LEBANON, TN, July 18, 2003 - Scott Dixon led the Toyota troops in qualifying for the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Saturday night Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway this afternoon, setting a new track record as six of the Japanese...
LEBANON, TN, July 18, 2003 - Scott Dixon led the Toyota troops in qualifying for the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Saturday night Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway this afternoon, setting a new track record as six of the Japanese manufacturer's drivers were quickest in time trials.
Helio Castroneves starts alongside Dixon in his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota at 22.7916 seconds (205.339mph). "This is a fun track to drive but it's certainly not easy to drive fast around here," Castroneves admitted. The consistent Brazilian's two timed laps were separated by one ten-thousandth of a second and he noted, "We started in the same position last year and we've worked really hard to get this result today. We've stepped it up to meet the competition and it's pretty tough, I tell you."
Tora Takagi earned the inside slot of row two in his #12 Pioneer Panoz G Force/Toyota on his second timed lap, turning 22.8236 seconds (205.051mph). The Japanese ace recognized, "We've had great qualifying cars all year long but our focus here is on race day." This is his third consecutive top three qualifying result and his fifth of the season. "We had a good test and I feel like we've got a good race car."
Gil de Ferran lines up fourth in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, turning 22,8281 seconds (205.010mph) and the 2003 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner is in fourth place in the points chase, as well. "The concrete here provides different grip levels from the asphalt we regularly race on. The grooving on the track requires a different type of setup. I think we've got a good car for the race, but we'll just have to see," he said.
The inside of row three belongs to Tomas Scheckter in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, turning 22.8871 seconds (204.482mph). The 22-year- old South African was first to congratulate teammate Dixon on his pole position and noted, "We did full tank runs today, working on our race setup. I think we had a better qualifying setup than we showed, but we'll take what we have."
Honda drivers own rows four and five on the 21-car grid, after A.J. Foyt elected to park the #5 Conseco car originally entered for Jaques Lazier. Bryan Herta starts seventh in the #27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda with a tour of 22.9086 seconds (204.290mph).
Herta allowed, "Tonight's practice session means more than qualifying this afternoon," as it better simulates the conditions under which Saturday night's 200-lap contest will run. "It's always better to start up front, of course, and I do think we've got a good race car. This concrete looks and feels different from asphalt, so we'll just have to see how it all works out."
Teammate and rookie Dan Wheldon, driving the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda starts eighth with a lap of 22.9144 seconds (204.238mph). Not excited by his qualifying performance, Wheldon believes "our car will be good for the race. With this concrete surface, it takes a while for the tires to come to temperature. The car obviously sticks, but it moves around a little."
After he performs with his band, Kenny Brack and the Subwoofers tomorrow afternoon, the Swede will start ninth in his #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda. "We were pretty much flat out in qualifying," after turning 22.9594 seconds (203.838mph). "That was all we had today. We are working and working on trying to get that right setup but we're not there yet."
Rookie Roger Yasukawa nabbed 11th place in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Dallara/Honda and Greg Ray starts 12th in the #13 TrimSpa Racing Panoz G Force/Honda. Kelley Racing's Al Unser Jr. (#31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota) and Scott Sharp (#8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota) hold down Row 7. The fastest Chevrolet, starting 15th belongs to the #2 Dallara/Chevy of Team Menard and Vitor Meira, while A.J. Foyt IV did a credible job to qualify 16th in his #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota.
Buddy Rice starts 17th in the #52 Red Bull Dallara/Chevy next to Sarah Fisher's #23 GMAC/AOL Dallara/Chevrolet. Teammate Robbie Buhl starts 19th in the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevrolet. A disappointed Sam Hornish was the last driver within one second of Dixon's fast lap in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevy while Buddy Lazier starts alone on the last row in his #91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevy. Can that Gen IV engine come quick enough to help them?
The Indy cars have one final practice at 8:30PM CDT tonight and will take the green flags at 7PM CDT for the 266-mile, 200-lap Firestone Indy 200, race #9 in a 16-event campaign. ESPN2 will televise the race live tomorrow night.