IRL: Meira magic on The Milwaukee Mile

IRL: Meira magic on The Milwaukee Mile

It's just been a matter of time before Vitor Meira would take MBNA Pole Position during the 2004 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series campaign. The Brazilian driving for Rahal Letterman Racing earned pole today on the oldest oval in continuous use,...

It's just been a matter of time before Vitor Meira would take MBNA Pole Position during the 2004 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series campaign. The Brazilian driving for Rahal Letterman Racing earned pole today on the oldest oval in continuous use, The Milwaukee Mile and will start first in tomorrow's Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225, race #9 in the 16-event campaign.

Vitor Meira.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
The second of 22 drivers to take timed laps shortly after 1PM CDT, Meira thought it "was good to be out early in qualifying today. Today the track was the same for everyone; I have been first out in qualifying twice this year and the track wasn't in very good shape then." Meira's lap of 169.338mph (21.578 seconds) stood through 20 challenges.

Giving credit to his very experienced team, "Everybody at Rahal Letterman Racing are working so well together. It's Buddy, myself, our engineers Ray Leto (Meira) and Todd Bowland, the crews and just everyone at the team working hard and strong to get to the top of the charts. This is my first time here at Milwaukee and it is a lot like a road circuit in the corners. I think that has helped me get ready for this track," Meira noted.

Tony Kanaan starts second in the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda with a lap of 168.597mph (21.673 seconds). After struggling during the open test on the Mile, Kanaan "worked, the whole four guys together to get a good setup, and I think we nailed it. We're just working towards the race now."

Qualifying took place on a cool (temps in the low 70s) and cloudy early Saturday afternoon. 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race champion Buddy Rice earned the third starting spot in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda with a lap of 168.272mph (21.714 seconds) and said, "The track temperature was good and this is a driver's and handling track. We were behind on our short oval setups early in the year but I think you can see we have improved on those settings now."

Sam Hornish Jr. starts fourth in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota based on his lap of 168.258mph (21.716 seconds). "After practice we knew we had a pretty good car (he was fastest this morning) and I'm pretty happy with our handling in qualifying today." Teammate Helio Castroneves will bring the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota to the stripes in fifth grid slot with his lap of 168.093mph (21.738 seconds) and "was expecting to a little better but the car had tremendous push in Turns 3 and 4."

Adrian Fernandez starts sixth in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda after lapping the historic Mile at 168.001mph (21.749 seconds). "We didn't have a very good car" in practice this morning but the team changed his car "and it was pretty good in qualifying. It surprised me how stable the car was and I'm pretty happy with the speed we were able to do."

Dario Franchitti drove the #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda to seventh on the grid at 167.312mph (21.839 seconds) and the Scot noted he "didn't feel the wind at all. I am surprised it wasn't a slightly quicker lap time; I might have been in the wrong gear." Tomas Scheckter, first out in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet starts eighth (166.829mph/21.902sec) and thinks "that was one of the best qualifying runs I've ever had. I was flat out the whole way around."

Jaques Lazier gave the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevy a fine run to ninth at 166.375mph (21.962 seconds) after having gearbox failure thwart his practice attempts on Friday. "We are way behind so I'm very, very pleased with the team's efforts to get us ready to run here this afternoon." The last time Lazier raced here in 1997 (Indy Lights) the track was far bumpier than it is now, he said.

Darren Manning earned tenth on the grid in his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota yet on his first lap had "a bit of a moment through Turns 3 and 4. I completely lost any momentum and that spoiled both my laps." That was far better than teammate Scott Dixon's excursions today.

The Kiwi spun and crashed the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota in the morning session and had to revert to the backup for qualifying. He then spun on his second lap and made contact with the Turn 4 outside retaining wall. Dixon climbed from the car after secondary contact, resulting in heavy damage to the left side and front of his car. He was being evaluated for pain in his right knee and left ankle and will be re-evaluated in the morning by Dr. Henry Bock, the IRL's director of medical services.

Bryan Herta's #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda starts 11th and "the car is better still from this morning but this is not totally what I was hoping for." Townsend Bell earned 12th on the grid with the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevy and states "I love this track. It's very challenging." Felipe Giaffone placed the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevy 13th noting, "We've improved the car each session. Unfortunately we ran out of fuel on the second lap just before start/finish or we might have been quicker."

Dixon earned 14th on the grid but that spot goes to rookie Ed Carpenter in the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, who has been watching USAC cars run at this historic track since he was a kid. Teammate Alex Barron starts 15th in the #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy and admits, "We've been struggling in qualifying but I think for the race we'll be okay. A strong car shows here."

Dan Wheldon's qualifying struggles in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda relegated him to 16th with a car that was "very loose. We need to work on it and figure out why we're having these problems." Mark Taylor starts 17th in his second run with the #13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda as the Briton "struggles with this track. It's more a road course than oval, a big challenge." Tora Takagi takes the 18th spot on this 22-car grid in his #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota admitting, "The car is getting better but we still need to tweak it."

A disconsolate A.J. Foyt IV starts 19th in the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota, followed by veteran Scott Sharp in the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota. It's a difficult weekend for rookie Kosuke Matsuura and the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda team, crashing yesterday in practice and fighting oversteer in his qualifying run.

Sunday's Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 takes the green flags on The Milwaukee Mile at 2:30PM CDT and can be seen live on ABC.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Jaques Lazier , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske