PATRICK AND RICE SWEEP THE FRONT ROW AT CHICAGOLAND JOLIET, Ill. - Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice swept the front row of qualifying for Rahal Letterman Racing for Sunday's Peak Antifreeze Indy 300. The fifth front row sweep in RLR history...
PATRICK AND RICE SWEEP THE FRONT ROW AT CHICAGOLAND
JOLIET, Ill. - Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice swept the front row of qualifying for Rahal Letterman Racing for Sunday's Peak Antifreeze Indy 300. The fifth front row sweep in RLR history wasn't without drama. Chip Ganassi Racing's Ryan Briscoe appeared to have stole the show when as the final qualifier he eclipsed Patrick's fast lap of 215.970 mph. However, Briscoe's car failed post qualifying technical inspection and his fast lap was thrown out securing the pole position for Patrick.
Patrick ties the IRL IndyCar Series record for pole positions by a rookie. Tomas Sheckter set the mark in 2002 and Patrick has tied the mark with the pole at Chicagoland with two races remaining. Patrick has won all three of her pole positions this season on 1.5 mile tracks (Kansas, Kentucky, Chicagoland).
"It is a great feeling to win the pole here at Chicago in front of so many friends and family," said Roscoe, Illinois native Patrick. "We really focused on running by ourselves in practice and because we didn't have a tow we weren't at the top of the charts. We knew with a Honda engine we would be in the hunt for the pole. It proved to be the right decision. Three poles in a season is a great accomplishment for any driver and I am especially proud to have done it as a rookie. All poles are great, but the reason we come to the track is to win the race."
Buddy Rice will make his second front row start of the season. Rice enters tomorrow's race fresh off a season best second place finish in the last IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway.
"The car was flat out all the way around and that is all it had," said Rice. "It definitely helps that we tested here for Honda last week and the team was able to pick some additional information. I know we are fast, but I think we have a pretty good race car too. This is a tricky track and the race is always crowded and busy throughout the 200 laps. We haven't had the best luck this year, but the Sonoma race was a confidence builder for the No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Honda team. In the race, everyone seems to be right on top of each other, similar to Texas, but this track is smooth and it seems to have more grip. That is why you have two and three wide racing all of the time. You are going to have to play the chess game on Sunday and be in position to run for the lead at the end."
RLR's Vitor Meira will be forced to start at the back of the field after his crew made an engine change in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Menard/JohnsManville Honda/Panoz/Firestone. The IRL IndyCar Series has had a long standing rule that an engine change for an entry during a two-day race weekend requires that that entry start from the back of the field. Meira will start twenty-second one spot ahead of the disqualified Briscoe.
"We had a vibration with the car after the second practice today," said Meira. "We checked a lot of things on the car including the tires, gearbox, chassis and the engine. Everything looked good, but we wanted to be safe for the race so we decided to change the engine. That way we are ready for warm-up and the race. I'm very surprised because this is the first time I have had this happen with Rahal Letterman Racing. We can work out some more things in warm-up and the car will be set to go. The car felt very good in traffic in the practice. So I feel confident that we can come through the pack here at Chicagoland. Some other tracks you couldn't do, that but here it is possible."
The Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 will be seen live on ABC on Sunday afternoon beginning at 1:30 pm Eastern.