IRL: Nashville: Rahal Letterman Racing Friday report

PATRICK WILL START SECOND AS RAIN SCRAPS NASHVILLE QUALIFYING LEBANON, Tenn. -- Rahal Letterman Racing's rookie sensation Danica Patrick will start second after the starting grid was set off practice times due to heavy intermittent showers,...

PATRICK WILL START SECOND AS RAIN SCRAPS NASHVILLE QUALIFYING

LEBANON, Tenn. -- Rahal Letterman Racing's rookie sensation Danica Patrick will start second after the starting grid was set off practice times due to heavy intermittent showers, which forced the cancellation of qualifying for Saturday's Firestone Indy 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway. Patrick running just her ninth IRL IndyCar Series race will start from the outside of Row 1 and make her fifth top-four start of the season. Patrick's RLR teammates Vitor Meira and Buddy Rice will start sixth and fourteenth respectively.

Patrick was third quick in the morning practice, but she paced the early afternoon practice session with a fast lap of 203.088 mph in the No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Honda/Panoz/Firestone. Patrick's lap was just 13-hundredths of a second off the pole winning lap posted by Tomas Scheckter of Panther Racing. Patrick's shot at a second consecutive pole position was denied when heavy showers descended on the Nashville track. Qualifying was officially cancelled just before 5:00 pm local time.

"I knew we were going to come in here with a fast car," said Patrick. "Both Buddy and Vitor were very fast here last year. On these big ovals you just have to put your foot down and drive. With the Honda power, the car was really fast in practice. I really wish I could have qualified today because we improved the car each time out I think the Argent/Pioneer car could have won the pole. Being a rookie in the IRL, I continue to learn with every race and this will be no different on Saturday night. I feel pretty positive heading into the race after the performance that Vitor and Buddy had here last year. They led for most of the race (165 laps between the two drivers) so I hope we can have that kind of run on Saturday."

Vitor Meira will start sixth in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Menard/Johns Manville Honda/Panoz/Firestone after posting a fast lap of 202.561 mph. Meira, currently sixth in the championship, will attempt to collect his first IRL IndyCar Series victory tomorrow night. A year ago Meira led the first 113 laps and dominated the race before a pit stop mishap and a gearbox problem hampered his effort and left him 12th overall.

"It is okay to start sixth," said Meira. "I think I had a top four car, but we can move up from where we are starting. It is hard to pass here, but I am confident in the crew that we can pick up some spots in the pits. My crew has done a great job for me the last few races and we seemingly pick up at least a spot on every stop. Of course, I'm very glad to have the Honda engine at a track like this one in Nashville. We had a very fast car here last year (after leading 113 laps) and I think the car will be just as good in the race. competition is very close. You look at that lineup and Buddy is 14th and he is a hundred of a second off the pole. You just can't make a mistake in this series. I think we'll be ready on Saturday night."

Buddy Rice fought an ill handling No 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer car in practice and subsequently will start 14th for tomorrow night's race. Rice, the pole winner at Nashville in 2004 and led 52 laps in the 2004 race.

"We didn't have much luck today," said Rice who posted a fast lap of 201.937 mph. "We ran some full tank runs this afternoon and we thought we would be ready for qualifying. A few hundreds of the second and you drop ten positions on the grid. You have to have the right balance in the car for a place like this. We were really good here last year and we are using a lot of the same set-up as last year. This is a big handling track. We'll need some long green flag runs on Saturday. You have to be patient here because the car is going to go off on the long tire and fuel stint. The Honda engine was great here last year in the race and I expect that again Saturday night. We just have to be patient and have a good strategy to go the 200 laps."

The Firestone Indy 200 will be seen live on ESPN Saturday night starting at 7:00 pm EDT.

-rahal letterman racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Buddy Rice , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing