Pole Day Qualifications for the 89th Indianapolis 500 to be moved from Saturday, May 14 to Sunday, May 15, ...

RAIN WIPES OUT MBNA POLE DAY; TWENTY-TWO SPOTS DECIDED ON SUNDAY

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 14, 2005 -- Persistent rain forced MBNA Pole Day Qualifications for the 89th Indianapolis 500 to be moved from Saturday, May 14 to Sunday, May 15, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League officials announced.

All on-track activity was canceled at 12:15 p.m. (local time) Saturday after rain fell on the Speedway throughout the morning, preventing any action on the historic 2.5-mile oval.

Qualifying for spots 1-22 in the field will start at noon Sunday and continue through 6 p.m. Practice will precede MBNA Pole Qualifications from 9:30-11 a.m.

In other news, Paul Dana remains hospitalized at Methodist Hospital. His testing and evaluation was completed Saturday and confirmed that Dana sustained a concussion and fractured T-7 vertebra. He will remain hospitalized until at least Sunday.

MBNA POLE QUALIFYING RAINOUT QUOTES:

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "I don't think it affects our program too much. Playing the weather game is part of the deal at Indy. The good thing is that we'll have more time to think and prepare for qualifying tomorrow. It looks like the weather should cooperate tomorrow, which gives us something to look forward to."

BRIAN BARNHART (President and COO, Indy Racing League): "There were going to be some strategic decisions made by some good teams, and we lost out on a good opportunity for that today." (About trying to qualify 22 cars on Sunday): "We may have to wait to see how it plays out. It may change the drama aspect about positions 8-12, since they now are going to be where they're going to stay. You're still going to have drama about the pole. That's going to be running all day long, from 12 to 6, just like we did with Helio (Castroneves) a couple of years ago. You'll still have the drama with the front row and pole, and you'll have the potential of drama with positions 18-24 as they battle for the 22nd spot." (About the option of running on Monday): "Monday is something we had as an option available to us. A lot of it is the weather forecast, and the fact that we just really wanted to come out of this weekend with 22 cars qualified. That was our original goal, and doing so means we have to qualify 22 cars in one day. The forecast for tomorrow, although cool, is dry for the whole day. One thing we are going to change because of the anticipated coolness and a high of 58 degrees, is that we are going to add an additional warmup lap. You'll start and attempt on the third time by instead of the second." (About decision to use the new format): "Qualifying has evolved every year since the Speedway opened. In 1911, the lineup was set by the order the entry was received, and it's evolved every year since. It's always a unique and interesting qualifying procedure. The other thing fans are attracted to is track records, and the days of track records are few and far between just because of the interest in trying to control the speeds, so the other aspect that they like is bumping. We tried to devise a system that saw bumping every day. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see it today." (About decision to delay): "We decided to do what was in the best interest of the fans as well as the competitors. Even if it stopped raining right now, the conditions are not conducive to drying under the situation. It would take three hours to dry, an hour to practice and you're not going to start qualifying at 5:30. It's not fair to the fans or the competitors. We decided to call the day early, and run Pole Day in entirety and give everybody a fair chance under the same conditions."

TOM ANDERSON: (Co-owner and Managing Director, Fernandez Racing): "With the format changing to 22 cars on Sunday, we have a little bit more to think about. With three chances on the same day, though, I think I would still play our cards accordingly. The biggest thing is making sure everybody gets back in the rhythm because, obviously, rain disrupts rhythm. You would prefer rhythm going into qualifying rather than periods of hesitation, which the rain provides."

SCOTT SHARP: (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It is a shame that we were not able to get qualifying in today particularly from the standpoint that today was supposed to be a bit warmer. From a driver's perspective, I think we all know pretty much where we sit at this stage. You certainly want some practice time to confirm where the car is, maybe do a couple of laps, make any changes and get yourself set for qualifying. As long as the IRL is willing to keep that and give us the time we need, I don't think it matters what day we do it."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The rain is unfortunate. Obviously, we were looking forward to getting back on the track today, especially after yesterday's incident. Our plan was to run both the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske car as well as the backup to help us decide which one would be better for qualifying. We can't change the weather, so we'll just have to wait until tomorrow to see where we stack up against the competition."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It's a shame we couldn't get qualifying in today, especially with the new format, but Mother Nature didn't let that happen. We'll see where we're at in the morning warmup, but overall, I feel good about tomorrow. The Marlboro Team Penske guys have been working really hard to make sure we're ready to put the car in the show so hopefully we'll have a good run."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I would have liked to have qualified today, but the rain wouldn't let us. So I'll just relax with my wife and look forward to hopefully getting on the track tomorrow. You try to focus on qualifying on a particular day, but you have to have the ability to ride out the weather if necessary."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It seems like we're always dealing with the rain when we come to Indianapolis. The conditions are supposed to be much cooler tomorrow, and we'll have to change the setup for the ArcaEx car a bit for the conditions. I think there will be some added pressure to get in the show tomorrow, to be one of the 22 cars to qualify. Otherwise, you don't have much time to work on your race setup."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 37 Newman Haas Team Centrix Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "I woke up this morning and saw the rain and knew I was going to sit around all day. At least it gave us a chance to catch up on preparing the car. We were pretty behind. As a driver, it is frustrating because you prepare yourself mentally for qualifying, and then nothing happens. We have been able to make improvements to the car for the race setup, but we only ran one qualifying simulation. I guess it's better than nothing, and we will give it our best shot. Realistically, we didn't have much chance at the pole, but I would be really happy to be in the top-11, but the important thing is to qualify for the race since we will be in Mexico next weekend. Actually, this situation is probably better for us since we can concentrate on getting in the top 22 tomorrow instead of trying to get into the top 11 today and possibly have kept coming up short."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 36 Newman Haas Team Centrix Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "When it rains, there is nothing you can do. On ovals, you have to be patient. I hope I can put the Centrix car in a good starting position, but a top-10 start would be great. It will be tough to get pole, but we are going to go for it and see how close we get. It is supposed to be cooler tomorrow, but that doesn't change anything for us since we didn't really get a qualifying simulation in yesterday anyway. I feel really comfortable in Indianapolis. I haven't run in an IndyCar since the race here last year and got on track on Tuesday and on the third lap we ran a good time. It's more important for us to have a good race than get a good starting spot so we concentrated on getting a good race setup this week since we won't be here next week. There is going to be a lot of action tomorrow, and it will be great for the fans. I hope the weather cooperates and a lot of people come out to see the action."

JOHN TZOUANAKIS (Team Manager, Newman Haas Racing): "We would have definitely liked to have seen two days of qualifying, today and tomorrow. It's going to put a lot of pressure on the team to attempt to get both cars in the top 22 positions that are available, yes. We have a few ideas of what we would do if we don't, but we're putting a lot more effort and time into getting the cars into the race, and then if it doesn't happen we'll worry about those other options." (If things don't work in your favor tomorrow, are there any options for getting the guys back (from the Champ Car event in Mexico) next weekend?): "Some of those things have been discussed, but like I said, the biggest thing is (to) wait and see what takes place tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get both cars in, and we won't have to worry about those others options."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm not sure if (the rainout) makes us the favorites for sure. There are a lot of guys out there that are very, very fast. But, we've been working very hard. Chevrolet, Pennzoil -- everybody has been doing a good job. Half the guys, I really tip my hat off to them, they are working day and night." (About leading most laps vs. winning): "There's a lot. This is one of the toughest races in the world, and it is for a reason. Sometimes it is easy to lead a couple of laps, but there is a big difference between leading and winning. I am learning that slowly. I think we had a good race in Japan where I showed a lot of maturity. We were two laps away from it, and I think we really come into this race with a good atmosphere and team and hope we can get it done."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "Tomorrow is like it would be today. I am going to go on the track and see if the car is any quicker. We have struggled a bit this week. It seems like anything we have done and no matter how free the car is we are stuck at 219 (mph). We are hoping that we get a little bit more speed and make the top 22 and go work on the race setup. If we have a good race car and stay on the lead lap, anybody has got a chance, so that is what we are going to do."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 95 Panther/Jonathan Byrd's/ESPN 950 AM Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): I've probably never been involved with a program that had a shot for the first few rows. I think the best start we've had is the middle of the second row. I think we could have a shot at the front row. The Chevy power-- they've really done their homework over the winter. I mean there's a lot of power there. Obviously the Honda's are strong and the Toyota's are strong, but I think our Chevy has something for them tomorrow. We unfortunately didn't get a chance to run yesterday. It's really hard to figure out what people are doing out there because with the draft you can pick up three or four miles, and we try to run strictly clean air. This week really looking at running in clean air and trying to optimize the qualifying capacity. This is a new effort. They're really good guys, but they've just started working together this week. We feel pretty good about tomorrow." (About the opportunity can get him in Victory Lane): "Yes. Big time. I have been watching, and I have great teammates in Tomas (Scheckter) and Tomas (Enge). We have a very fast race car. My race engineer, Andy Brown, I have so much respect for him. We are a factor, I think, for the first few rows. In the right condition, we could be front row. We have a very strong race car. Come Race Day, I think we are going to be a huge factor. Yes, I couldn't be more pleased. It's the best chance I've had in many, many years to win this race again."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): (About chance for the pole) "It would be tremendous. I think it has really become two different races. The race for the pole, then quickly everyone shifts gears and starts working on the important race on the 29th. This whole opportunity with Fernandez (Racing) and Delphi for me has been a tremendous rejuvenation. I would love to do it for all these guys. The opportunity I have with them, we have been working so well together and things have been going great this week. We have a lot of momentum right now. They have given me a lot of confidence. I am pretty excited to go out tomorrow and see just what we have."

RICHIE HEARN (No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Racing Special Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): (About having the opportunity to race): "Yeah, it's nice to be here at the beginning of the week. Things have gone well for us. It's been a big chore for the team to get the Chevy and the Panoz together since it has not been done before. The car has run without a hitch, and we couldn't be much happier, really. We've spent a long time working on the race setup, but have also tinkered with qualifying as well. Our main focus is to get in the top 11 and then focus on the race next week." (About starting the week with a team): "One thing that makes this place different is that you cannot just go out there and cruise around. You must really tune your car for the race. I think that experience comes into play, and I think that sometimes when you are with a big team you can over think that process and almost engineer yourself out of it (the race). If you have a good tight group of guys, whether you have a lot of money or not, you can put together a good race car that will be there at the end."

BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Racing): (About Buddy Rice): "I'm disappointed for him to not have a chance. I mean, he's doing a rain dance for tomorrow, but it won't take him long to get on top come Race Day. Danica and Vitor are going to do a lot of good work this week after qualifying. They've already done some full-tank runs. We're going to have good race cars and this is still a team and while we're disappointed, we're thankful that Buddy's okay, but it's a shame that he's not going to have a run at the pole tomorrow, but we're going to do everything we can to make sure that we give him the best race car next Saturday and have the best racecars out there the following Sunday. I think he'll be on a mission, there's no doubt about it." (About Sunday's weather): "I don't think you're going to see too many runs until late tomorrow, in the old days, it would be because of the line would've been run through. Now, there will be some people who say, 'Let's wait until Happy Hour.' Which makes that five or six (o'clock) to qualify see what everybody can throw at you and if you wait all day and you can't get it done, well, you went out at the most ideal time and you get fourth or third or sixth or whatever. I think you won't see people qualifying cars early. They'll wait for Happy Hour. Then they're subject to, if they can't quite get it right and they think they can."

VITOR MEIRA (Rahal Letterman Racing Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): (About getting tires up to temperature on Sunday): "That's why they've added the third lap by, for tomorrow, it's an option, you don't have to take it, but you have the choice. Last year, we did have the third lap, last year it was cold, it was very cold, it was very cold on qualifying, and we did use the third lap. It's all a matter of how you approach the day. If you start your lap on the third lap by, you just have to be a little more patient with tires and not start to use them on your previous lap before the green flag. It's just a matter of how you approach it and everything. Last year it was difficult, but the more tires you have, the better."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer): "I'm not sure how we're going to be. We need to do a couple more full-tank race simulation out there with Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira). See how the cars react a little bit faster than I'm used to, or what I have raced before and I'm sure that I'll have to learn a little bit, a lot a bit, maybe. I'm sure I'll have knots all over my body, and my fiance (a physical therapist) will work them out. I think that maybe yesterday, if we'd ran the full day, I think that was the first day that people were really trying to be alone and really trying to do runs by themselves. I think if we would've had some towing going on, which would've happened in Happy Hour, no doubt, we would've seen, maybe 228. I think in qualifying, the first lap, you don't want to go out there and do something stupid and end your qualifying right away. And you don't want to do anything that makes you doubt the car. You have to have the most confidence in the world in your car and that you're going to keep your foot down and that thing is not too positive in the front, or you're going to slip in the front end and hit the wall trying to keep your foot in it. So I think the first lap has got to be a confidence builder and knowing where the car's going to be. The second lap, you've got to push it a little bit and go after it after that."

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ABC at 1 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.

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