Wheldon Wins First Pole; Medeiros Laps Field In Phoenix 100 AVONDALE, Ariz, Saturday, March 20, 2004 -- Andretti Green Racing driver Dan Wheldon captured his first career MBNA Pole Award, taking the top spot for the March 21 Copper World Indy...
Wheldon Wins First Pole; Medeiros Laps Field In Phoenix 100
AVONDALE, Ariz, Saturday, March 20, 2004 -- Andretti Green Racing driver Dan Wheldon captured his first career MBNA Pole Award, taking the top spot for the March 21 Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Wheldon lapped the 1-mile oval in 20.5974 seconds, 174.779 seconds in his No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Wheldon's Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan qualified second. Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. will start third and fourth, respectively.
In the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Phoenix 100, Brazilian Thiago Medeiros dominated the race, lapping the field en route to his second career victory.
Medeiros' Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate, Arie Luyendyk Jr., finished second. Rookie Leonardo Maia finished third in his Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut.
Medeiros became the first Menards Infiniti Pro Series in history to win a race by more than a lap.
INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It's fantastic for the team, certainly. I have to give all credit to my engineer, my boys, and Tony Cotman, and also to TK (Tony Kanaan). TK has helped me a lot on the short oval stuff, as has Dario (Franchitti) and Bryan (Herta). With three experienced teammates like that, it really makes my job a little bit easier. Sometimes I get a little ahead of myself on setup, and they set me right. All in all, it's a good job for the team. The one thing I've learned about this league is let's not get too excited too soon. It's so competitive out there. The pole is good and all. It's going to be a difficult race. When you've got Boy Wonder beside you, you know, he's going to push you really, really hard. I have to give the team a lot of credit. They did a fantastic job. I think last year I tended to struggle a little on the short ovals. With the help of certainly TK, Dario, Bryan, Eddie Jones and Tony Cotman and those boys, it's been a big help. It's certainly nice to have your first pole, but like these boys say, I'm still a rookie, so I've got a lot to learn."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"This team has very similar setups, and we thought it was going to be an advantage having Dan (Wheldon) go out first because we could have his information. He did a great job. I remember how I felt when I got the pole last year, how excited I was. AGR (Andretti Green Racing) is succeeding, and I'm part of it. I'm happy. Obviously, I would like to be on the pole, but I'm happy for him." (About his qualifying effort): "It was a great run. We made a couple of changes according to what Dan told us. We have a good race car, and the team has four cars in the top nine (starting positions)."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone):
"The track is a little slick, and that will be the case on Sunday. Team Rahal improved the car for qualifying, so I really don't have any complaints right now. We were a little too aggressive in the setups the past day. Now we are getting closer to what we want. It's good to have Kenny (Brack) around this weekend. He has a lot of experience here, and that is a big help. The race is a totally different animal than qualifying. I want to have a consistent car for the entire fuel run because cars will be going off for many of the guys. We have been concentrating on fuel tanks this weekend, and I hope that will transfer for the race. I think even the fast cars are going to be edgy in race trim. You'll see some fast qualifiers go backwards after about 20 laps in a fuel run. Plus, you have guys who didn't use their heads at Homestead, and you'll see that Sunday, too. You will have to watch out where you put your car in the corners. I think everyone gets a little excited going into Indy, and then they mellow during the middle part of the season. Then it steps back up towards the end of the season when there is a points race."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone):
"We really have made a lot of improvements since this morning. We have a teammate with Adrian Fernandez, and he helps me out. We have one more session, and I'm really happy about that."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone):
"We didn't get much running this morning, so this is all I can expect. We had a little trouble, so we haven't had much time. It's hard to get a balance because the track is really greasy out there now."
ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"Especially in Turns 3 and 4, I was able to stay flat until way late in the corner and point it right at the wall. I had to lift a little bit coming off of Turn 4, and that's the fastest point of the track, so if you have to lift at all, it really kills your momentum. I'm trying not to be too upset with our qualifying run because we do have a really good race car. That's what we've worked on the whole time that we've been here. Yesterday through practice with our long runs, we had a very consistent car. I'm looking forward to the race. It's going to be so hot, whoever can keep a really consistent car is going to end up in the front, and I think that's what we have."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"Our car wasn't out when it was time to go. That's all I know. I don't know what happened. It wasn't good. We were late in line anyway, and the track was getting worse, not better."
TOMAS SCHECKETR (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"We are the top Chevy. We have a good race car, and that's what I'm concerned about."
DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"I had a bit of a bobble coming out of Turn 4 on my first lap, which slowed me up a bit for my second lap as well or else I expect that I could be starting up just a bit further on the grid. It's been a bit difficult to find the right setup, since the temperature has varied so much from the morning to the afternoon. When we tested here last month, it was quite a bit cooler then, as well. I'm happy with our qualifying effort, as it is quite an improvement from Homestead. It will be a lot of work out there during the race, as we expect the temperatures to be quite high, but I feel that this track is well suited to my driving abilities. I'm looking forward to a strong finish."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):
"We made a front-wing adjustment before my qualifying run, but unfortunately, my car ended up being loose. Honestly, I was lucky to keep it off the wall. The good news is we're starting third. We worked on race setup yesterday, and the Marlboro Team Penske car was very consistent, so hopefully, we'll be able to work the traffic and have a strong run. It is going to be very hot and a physically demanding race. We'll need to be patient and take care of the equipment. We've run well here in the past, and we'll have to see how things play out tomorrow."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):
"Marlboro Team Penske has been working hard all weekend, and it's good that we're starting in the top five. Track position will be key tomorrow with the heat, so I'm glad we're starting near the front. We weren't as fast as I thought we'd be. We missed our mark a bit, and the conditions changed from this morning. It will be important tomorrow to have a car that handles well in traffic and to execute quick pit stops. My guys did a great job in the pits in Miami, so hopefully, we'll be able to carry that momentum here. I'm looking forward to the race. I've always liked Phoenix, and it was the site of my first IndyCar (Series) win. It would be great to get two in a row."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Co-owner, Andretti Green Racing):
"I think the Honda engine does well everywhere. I wouldn't say that the Honda is any stronger here than anywhere else. I think they're strong everywhere. The results are showing on the racetrack. We've been at all the racetracks now, so our learning curve might be in place. I think we're a lot more prepared for it. I think the confidence level has hit the whole team."
MENARDS INFINITI PRO SERIES PHOENIX 100 POST-RACE QUOTES:
THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone):
"After Homestead, I said that I wanted to win at Phoenix and lap the field. It was a joke between me and my manager, and fortunately, it came true. The car was awesome for the whole race. We had a very good balance, and I'm very glad with the result that we got. The car was unbelievable. We had a little push, but I could keep a good rhythm. As soon as I started the race, I knew I could stay at the front because it's a very tough track, and it's hard to overtake. It was the same with me last year with Mark Taylor. When you are underneath somebody, the car has a big push. I just tried to get a good start and have some distance to negotiate good passes on the other guys." (About being the only Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver to lap the field): "We made history here. I'm very happy. We were quickest here in the Open Test, and now I'm looking forward to Indy. I'm very happy to be leading the championship."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone):
"I knew from the very first lap that my car wasn't as good as Thiago's (Medeiros). We were struggling with a car that had an overall grip loss. The back end wasn't any good, and the front end wasn't good, either. Entering the corner, we had a lot of push, and coming out, it was really loose when I was on the throttle. I knew it was going to be a handful, so I was just trying to conserve my tires and wait for a yellow, but it never came."
LEONARDO MAIA (No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):
"I'm still a little dizzy. I'm not used to these ovals. It was really fun. I think a couple of cars went to an understeer. We started our car off expecting that, so I had plenty of adjustments I could make inside the cockpit to counteract that. I tried to get some clean air as I was going through traffic. I wanted to be able to run the last 10 laps with a good car. I had a good car, and I was able to pass my teammate. I'm sure we (Maia and teammate Jesse Mason) gave Brian (Stewart) a little bit of a heart attack. It's clean and really good racing against Jesse. It's really clean. He won't give me an inch, but he'll give me a half-an-inch."
JESSE MASON (No. 3 Segway Human Transportation Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):
"It was a good job by Leo (Maia). First race, he did well. Too bad for us, really. We just went a little bit the wrong way on the setup which cost us. We only had two sets of tires coming in here so that's what killed us from the beginning. We couldn't really use good tires at any time during the weekend except for qualifying. That's what hurt us. It was a good weekend, overall. Any time you get a result where you're not in the fence, it's something you can build on. Hopefully in Indy we can do that: build on it and get up front. Hopefully, we'll figure everything we need to on test day and then make it easy, no dramas on race day.
PAUL DANA (No. 91 Ethanol/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):
"Fifth place is nothing to write home about, but given how confused we were all weekend, and how we started, it almost feels like a win. We were the only car passing people. I think we were one of the three fastest cars, and I was just being very careful, taking my time getting by people. I think we could have run down the lead pack. It was a blast. You want to have hard racing and then put it back on the trailer in one piece, so I'm pretty happy."
BRIAN STEWART (Owner, Brian Stewart Racing):
"I loved it. I couldn't believe the way they were racing. Last night at supper, I told them, 'I'm going to be choked if you crash into one another in the first five laps', but I said, 'With 10 laps to go, let them loose. If you crash I'll understand."
SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local): 7 a.m. Indy Racing League garage opens 10-10:30 a.m. IndyCar Series warmup 1 p.m. IndyCar Series pre-race 2 p.m. Copper World Indy 200