IRL: Mid-Ohio: Series qualifying report

CASTRONEVES WINS POLE FOR HONDA 200 AT MID-OHIO LEXINGTON, Ohio, Saturday, July 21, 2007 -- Helio Castroneves remained perfect in IndyCar Series road/street course qualifying, earning the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award for the inaugural Honda...

CASTRONEVES WINS POLE FOR HONDA 200 AT MID-OHIO

LEXINGTON, Ohio, Saturday, July 21, 2007 -- Helio Castroneves remained perfect in IndyCar Series road/street course qualifying, earning the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award for the inaugural Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance.

Castroneves' No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone topped the Firestone Fast Six qualifying with a lap of 1 minute, 6.8375 seconds (121.620 mph), bettering his lap time three times during the 10-minute rally session. He was sixth-quick in single-car qualifying (1:08.0951; 119.374) to be included in the extra session that set the first three rows.

The Andretti Green Racing cars of Danica Patrick (1:07.1257; 121.098), Tony Kanaan (1:07.1757; 121.008), Marco Andretti (1:07.3931; 120.618) and Dario Franchitti (1:07.4037; 120.599) are next on the grid with Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (1:07.4742; 120.473), winner of the past two IndyCar Series races, sharing Row 3 with Franchitti.

HONDA 200 AT MID OHIO POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Helio Castroneves' sixth AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award this season, tying Billy Boat's 1998 record for most poles in a season and the 22nd pole position of his IndyCar Series career, extending his series record for career poles.

* Helio Castroneves has won the pole for all three road/street course events this season.

* Danica Patrick qualified second, her first front-row start of the season. It is her best on a road/street course in the IndyCar Series. Her previous best start was 11th at St. Petersburg earlier this year and at Infineon in 2006.

* Every driver in the Firestone Fast Six except provisional pole sitter Marco Andretti improved their time in the 10-minute shootout.

* Two drivers improved their position. Helio Castroneves went from sixth to first and Danica Patrick went from fifth to second.

HONDA 200 AT MID OHIO POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award winner): "What an awesome lap. I was struggling to get into the top six. When we got there, we made some adjustments to the car. Every time we stopped in the practice sessions here, we made adjustments. Those adjustments were key to making the car go faster. After that, it was almost too much. The car was very loose, but the team told me to stay out. What a great strategy by Team Penske."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "I think the ultimate comfort is when your one-lap qualifying is better than your session because you've given it everything you have in your one lap. This is by far the best I've done on a road course. Watkins Glen I left pit lane just absolutely disheartened and embarrassed with how badly I was doing, so this is a big turnaround for us. I'm really proud of my engineer Martin (Pare). I'm really proud of the team. It feels good to have the Motorola car on the front row, not on an oval, but on a road course. It's a big deal for me right now." (About the team component) "Team effort is what we do every single day and every single session. I've never talked about a race car and talked about driving more than when I came to this team. I think it pays in dividends just in getting everybody up to speed and understanding more, so that when you want to make a change to a car you have your own suggestions and can help things along. It helps that my teammates stand behind me and believe in me. I think that's one of the biggest things. Everybody around me believes that I can do it. I'm real proud of everybody and proud of myself today."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "It was a great team effort, and I've got to congratulate Danica (Patrick) on her run. She's been working hard on her out laps, and I think it paid off. AGR did a great job today. We made a little mistake on the setup of the Team 7-Eleven car for the Firestone Fast Six Shootout, but it's better to find out now than to try and find it in the warmup. We have a good car for the race, and the people who we are fighting for the championship are behind us, so I'm happy about that."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "It was a great day for Andretti Green Racing to put four cars in the top five. I was much happier when the NYSE car was on the pole, but we'll take fourth and get ready for the race."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "I'm disappointed in the way the shootout went. I felt really good with the Canadian Club car after the one-lap qualifying run and knew I had more in it. I thought we were going to challenge for the pole, but had to come in for fuel with only a couple of minutes left and didn't have enough time to put down a good lap."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth): "Not quite what we had hoped to do in the Firestone Fast Six, so we'll have our work cut out for us in the race. It's been a bit of a struggle so far this weekend, but you never know what can happen in a race. The key will be trying to get to the front or simply in front of Dario (Franchitti). We can't let too many points slip through our fingers this weekend."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh): "'We went out there and just tried to run a smooth lap with the goal of making it into the top six, but it's really hard to go out there and not run as fast as you can. Obviously we're disappointed with the result because we definitely had a lot left in the car. Track position is always important on the road courses, so I'll just have to stay out of trouble and rely on my crew for some quick stops in hopes of moving up through the field. Hopefully, we'll be up to the challenge.''

DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, qualified eighth): "There's a lot more in the ABC Supply car, but we broke a shifter cable this morning, so we didn't do any qualifying (simulations). I wasn't sure how hard to push the new tires. Your outlap is crucial to your qualifying lap, and I needed to push harder earlier. At least we're safely in the top 10, and we have a good car for the race."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "It's really disappointing. It's no question, we hurt ourselves yesterday. That's probably why we took the extra shot today for qualifying to get in the fast six, and we didn't do it. We'll start ninth tomorrow. It's hard to pass here, but our car is fine in race trim. We just tried to go for a little bit more. It had a little too much push, so we freed it up a bit and just went over the top."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, qualified 10th): "We're doing a great job for our first weekend out here together. The Ethanol car is very strong, the team has worked extremely hard and things are progressing well for us. We're jumping in the deep end with no testing, but I've learned a lot from Scott (Sharp) and the engineers. I've run here a lot, so all that put together has really helped us."

***

At a press conference today, Super Aguri Panther Racing announced it will field a third IndyCar Series entry for its Indy Pro Series standout Hideki Mutoh for the season-ending race at Chicagoland Speedway.

The 24-year-old Mutoh currently leads the Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year standings in the Indy Pro Series. He claimed his first career victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in June and has posted eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes in 11 starts.

Mutoh's red and white No. 60 car will be sponsored by the Honda Formula Dream Project, a long-range program aimed at developing the talented drivers who compete in world-class racing events. Blair Perschbacher, the race engineer on Mutoh's No. 55 car in the Indy Pro Series, will also be making the move to the IndyCar Series. Mutoh will test his car at Kentucky Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Infineon Raceway to prepare for his debut.

JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, Panther Racing): "The entire Panther team is extremely excited to help Hideki Mutoh make his debut in the IndyCar Series at Chicago. He's proved to all of us that he deserves this opportunity by the way he's performed in the Indy Pro Series and the way he's driven the IndyCar Series car during testing. Everybody here loves the way he approaches the sport mentally and the tenacity he's shown us on the racetrack. Hideki is a special driver who has a bright future in open-wheel racing, and we look forward to seeing him in a Panther car." (About Mutoh): "I've said it before this year, but Hideki does remind me of Sam (Hornish Jr.) In racing, it's one thing to be fast, but Mutoh is mentally tough and he never quits in a race car -- the same qualities that helped Hornish be so successful in the No. 4 car. I've seen it since day one with Hideki and he's proved that time and again on the racetrack this season."

HIDEKI MUTOH (Driver, No. 60 Honda Formula Dream Project Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "I'm very happy and excited about this opportunity to race for Super Aguri Panther Racing in the IndyCar Series. I have learned a lot this season in the Indy Pro Series and want to do well at Chicagoland. I have to thank John Barnes, Aguri Suzuki, the Honda Formula Dream Project and everybody at Super Aguri Panther Racing for giving me this chance -- it has been a goal of mine since I arrived in the United States. I also look forward to working with Vitor (Meira) and Kosuke (Matsuura), who have been a big help to me as I adjust to this style of racing."

AGURI SUZUKI (Super Aguri Panther Racing Project Leader): "Since Hideki entered the Indy Pro Series this year, he has won a race and his results have been very impressive. Although the season is not over yet, we decided to give him an opportunity to race in the final round of IndyCar Series in Chicagoland Speedway. He gained this chance by his good performance, so I want him to enjoy the race."

***

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE:
9:50 -- 10:20 a.m. IndyCar Series warmup
1:30 p.m. Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance (85 laps/191.25 miles) ABC (Live)

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Aguri Suzuki , Hideki Mutoh , John Barnes , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing