IRL: Fontana: Chevy qualifying report

Carpenter to Lead Chevy Charge at California Speedway FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 2, 2004 - Rookie Ed Carpenter drove like a seasoned veteran to nail down the top speed among the six Chevrolet qualifiers for Sunday's Toyota Indy 400 at California ...

Carpenter to Lead Chevy Charge at California Speedway

FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 2, 2004 - Rookie Ed Carpenter drove like a seasoned veteran to nail down the top speed among the six Chevrolet qualifiers for Sunday's Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway. Carpenter will start his Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara on the inside of the sixth row with the 11th fastest qualifying speed at 214.086 mph. Helio Castroneves won the pole for the 400-mile race with a 217.479 mph lap in a Toyota Dallara.

"Chevy made big gains, but the thing with the IRL is that everyone else makes gains, too," said Carpenter. "It changes every week, but Chevy did a good job and we definitely have more power. It's just a matter of what everyone else has, too.

"The car was pretty close to what I think a qualifying car should feel like," he continued. "Going into qualifying our goal was to go over 214 mph. Now that qualifying is over we'll move on to the race. That's going to be our strong point. We've been running really well on the big speedways so far this season. We look to keep going with that and use our new Chevy engine to go to the front."

Tomas Scheckter hopes that the 13th spot on the starting grid will prove to be lucky. He qualified Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara with a 213.993 mph lap.

"We were a little bit quicker in practice and we were hoping for a little more," Scheckter reported. "I know that Chevy have made some improvements so we wanted to give then a little better qualifying run, but it seems that some of the other guys have made improvements as well. We have a good race car and I'm looking forward to Sunday."

Carpenter's teammate Alex Barron qualified the second Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara 16th at 213.815 mph. Like all of the drivers, Barron had to contend with gusty winds on the front and back straights.

"You're in high gear going down the front straight and the wind blows you into Turn 1," Barron said. "Then you get a center shift, and when that happens it puts weight on the front end and the car wants to go loose. There is a point there where you're trying to keep it straight for a few seconds and it can catch you out if you're a little too aggressive.

"We got our qualifying real close as far as what we needed," Barron added. "The race is a different story. We have to work on our race setup now."

Like Barron, Townsend Bell is a Californian who relishes racing at California Speedway. Bell put Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara in the field in the 17th spot at 213.603 mph.

"The wind affected the car less than I thought it would," Bell noted. "I was pretty happy with the way my car felt. I was probably a little off on the gearing but we have to get down the straightaways a little faster."

Tomas Enge will make his IRL debut in Patrick Racing's Chevrolet Dallara after qualifying 19th at 212.010 mph. Enge, who hails from Liberec in the Czech Republic, has extensive road racing experience in Formula 3000, Formula 1 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

"To do three practices and qualifying is not as hard as the race," Enge observed. "I'm looking forward to it, but it's going to be the biggest part of the learning curve. I hope to finish the race and I hope the car will be OK. It was fine in qualifying and I'm quite pleased with the performance. I have a lot of things to learn, especially pit stops and driving in a pack behind other cars. We'll see tomorrow.

"I was mountain biking in Lake Tahoe and spending some time on the beach here in Los Angeles," Enge added. "I've had two weeks in a nice country and nice places."

Felipe Giaffone was disappointed with his qualifying speed in the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet after it ran 211.697 mph, putting him 20th in the 22-car field.

"We had the gears right, the car was handling good, we just trimmed the thing out and that's all we've got," Giaffone said. "It's a little frustrating."

The Toyota Indy 400 will start at 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, October 12. The race will be televised live on ESPN.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing