IRL: Motegi: Friday qualifying report

HORNISH TOPS PATRICK FOR POLE AT TWIN RING MOTEGI MOTEGI, Japan, Friday, April 29, 2005 -- Two-time IRL IndyCar® Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. claimed his first Marlboro Pole Award since 2003 as he earned the top starting spot for the Indy ...

HORNISH TOPS PATRICK FOR POLE AT TWIN RING MOTEGI

MOTEGI, Japan, Friday, April 29, 2005 -- Two-time IRL IndyCar® Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. claimed his first Marlboro Pole Award since 2003 as he earned the top starting spot for the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.

Hornish recorded a lap of 26.7266 seconds, 204.740 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone to claim the fourth pole position of his IndyCar Series career. His last pole position came at Kentucky Speedway in August 2003.

Rookie Danica Patrick qualified second with a lap of 26.7577, 204.502 mph in the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone. Patrick became the first woman to qualify on the front row of an IndyCar Series event since Sarah Fisher qualified second at Richmond in 2003.

Scott Sharp, Helio Castroneves and defending Indy Japan 300 winner Dan Wheldon rounded out the top five for the April 30 race.

Rookie Tomas Enge will start 23rd following a crash as he warmed up for his qualifying run. Enge will be evaluated before the start of the race to determine his driving status.

POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The cloud cover came by and the temperatures cooled down, so that definitely helped us. When we went out today in practice, we knew we wouldn't need much more downforce for qualifying. If we put too much downforce on the car for qualifying, it would have slowed us down on the straightaways. Our guys and Toyota have worked so hard over the past year, and we feel like we've overcome a very big deficit. They (Toyota) wanted to make sure they were on par with every other engine manufacturer that we have, and we're getting closer and closer. Hopefully by Indy we'll have an advantage."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I was so mad when we lost the pole, because we were so close. I still have a lot to learn. I just need to make sure tomorrow that I get in and out of the pits quickly, and feel comfortable with all the cars around me. I still don't know exactly what the cars does with the wind all the time, so I have a lot to learn." (About comparisons between her and Sarah Fisher): "I really don't think too much about what other females have done. I base my talent off of everybody else in this field. The competition is different now. It's the toughest it's ever been. I really don't challenge those statistics."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I am just really excited. We worked on the car a lot yesterday and felt like we needed a little bit more, especially for qualifying. The engineering staff worked hard overnight and came up with some great changes. We were good this morning, and took even another step forward for qualifying. You just have to love it when a plan comes together like that. A lot of the changes we made obviously helped for today with the great qualifying spot and will help tomorrow. This is an important race for us. There are a lot of people coming from Delphi and Futaba, so it is great to have the Delphi car starting up towards the front. Our job now is to make sure it is up there at the end of the day tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We had trouble in the first session with an edgy car. The changes we made before qualifying were good. I look forward to the race."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's been a funny weekend for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team. We had a problem yesterday in the morning session, and we had a problem in the first session today. But, having Honda power, I'm confident that we can make up for a lot, and I'm pleased with where we are."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Usually, you would like to qualify as late as possible. There is better grip. But if the car is good, it doesn't really matter when you go out. The Panoz has good stability right now, but I think it will be even better in the race. Last year was my first time here and the car was good. I moved from eighth to fourth before we cut a tire, so I think we'll have a good car for the race."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The temperature warmed up since this morning and that changed the track as well as the balance of the ArcaEx car. We'll use the warmup to get the car set up properly and see how we do come race time. I'm disappointed in our qualifying effort but confident that we'll have a good race car."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm not happy at all with our qualifying effort. But, I was pleased with the Team 7-Eleven car yesterday when we put it in race trim and we'll see how our warmup goes. The one thing that we know we can do is pass cars. It's been pretty wild for me in that regard this year, so I'm not too concerned about where I start."

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast by ESPN at noon (EDT) on April 30 with a live simulcast of the race at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on April 29 by ESPN360.com. The race will also be broadcast by the IMS Radio Network at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 29. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme" and webcast on indycar.com. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Sarah Fisher , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske