The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series qualifying schedule for race ...
The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series qualifying schedule for race #12, the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway challenged the weather gods and lost that quarrel this afternoon.
It's the second straight year qualifying has been rained out at this race and locals professed surprise that the League would plan the timed laps so late in the day (3:30PM) when rain can and usually does occur here at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
After two practices sessions had been completed and Menards Infiniti Pro Series time trials were in the books, the skies opened up with rain and even small hail, bringing any hope of having 22 cars take timed laps for Sunday's Honda Indy 225 to a standstill.
The field is being set by practice speeds, giving MBNA pole position to the man who led both practice sessions and held pole position last year. Point leader Tony Kanaan, driving the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone racer from Andretti Green Racing set a quick lap of 174.311mph (20.6527 seconds) in the second session this afternoon.
This is Kanaan's second MBNA pole for 2004; the first came at the Michigan Indy 400 in July. This also marks the Brazilian's fifth IRL pole position start. "Because we were in the first group (set by potential qualifying draw) we could concentrate on race trim for the first session," Kanaan explained. "We put on new tires in the second session and gave it a shot.
"The guys who were running in the first group, me and Bryan (Herta) gave information to our teammates and that helped us all. We have four cars in the top six, but it's a shame we didn't get to qualify because I think it could have been one, two, three, four," he said.
Teammate Dan Wheldon is next up with his #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda after posting 173.586mph (20.7390 seconds), also in session #2. "All four of us are very strong and this is a critical point in the season. Today," Wheldon said, "I give credit to the boys working on the car. I think in the race we can run side-by-side to overtake, but I'm not sure we'll see a lot of side-by-side racing here tomorrow."
Wheldon also made a rather pertinent point about his Andretti Green Racing team: I think you can honestly tell the difference between the people who have a possible chance at winning the championship. They keep developing and keep pushing the cars along. I think that's certainly apparent with the team now."
Vitor Meira set the third quickest time this afternoon on his fourth of 56 laps, hustling around this quick mile oval at 173.149mph (20.7913 seconds) in his #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda. "We made some improvements with the car in the second practice," Meira noted. "The track got much better, too, and I think we could have gone faster if we had a chance to qualify."
Dario Franchitti holds fourth on the grid with his lap of 172.916mph (20.8193 seconds) in the #27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda and could be quite a threat tomorrow, having claimed his first IRL victory on another short oval last month, The Milwaukee Mile.
Row three belongs to the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota of Helio Castroneves (172.395mph/20.8823sec) and Bryan Herta's #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda, sixth with a lap of 172.308mph (20.8928 seconds. "We had a good day today," Castroneves noted. "We were able to make a lot of progress in practice and I'm happy with the way the car is handling. I think we learned a lot and should be in good shape for the race tomorrow."
Last week's winner, Adrian Fernandez will line up in seventh place with his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda after lapping this unfamiliar oval at 171.695mph (20.9674 seconds). "I think the track has been difficult for everybody. Running at these high altitudes makes the car difficult to drive. With new tires, it is good for a few laps but after that then you are really hanging on."
Darren Manning, who was third in the morning practice will start eighth in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota after turning an afternoon lap of 171.675mph (20.9698 seconds). "It's not too bad starting from the eighth spot; it's roughly where we would have been, I think," Manning said. "There will be plenty of chances to overtake on both low and high lines tomorrow. It should be fun."
Sam Hornish's afternoon lap of 171.665mph (20.9711 seconds) places his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota ninth on the 22-car grid and explained, "We spent most of the practice time focusing on race setup."
Scott Dixon, who won this race last year en route to the IRL IndyCar Series title lines up tenth in the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, using his morning lap (he was second to Kanaan) of 171.445mph (20.9990 seconds) to attain that grid spot. "We started the day really well but kind of went backwards after that. The race should be interesting because this year there seems to be two lines we can run." Last year he thought there was a solitary line.
There was only one incident on the circuit during today's two practice sessions, but it has ramifications on the starting lineup. Rookie Kosuke Matsuura had heavy contact with the Turn 4 wall four minutes into the second group's half hour of testing and starts 22nd and last because he'll be using his 55T Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda in this race.
Matsuura, who finished fourth in Kentucky last weekend said, "There was no sign of a problem with the car. We are now trying to find out what happened. I'll have 30 minutes to warm up the car in the morning, so I'll just do my best in the race."
Behind Dixon, Buddy Rice starts 11th in the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda with Felipe Giaffone's #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevrolet alongside. "We were fifth quickest in the morning and we made a few more changes that made the car better. The car feels very good in race trim," Rice said. Giaffone had two good practice sessions today and thought his car was well balanced for this track, one he enjoys. "I've always liked short tracks like Pikes Peak and I think we can do well here tomorrow," Giaffone stated.
Tomas Scheckter starts 13th in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet and Jaques Lazier earned the 14th starting spot for the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet. Townsend Bell holds the 15th starting spot in his #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevy with Alex Barron's #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy alongside.
Seventeenth on the grid goes to the #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota of Tora Takagi, while rookie Mark Taylor starts 18th in the #13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda. Scott Sharp (#8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota) and rookie Ed Carpenter (#52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet) hold down the penultimate row.
A.J. Foyt IV had a right wheel bearing failure in the second practice and must start the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota 21st with Matsuura next to him.
The Honda Indy 225 is race #12 in a 16-event Indy Racing League IndyCar Series campaign. Tony Kanaan leads the point standings and, tomorrow he has an opportunity to break a long-standing IRL record. In the 1996-97 seasons, Tony Stewart led a total of 812 laps. At this point in time, with eleven races run Kanaan has amassed 783 laps led.
But the Brazilian has his heart set on the title, more than anything else. His closest competitor, Buddy Rice "won Indy because of rain. Today I won the Pikes Peak pole because of rain." What goes around, comes around, Kanaan is hoping.
Tomorrow's Honda Indy 225 race takes the green flags at 3:45PM EDT and airs live on ABC TV.