Rice Roars in Homestead Practice HOMESTEAD, FL, March 4, 2005 - The opening of 17 tenth anniversary Indy Racing League IndyCar Series races takes place this weekend on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and, if the first day of...
Rice Roars in Homestead Practice
HOMESTEAD, FL, March 4, 2005 - The opening of 17 tenth anniversary Indy Racing League IndyCar Series races takes place this weekend on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and, if the first day of practice is any indication, the eight Panoz runners have a good chance to finish at the front.
Despite weather delays Buddy Rice looked seamless in his #15 Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer from the Rahal Letterman Racing stables as he took top speed in the second of two protracted test sessions at 213.514mph. "Panoz has really done their homework over the winter with the new dome and undertray. They've made a lot of improvements to the car but this, after all is only our first day of practice and everyone had a tow to get their quick times. We still are learning about the 2005 car but that's true for everyone here," the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner said.
Fourth overall and third in the afternoon session, Rice's teammate Vitor Meira was also pleased with the progress on his #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda after turning 212.532mph. "My Panoz felt really good even though conditions were a lot different than last month's test. The air was heavier today, but it really doesn't matter what conditions are for us because the team can adjust to everything. We did our homework for this race," the Brazilian noted. "I'm pleased with our progress."
The third of five Panoz runners in the top ten, Scott Dixon earned sixth place with the #9 Team Target Panoz/Toyota at 212.194mph, yet the 2003 IRL champion still believes there's more to get out of the car. "It wasn't quite as comfortable as we would have liked but the crew did a really good job making changes with the little time between practice. We just didn't quite get all the things we wanted to try done today."
Last season's Bombardier Rookie of the Year, Kosuke Matsuura turned the ninth best lap of 212.040mph in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda. "We found a good setup and, at the end of the day I felt quite competitive. It was a good start and I have a lot of confidence in the car this weekend," the Japanese star noted.
Teammate Scott Sharp took his #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda to tenth today with an afternoon lap of 212.002mph. Discovering the Panoz chassis suits his driving style from the first lap Sharp found today's results positive. "We decided to take a chance and make some changes that ultimately didn't work. While we learned a few things, we went back to what we knew worked well from our test in January and got the car working pretty well in traffic, which is what we need on Sunday."
Designers and engineers for Panoz, the sole American designed and built Indy Racing League chassis have been working hard on the new front underbody that has changed both downforce and drag levels. Nicholas Alcock related, "We think we're where we need to be at this time."
Single car qualifying begins at 11:45AM EST Saturday and the gloomy, misty skies are expected to give way to clear and balmy weather. Sunday's Toyota Indy 300, a 200-lap dash begins at 2:15PM EST and is telecast live in the USA on ESPN.