IRL: Homestead: Panoz Saturday report

Meira Masters Homestead Oval With Panoz HOMESTEAD, FL, March 5, 2005 - Vitor Meira will lead eight Panoz challengers to the first green flags of a 17-race 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season tomorrow, having placed his ...

Meira Masters Homestead Oval With Panoz

HOMESTEAD, FL, March 5, 2005 - Vitor Meira will lead eight Panoz challengers to the first green flags of a 17-race 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season tomorrow, having placed his #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer second on a 22-car grid for the Toyota Indy 300 with a lap of 214.317mph on the Homestead-Miami Speedway 1.5-mile superspeedway. Tomorrow will be Meira's first start at this track.

Since joining Rahal Letterman Racing at Twin Ring Motegi last April, Meira has earned six top-three starting spots, including pole position at the historic Milwaukee Mile last July. "We have learned so much about our Panoz this weekend and improved our car since we arrived," the Brazilian said. "These were my fastest laps of the weekend so far and I really think our team, Panoz and Honda all did their homework over the winter.

"The balance of my car is absolutely perfect. In fact," he laughed, "I have to stop and think what I could do to make it better. We're getting quicker and quicker each time we go on the track and, while it's always good to qualify on the front row it really doesn't mean a lot."

Still searching for his first IndyCar Series victory Meira said, "I look at every race as a break-out and work hard in every race. I want to win them all but things have to fall in place. The win will come when everything is right and luck comes our way," he declared. "Everyone on our team is working together to make our package better," Meira related.

Teammate Buddy Rice, fastest in practice yesterday put up the fourth best speed of 214.006mph in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda. The Arizona native declared he was "really happy with this qualifying run. We changed our engine and now we're just sorting past some things. We've got a good handle on the Panoz; we're just massaging it now," said the winner of the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, who took third in last season's championship chase.

Showing his pre-season testing speed is no fluke, Scott Sharp starts sixth in the #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda after lapping the Homestead oval at 213.463mph on this sunny, warm afternoon. The veteran driver is "just thrilled to see the front of the grid again. We have a really strong car; it's right where we want it to be and handling so very, very well," Sharp declared. "We made some minor adjustments for qualifying and backed up our time from this morning under warmer conditions. I think that's a great step for us."

The final Panoz driver in the top ten is rookie Danica Patrick, driving the third Rahal Letterman Racing #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda entry. The 22-year-old living in Arizona turned 212.871mph, her fastest speed of the weekend and is "very, very pleased with these two flat laps. It was easy and that is what we really needed," after engineer Ray Leto made some changes to suit her style. "We have a pretty consistent car on long runs, which is something I really focused on in our test sessions," she said.

The Toyota Indy 300, a 200-lap contest begins shortly after 2PM EST Sunday afternoon and will be shown live in the USA on ESPN.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Buddy Rice , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira