IRL: Nashville: Qualifying report

WHELDON WINS POLE FOR FIRESTONE INDY 200 LEBANON, Tenn., Friday, July 14, 2006 -- 2005 IndyCar® Series champion Dan Wheldon claimed the Marlboro Pole Award for the July 15 Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. Wheldon posted a lap...

WHELDON WINS POLE FOR FIRESTONE INDY 200

LEBANON, Tenn., Friday, July 14, 2006 -- 2005 IndyCar® Series champion Dan Wheldon claimed the Marlboro Pole Award for the July 15 Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Wheldon posted a lap of 23.0210 seconds, 203.293 mph, in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Wheldon's time was slightly faster than Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., who recorded a lap of 23.1269, 202.362 mph, in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara.

Scott Dixon recovered from a gearbox issue during his warmup lap to post the third-quickest lap at 23.1461, 202.194 mph in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Helio Castroneves (201.995 mph) and defending race winner Dario Franchitti (201.628 mph) were fourth and fifth, respectively in their Honda-powered Dallaras.

QUALIFYING DAY NOTEBOOK:

This is the sixth IndyCar Series event at Nashville Superspeedway. Dario Franchitti is the defending race winner. Scott Dixon holds the qualifying record with a lap of 22.6952 seconds, 206.211 mph set in July 2003. This is the fifth Indy Pro Series event at Nashville Superspeedway. Jaime Camara is the defending race winner. Thiago Medeiros holds the qualifying record with a lap of 25.6598 seconds, 182.386 mph, set in July 2004.

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Two of the five previous IndyCar Series winners at Nashville are entered in the Firestone Indy 200: Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti (Andretti Green Racing). Four Indianapolis 500 champions are expected to participate in the Firestone Indy 200: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2006). Drivers entered in the Firestone Indy 200 have combined for 70 IndyCar Series victories, 66 IndyCar Series pole positions and 872 IndyCar Series starts.

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Two IndyCar Series rookies are entered in the Firestone Indy 200: Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) and Jeff Simmons (Rahal Letterman Racing). Both are eligible for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title. Jeff Bucknum (A.J. Foyt Racing) is making his first appearance at Nashville Superspeedway, but is not eligible for Rookie of the Year.

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The Firestone Indy 200 is the only event in the series that takes place on a track with a concrete surface and the only track with a 1.33-mile distance. The event is the third and final night race of the season. Other events in 2006 that have taken place at night include the June 10 event at Texas Motor Speedway won by Helio Castroneves and the June 24 event at Richmond International Raceway won by Sam Hornish Jr.

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Panther Racing announced an associate sponsorship agreement with Revive U.S.A., a Dallas-based food, nutrition and beverage company, for the remainder of the 2006 IndyCar Series season.

"As our newest partner, Revive U.S.A. has given Panther Racing the boost we need for a run at the 2006 IndyCar Series championship," team co-owner John Barnes said. "Revive's personnel and scientists have a history of helping professional athletes perform better in everything from the Olympics and NASCAR to the NFL, MLB and NBA, and now they can surely add Panther Racing to that list. We look forward to a long and healthy relationship."

Revive, which was founded in the spring of this year, will be making products available after September 1. Revive products will be available nationwide at www.Revive-USA.com.

The company's release will feature four products: Pure Energy energy drink; Power Quench re-hydration product; Star Bar protein and fiber bar; and The Complete Meal, a healthy and nutritious replacement shake. The company is in the process of setting up nation-wide distribution.

The company's nutritional products are created by two scientists that have combined for more than 70 years of experience making products that are healthy, taste good and help people feel better and have more energy on a daily basis.

"Revive has similar beliefs as Panther Racing. Their team is more than just a world class championship caliber Indy Racing League team," Revive President and CEO Bruce Badgett said. "They promote the sport and represent it honorably. They are involved with the community and are looking for ways to reach kids and make a difference in the education system with the formation of the Panther Education Center. Panther does a lot more for the community than just race Indy Cars."

Meira, who currently sits in fifth place in the IndyCar Series standings, is especially excited about his team's newest sponsor.

"It's great to have Revive join the Panther Racing family for several reasons," Meira said. "They've given us the power and energy we need to take Panther Racing to the next level. And, personally, they've provided me with some valuable nutritional products that are going to help me tremendously in my training regime and while I'm racing in the Panther No. 4 Honda during the race weekends. A little Revive is just what this team needed."

FIRESTONE INDY 200 POST-QUALIFYING NOTES

* This is Dan Wheldon's second pole position of the season and the fourth of his IndyCar Series career. He is first driver to win consecutive poles since Bryan Herta won back-to-back poles at Phoenix and St. Petersburg.

* This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's second pole position of the season and its 11th pole in the IndyCar Series.

* Sam Hornish Jr. qualified second, his fifth front-row start of the season and tied his best-ever start at Nashville Superspeedway. He also started second in 2001.

* Scott Dixon qualified third, his eighth top-five start in nine races this season.

* Helio Castroneves qualified fourth, his seventh top-five start this season and his fourth consecutive top-five start.

FIRESTONE INDY 200 POST QUALIFYING QUOTES:

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, Marlboro Pole Award winner): "This was a good run, but we need a race win. We've been chasing the red and white cars of Penske all year. It's seems like Sam and I are in a familiar place again. I just need to drive the thing fast tomorrow. We're in the championship hunt, and we need to start winning races along with qualifying well. It's time to win a race."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "The car was pretty good. We're not sure if we took enough downforce off the car for qualifying. We're really happy with how our race car was handling in practice. We'll see after final practice if we're just as confident. You're always happy to try to start as far up front as you can, but we're here to win the race. It's always a little bit tough to pass here. You need to make sure you have a good handling car and good pit stop. Team Penske has done a good job for me the last two races."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "It started from this morning. In the second session, we blew the gearbox in two laps. We couldn't really get any time in the car. We had to come back here, change the gearbox and then the shift-pod was in the wrong position. It was stuck on the neutral. We ended up doing about 140 mph. Luckily, the guys got it sorted, and we got to go out and do one lap for qualifying. Third's better than last."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "I'm pretty happy with how things have gone today. The Marlboro Team Penske car has been very solid despite the heat. Obviously, we wish that we were a little quicker in qualifying, but I think we have a great car for the race, which is the most important thing. Hopefully, we'll be able to capitalize on it and return to victory lane."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "I'm pretty happy with our qualifying effort. This is closer to what the Klein Tools/Canadian Club team expects. Nashville isn't an out-and-out superspeedway like the 1.5-mile tracks. It's kind of half handing track and half a superspeedway. The concrete surface creates a lot of marbles and you can't make any mistakes here. If the car isn't right, it can be a long night, but when the car is as good as it was last year, it's pretty easy."

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The next IndyCar Series event is the Firestone Indy 200 at 9 p.m. on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on July 20.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jeff Bucknum , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Jaime Camara , John Barnes , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing