PATRICK CAPTURES POLE AT KANSAS ROOKIE LEADS RLR SWEEP OF THE TOP THREE SPOTS KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Rahal Letterman Racing's rookie sensation Danica Patrick captured her first IRL IndyCar Series pole position leading a RLR sweep of the top-three...
PATRICK CAPTURES POLE AT KANSAS
ROOKIE LEADS RLR SWEEP OF THE TOP THREE SPOTS
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Rahal Letterman Racing's rookie sensation Danica Patrick captured her first IRL IndyCar Series pole position leading a RLR sweep of the top-three positions for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Indy 300. Patrick making her debut on the fast 1.5-mile oval just west of downtown Kansas City posted a fast lap 214.668 mph. Patrick's qualifying lap narrowly edged the fast lap of defending race winner and her teammate Buddy Rice (214.650 mph) and their Rahal Letterman teammate Vitor Meira (214.546 mph).
Patrick, piloted the No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Honda Panoz Firestone to the pole in just her eighth IndyCar race. She became just the second female to win a pole position in the IndyCar Series as she matched Sarah Fisher's accomplishment at Kentucky in 2002. "I knew the first lap was pretty good but I wasn't sure if I was fast enough to beat Buddy's time," said Patrick, whose last pole came last June at Portland in a Formula Atlantic race. "Buddy was very fast. In fact I didn't even know if the final lap was pole or not. It is pretty cool accomplishment for our team to be first, second and third here at the Argent Mortgage Indy 300. Everybody is flat (on the throttle) out there and a lot of the speed is just how neutral can you make the car. This is a tribute to the crew for their setup. Last year Buddy and Vitor had the best cars in the race and I think we can work on their setups in the warm-up. Winning the pole is pretty exciting. It is a great moment for the Rahal Letterman Racing and our sponsors, the IRL and open-wheel racing in general. Now we just have to go take care of business in the race. "
Rice, was looking for his sixth IRL career pole Saturday, but instead he will make his first front row start of the 2005 IRL season. Rice defeated Meira last year at Kansas in the second closest finish in IRL history, 0.0051 seconds.
"I knew we had a pretty good car all morning, but qualifying is always different due to the weather," said Rice, a three-time winner in 2004. "It is a great day for all three Rahal Letterman cars to be up front. It is a big emotional bump for the team, especially for my crew since we have had so many bad breaks lately. We need a smooth, high points paying weekend for the No. 15 Argent Pioneer Honda team. This is a good start working towards that result. We knew that all three of the cars were fast and pretty equal in our setups. A lot of times it just comes down to the qualifying draws. We picked an early number and Vitor and Danica were the last cars out. Sometimes that is good and sometimes it is bad. Now we need to continue it on Sunday. I'd like to put the Argent Pioneer Honda back in victory lane here."
Meira piloted his No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Menard/Johns Manville Honda/Panoz/Firestone to a speed of 214.546 mph and will start third, creating the first top-three IRL qualifying sweep since Red Bull Cheever Racing in 2002 at Michigan International Speedway. Ironically RLR's Buddy Rice, driving then for Cheever Racing, was part of the last top-three sweep.
"It doesn't get much better than that for our team----Rahal Letterman Racing 1-2-3," said Meira. "Whether I am on the pole or Buddy or Danica, the real story is that our team was very fast and this is a first for Rahal Letterman Racing. It doesn't matter who is on the pole. Last year I lost this race by inches and now I want to win and it doesn't matter if it is by only an inch."
"It is a very exciting day for the team," said Scott Roembke, Chief Operating Office of Rahal Letterman Racing. "We knew coming to Kansas that we had a good setup after last year's performance by Buddy and Vitor, but this is a first for us."