IRL: Watkins Glen: Rahal Letterman Racing qualifying report

MEIRA AND RICE CLAIM TOP EIGHT STARTS AT WATKINS GLEN WATKINS GLEN, NY - For the second straight day Vitor Meira paced the Rahal Letterman Racing trio as he qualified seventh fir Sunday's inaugural IRL IndyCar Series event at Watkins Glen. Meira...

MEIRA AND RICE CLAIM TOP EIGHT STARTS AT WATKINS GLEN

WATKINS GLEN, NY - For the second straight day Vitor Meira paced the Rahal Letterman Racing trio as he qualified seventh fir Sunday's inaugural IRL IndyCar Series event at Watkins Glen. Meira posted a fast lap of 131.065 mph edging his teammate Buddy Rice who qualified eighth with a fast lap of 130.643 mph. Their RLR teammate Danica Patrick qualified 16th with a lap of 129.261 mph.

Meira is making his tenth top-ten start of the season, but his first top-ten on a road course.

"I think we left a little bit on the table on that qualifying run," said Meira. "It is a little disappointing since I thought we could make the Top Six and be in the shoot-out for the pole. Starting seventh isn't too bad, but passing will be at a premium in the race. The car felt good, but the weather keeps changing and the track surface was getting hotter. The car had a push (understeer) that hurt us. I made a slight mistake and that probably cost me two or three tenths of s second. I think I pushed a little too much in qualifying and that can be costly. I really like Watkins Glen. It is so similar to the tracks I raced in Europe. Those are the kinds of tracks I grew up and it is very fun to drive. I know that Emerson (Fittipaldi) won his first F-1 race here (in 1972) and I would really like to win me first IRL race here on Sunday."

Rice, who finished second at Infineon Raceway, is making his ninth top-ten start and his second top-ten start on a road course.

"Our run wasn't bad, but there were a lot of fast guys that I knew didn't have a shot at the fastest time," said Rice. "I thought we had a shot for the Top Six and the pole. We had a better car at Sonoma, but this week Vitor (Meira) has been a little better. Still we will start alongside each other in the fourth row. That isn't bad, but I would have liked to be further up front on the grid. We matched our time from the morning. The track was nearly 25 degrees warmer in qualifying than the morning. So it was a pretty decent run for our crew too. They made some good adjustments. It is a lot faster here with the Indy car than the other cars I have driven here before. But it feels great to come and run an big open-wheeler at Watkins Glen. This place has so much history. To win the race on Sunday will take a lot of strategy whether it is with fuel, pit stops or other elements like rain. We had a good run at Sonoma and hopefully we can have another here on Sunday."

Danica Patrick posted her fastest lap of the weekend in qualifying at 129.261 mph, but will start from the outside of row eight.

"I have been a little disappointed with my road course qualifying this year., but I have to take a step back and look at the experience of some of the other guys in the series," said Patrick. "I am in my rookie season with the bigger cars and it takes a lot to drive these machines around a course like Watkins Glen. I'm not happy by any means, but I'm a rookie and success doesn't come easy for a rookie. I have been sick for about a week and that isn't an excuse, but it does take a little out of you. I know we are closer to winning the Bombardier Rookie of the Year and that will be a huge honor to win the Rookie of the Year at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway and for the IRL IndyCar Series. I have to thank my Argent/Pioneer Honda team, the sponsors and, of course, Bobby Rahal for me this opportunity. Even though today hasn't been our best day it has been a great year."

Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves captured the pole, his second pole position in doing so and secured his sixth front row start this season. Ganassi Racing's Giorgio Pantano will start second, his best start in his two IndyCar Series starts.

Practice will resume tomorrow morning with the inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Argent Mortgage scheduled for a 3:30 pm start on Sunday on ABC.

-rlr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Giorgio Pantano , Helio Castroneves , Bobby Rahal , Buddy Rice , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing