IRL: Michigan: Qualifying report

HERTA CLAIMS POLE FOR FIRESTONE INDY 400 BROOKLYN, Mich., Saturday, July 30, 2005 -- Bryan Herta grabbed his third Marlboro Pole Qualifying award of the season with a lap of 219.141 mph (32.8556 seconds) on the 2-mile D-shaped Michigan ...

HERTA CLAIMS POLE FOR FIRESTONE INDY 400

BROOKLYN, Mich., Saturday, July 30, 2005 -- Bryan Herta grabbed his third Marlboro Pole Qualifying award of the season with a lap of 219.141 mph (32.8556 seconds) on the 2-mile D-shaped Michigan International Speedway oval.

The driver of the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone has posted pole starts this season on a short oval (Phoenix International Raceway), a temporary street course (inaugural event in St. Petersburg, Fla.) and now a superspeedway. He transformed those previous front-row starts into seventh- and fourth-place finishes.

Tomas Scheckter recorded his fourth consecutive top-5 start -- and fourth front-row position of the season -- with a lap of 219.100 mph (32.8617) in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. It is the third time in four races at the high-banked MIS that Scheckter will start from the front row (pole wins in 2002, '03).

Defending race winner Buddy Rice (218.909), attempting to turn around a season beset by mechanical issues and injury, and Scott Dixon (218.890) will start on Row 2. All three engine manufacturers are represented in the top four spots.

Herta was the third driver making a qualifying attempt and withstood all challengers on a pleasant afternoon in the Irish hills.

POST QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "It was a good run. You come here on race weekends, you want to maximize your speed in qualifying, and that's what we did. We took it up more than a mile an hour, so I'm real pleased with that. The Delphi guys just did a great job in tweaking the balance and the gears a little bit right before qualifying, and Honda gave us a great motor. I am really excited for tomorrow. This is a track that, if your car can draft well, you can start anywhere and you'll get to the front. I spent a lot of time in the first (practice) session up high on the third and fourth groove, so that's the kind of race that I am expecting tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified 16th): "We ran with so little downforce on the Marlboro Team Penske car that it started developing a push after the warmup laps, which caused us to lose speed. Thankfully, starting position is not as important at this track. It's a race you can win from anywhere, and I think we've got a good racecar. We'll be going flat out tomorrow, and there is enough room to pass and even run three-wide. The draft is extremely important so we need to stay with the lead pack and put ourselves in a position to battle for the win. It should be an exciting race for the fans."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified 13th): "Well, it wasn't quite where we wanted to qualify, but Michigan International Speedway is one track where starting position isn't as important because you can win from pretty much anywhere. I think we'll have two advantages tomorrow. Marlboro Team Penske has done a great job with our race setup all year, and my crew is one of the best at getting me in and out of the pits quickly. With these two factors at work, we should be able to battle for a top-five finish for sure, if not the win."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We put in a fresher motor between the two practices, and it was a little bit better, but we're still at the bottom of the page. We knew qualifying would be tough. I'm more pumped up about the race because I think we'll be able to stay in the draft and have a good finish with the ABC Supply car."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, Marlboro Pole Award winner): "It was pretty uneventful, which is always a good thing around this place. I was actually surprised. We went so early in line. I was surprised initially at the speed the car did. It was faster than we practiced. I was really pleased by speed. I fully expected one or two of the cars later on were going to get us, and they didn't. So that was a nice surprise to be able to hold on to it." (About his outlook for tomorrow's race): "It's tough. I know what happened today won't bare a great deal on the outcome of tomorrow's race. This is a track where there's a lot of different grooves. Race set up is a lot different than qualifying, so I don't expect that just because we're on the pole that's going to make things any easier than they would be if we qualified on the last."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified second): "The run I think was all I had. We had a good car. I'm happy with that. Milwaukee I was very, very upset with qualifying, and really thought we had a pole in the car and qualified third. But here its all we had. I hit my marks where it had to be, and the car set up was perfect. When you qualifying like that - even though we're second by such a small amount, I have to go away being happy. (About his outlook for tomorrow's race): "I think we look very good. I did some stuff today - a little bit of race stuff. The car is unbelievable. It just going to be a positioning race, positioning come out of the last stop. Hopefully the drivers realize that and no one does anything stupid. We can all manage to get out of the pits and see who's the best at the end."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 11th): "We seem to struggle a lot in qualifying on the superspeedways. Unfortunately, tomorrow we aren't going to start near the front, but it's the race that counts. I know the Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew will work on getting me a good race car for tomorrow."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "This is a good run for the Argent/Pioneer Honda team. That little black cloud has been following us for most of the season, and now, we are back at a track that we put the car in victory lane last year. So I think there is a confidence level for this team. But I know that 400 miles is a long race, and you have to have everything working together to win. We're going to put another big H-powered Honda in this car for the race, and see if we can get back to the winner's circle. Last year, the race strategy was very important for us to win, and I think you will see that again on Sunday. There will be drafting and fuel conservation throughout the race. We just want to be in position to win again late in the race. We'll see how the yellow fall in the race. The series is even more competitive this year, and you have to be on your game to win. Let's hope we are good on Sunday. We just need a solid, full-blown weekend with the car. We have had a lot of little things happen just like last weekend in Milwaukee. A mechanical failure put us in the wall. But now we're happy to have a good qualifying run, and we can continue this kind of the performance in the race too. Hopefully we can get some luck on Sunday. I don't see any little clouds right now and that is good going into the race. It's time to change our luck."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth): "That (qualifying run) is the first time we have the car balanced well today. I'm happy with that. It is very important to be in race mode than qualifying. So that will be a key for us on Sunday. You have to be happy with car by yourself before you can have a good car for the race. I think we have that now. We definitely improved the car from earlier in practice, and we are going in a good direction for the racecar. You would like to go for pole every weekend, and you try for that. But the bottom line is one person gets the pole. So we are in good shape right now. The race should be interesting for me since I haven't been here before. But I think there should be some good race and many packs out there."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "That is a good start in qualifying. I have raced here enough to know that qualifying really isn't that important here at Michigan. So I'd like to be on the pole but we have a good car for the race. So I am ready to go. The big thing is that we have a Honda engine and at a place like this the power is the most important. It just takes very little changes to go faster and Buddy and Danica did that today. But the race is the key for me. We have been fast here before, and Buddy won here last year. The heat won't be as hot as last weekend in Milwaukee but the heat could be a factor for downforce in the race. Having Buddy and Danica as teammates helps our Menard/Johns Manville Honda team too. We are able to exchange information for practice, qualifying and the race. Any little help is good. You are talking about tens and hundreds of seconds so you need to get as much information from all of the drivers as possible."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 95 Pennzoil/Byrd's/American Sentry Guard Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified sixth): "We made a lot of gains from practice, and that says how hard these Pennzoil Panther guys are working. It's great to be able to come out here every time and have a great racecar. It's going to be a long race tomorrow. We' know we've got the horsepower we need from Chevrolet, and we're going to be strong in the draft. I like that my team can find a way to make my car quicker after every session. This has been such a great opportunity with Panther, and Chevrolet has been so competitive that it makes all of our jobs a lot easier."

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 2 ROCKSTAR Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified 10th): "It's good to be back. Panther always has good cars, and the Chevy engine is really strong. It's easy to jump in and shake off all the rust. Having a good car really helps. I almost feel like I never left. I'm just happy to have a chance to get back into a competitive car again. We've got a really cool sponsor this year in ROCKSTAR that makes it a little bit more fun out here. Hopefully, we'll have a great day and all the Panther boys will be partying like a ROCKSTAR."

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Firestone Indy 400 on July 31 at Michigan International Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast will also be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). ESPN2's telecast of the Milwaukee 100 is scheduled for 3 p.m. (EDT) on July 28. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Courier-Journal 100 on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 18. The next episode of "The Fast Life," ESPN2's behind-the-scenes series about the IndyCar Series, airs at noon (EDT) on Aug. 7.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Buddy Rice , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske