Takagi in sixth row, Barron in ninth row SPARTA, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003) -- Mo Nunn Racing teammates Tora Takagi and Alex Barron will start in the sixth and ninth rows, respectively, for Sunday's Belterra Indy 300 after the opening day ...
Takagi in sixth row, Barron in ninth row
SPARTA, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003) -- Mo Nunn Racing teammates Tora Takagi and Alex Barron will start in the sixth and ninth rows, respectively, for Sunday's Belterra Indy 300 after the opening day of practice and qualifying today for Sunday's 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway tri-oval.
Takagi, running only the second race weekend of the season in a brand new #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Dallara chassis, turned a fast lap of 24.5108 seconds (24.5478 mph) during this afternoon's single-car qualifying session. It was the 12th-fastest lap of the session and puts him on the outside of the sixth row alongside series points leader Tony Kanaan. Takagi had competed in a Panoz G Force chassis at the first 10 events this season, his first on the IRL IndyCar Series tour.
With injured Mo Nunn Racing driver Felipe Giaffone in attendance as a spectator for the first time since his July 6 accident at Kansas Speedway, Barron and the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force turned a fast lap of 24.6733 seconds (215.94 mph) to take the inside-ninth-row starting spot alongside Scott Sharp. Barron is substituting for the fourth race in a row for Giaffone, who fractured his right femur and pelvis on race day at Kansas. Giaffone is targeting the Sept. 7 Chicagoland event for his return to the cockpit. Barron won last month's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan during this most recent run with the team. He also subbed for injured Mo Nunn Racing driver Arie Luyendyk at this year's Indy 500, where he finished sixth.
Two-time-defending series champion Sam Hornish, Jr., won the pole for the second time in three races driving the new Chevy Gen IV engine. He turned a fast lap of 24.2608 seconds (219.61 mph) for the top spot on the grid. Scott Dixon qualified second in 24.2891 seconds (219.35 mph), followed by Helio Castroneves in third at 24.2945 seconds (219.30). The entire 20-car field qualified within 0.5369 of a second, the tightest starting grid from top to bottom in IRL IndyCar Series history.
"My Pioneer Toyota was much better in qualifying than it was during the practice sessions. That is a good thing. We ended up with too much oversteer in the practice sessions, which is a big problem here. I think we fixed the problem for qualifying and now we can look forward to a strong race tomorrow. This (Dallara) car is still very new to me and to the Pioneer team. This is only the second race and only the third time we've ever run this car, so you can't expect miracles. We are definitely making progress."
"That qualifying run was a little bit of a mystery. I thought for sure we would be quicker. I can't quite put my finger on it here and now. The car felt pretty balanced. We just didn't have the speed that we thought we would. We'll just have to go back and look at the data and see what we can learn and hopefully make it a good, solid race car."
"It's so good to be back here to see everybody again. It feels, in a lot of ways, like it's been forever since the accident. But in a lot of ways the time has gone by very quickly because we've been working so hard in rehab. I feel like I'm in much better overall shape than I was when the accident happened. I guess that's what you could expect when you work out six to eight hours a day. The doctors say my bones are healing very well. I hope that maybe I can test at Chicago the week after Nazareth, and then come back and race at the Chicago race. That has been the schedule I have set for myself, at least. We'll see what Dr. (Henry) Bock (the series' chief medical official) has to say. Mentally, I'm definitely ready to go!"