Meira Manages Fourth for Panoz in Tough Homestead IndyCar Series Opener HOMESTEAD, FL, March 6, 2005 - It was a difficult Sunday drive for the eight Panoz team drivers in the Toyota Indy 300 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval. The...
Meira Manages Fourth for Panoz in Tough Homestead IndyCar Series Opener
HOMESTEAD, FL, March 6, 2005 - It was a difficult Sunday drive for the eight Panoz team drivers in the Toyota Indy 300 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval. The season starting race victory in a 17-event campaign went to Dan Wheldon of Andretti Green Racing.
The top driver of the sole American designed and built chassis in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series was also the highest qualifier (second) among the troops, as Vitor Meira brought his #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone challenger to the flags in fourth place in a 200-lap contest that only ten cars finished.
"That was a wild race and a wild finish" as he dueled Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves for second place. "I had to go to the third line and the car was sliding but I did get a run off the last corner. It was nice," Meira related, "to finish the first race of the year. In clean air the car was very good so I tried to run high and use the top of the track to pass," he said. "I don't think we had a Top Five car but we were in position at the end of the race and that's what counts."
Darren Manning took sixth place in the #10 Team Target Panoz/Toyota and was gratified. "Sixth place is a solid result. We didn't quite have the speed but we did manage to avoid most of the accidents out there today."
Carnage quashed the hopes of many Panoz front-runners, as a big wreck after the final, seventh caution in the 200-lap contest occurred on the 159th lap at re-start. Going into the first turn three abreast, a spin by the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda of Kosuke Matsuura, who was debating fifth place with Tomas Scheckter ended his run, along with that of seven others. "It was a tough day," said the 2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year.
Involved in the incident Matsuura's teammate Scott Sharp in the #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda noted, "We were running with the lead pack, saving fuel and trying to ride it out to the end to have a final dash to the finish. We thought we were really going to be in good shape. We put our best set of tires on for the end and, unfortunately, I was taken out on the restart."
Rookie Danica Patrick had made her way into the top ten but was also involved in the incident, ending a fine run in the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda. She suffered a mild concussion but, after being examined by physicians was cleared to return to her Arizona home.
The Indy cars regroup in two weeks for the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 presented by Argent Mortgage on the fast mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway.