IRL: Fontana: Panoz race report

FONTANA, CA - Vitor Meira's third place finish in the Toyota Indy 400 gave the Brazilian driver of Rahal Letterman Racing's ...

FONTANA, CA - Vitor Meira's third place finish in the Toyota Indy 400 gave the Brazilian driver of Rahal Letterman Racing's #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer his fourth podium of the 17-race season this afternoon.

Starting 13th on the 2-mile California Speedway oval in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series season finale, Meira accomplished his seventh top-five result of the year.

"The Panoz was great today," he confirmed. "I had a really good start and moved into the leader's pack. The track kept changing," after rain last night and after morning warmup released any semblance of rubber from the surface.

"We made small wing adjustments throughout the race and took advantage of everything that came our way" in a contest marred by four caution periods. "We had to change something major to catch [winner] Dario [Franchitti] and Tony [Kanaan]," Meira revealed.

"All I can do is get the best from the car; I can't force the thing and I can't push more than I push." Meira attained seventh place in the final points tally, one position better than he reached in 2004.

On a cool, dreary and rain-threatened afternoon, veteran Scott Sharp brought the #8 Delphi/Fernandez Panoz/Honda home fourth and accomplished his stated goal of finishing in the top five of the championship.

"I think we maximized everything we had on our Panoz," Sharp said. "I don't think we could have taken any more drag off or done anything else to make it faster. We got the job done with another top-five finish," his sixth of the season, including victory in Kentucky.

Scott Dixon brought his pink #9 Target Panoz/Toyota home in tenth place as his team commemorates Breast Cancer Awareness month. Toward the end of the race he noted the car wouldn't turn terribly well, only to discover there was a hole in the wing. "I don't know when it happened," the 2003 IRL champ said, "but the Panoz was working really well up until then."

"That was an awesome race by both Vitor and Scott Sharp today," exclaimed Panoz chief designer Simon Marshall. "Their pit crews did the perfect job and proved the Panoz chassis responds well to the changes they made during the race. We will continue to work hard on the off-season," Marshall proposed, "and we firmly intend to take the fight back to Dallara in 2006."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Scott Dixon , Vitor Meira