IRL: Nazareth: Panoz G Force Saturday report

Four Panoz G Force Drivers Qualify in IRL Top Ten for Final Nazareth Race NAZARETH, 28 August 2004 - Qualifying for race ...

Four Panoz G Force Drivers Qualify in IRL Top Ten for Final Nazareth Race

NAZARETH, 28 August 2004 - Qualifying for race #13 in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series went off just before noon today under warm, partly cloudy skies. Four of seven Panoz G Force drivers slinked their cars into the top ten for Sunday's Firestone Indy 225, the IRL's 100th contest and the final race date for this road-course of a one-mile oval.

Third to qualify, Darren Manning lines the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone challenger in fifth with his lap of 165.609mph, just 0.2170mph off polesitter Helio Castroneves and using his first of two timed laps. In setting his best IndyCar Series qualifying mark the Briton noted, "It's always nice to qualify in the top five and certainly bodes well for the race." Unable to make a second run on new tires in morning practice, "We did take a bit of a guesstimate but that ended up working out pretty well. I really like our race setup for the Panoz G Force and the team has given me another really good race car. We've already done a couple of full- tank runs and we'll just tweak it a bit more and work on breaking into the top three this weekend."

After practicing within the top six in all three sessions, Adrian Fernandez used his first timed lap in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda to earn sixth on the 22-car grid, at 165.566mph. The Mexican, who joined the League in March of this year, has one race victory (Kentucky) and finished second last week in Colorado. He was pleased with the consistency and balance of his Panoz G Force after time trials and looked forward to his ninth career start at Nazareth Speedway, which ceases operations after this weekend.

Still learning his way around this track with its "uphills, downhills, flat turns and banked corners," Vitor Meira set the ninth quickest lap of 165.053mph in his #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda but still felt "we left something out on the track today. The Panoz G Force felt very good and the Honda engine was strong but I don't think I got the most out of the car. Maybe," he remarked, "I'm new to this track but I really like it. The car is very good in race settings and I feel very positive about the race."

Teammate Buddy Rice placed his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda tenth on the grid at 164.507mph. After his misstep in Colorado last week Rice still believes, "We have the same determination. The car wasn't as good as we wanted today but I feel confident about our Panoz G Force's race setup. Traffic is always an issue and we can use it to our advantage here. You need a combination of everything to win and I think we've got that."

Final warmup for a grid separated by 0.87-second on this difficult track takes place later this afternoon. The Firestone Indy 225 goes green Sunday at 2:25PM EDT and live coverage on ABC begins at 2PM.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Adrian Fernandez