SCHECKTER TAKES POLE FOR TOYOTA INDY 300 HOMESTEAD, Fla., Saturday, March 5, 2005 -- Tomas Scheckter helped Chevrolet win its first IndyCar Series pole position since 2003 by claiming the Marlboro Pole Award for the Toyota Indy 300. Scheckter,...
SCHECKTER TAKES POLE FOR TOYOTA INDY 300
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Saturday, March 5, 2005 -- Tomas Scheckter helped Chevrolet win its first IndyCar Series pole position since 2003 by claiming the Marlboro Pole Award for the Toyota Indy 300.
Scheckter, one of only two drivers of Chevrolet-powered cars, recorded a lap of 24.8518 seconds, 215.115 mph in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. It was the sixth pole of Scheckter's career, but his first since he won the pole at Michigan International Speedway in 2003.
Vitor Meira was second-fastest with a lap of 24.9443 seconds, 214.317 mph in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone. Rookie Tomas Enge was third in the No. 2 Rockstar Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Rookie Danica Patrick qualified ninth for her IndyCar Series debut.
The Toyota Indy 300 will be telecast by ESPN with an in-car simulcast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EST) on Sunday.
POST-MARLBORO POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No 4. Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): I have to take my hat off to Chevrolet and everyone at Panther, they've really stuck to it. I've been to so many press conferences before the first race and there was really no mention of Panther or Chevrolet. Everybody's attention has been on the other teams, which I think is good in a way because it takes the pressure off us. We can work really hard and when it comes to showing what we've got, we've showed them and there's still a lot more to show them as well."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Qualifying is just to position yourself for the race. The further (up) you are, the better and safer you are. It's just shows all the work we did over the winter. We have more power than we did last year with the bigger engine. We had the pole here last year with Rahal Letterman Racing. I think we were as good as we were during qualifying and will be 100 percent better in the race so we can get a win at Miami. "
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We didn't have a bad qualifying run. I don't think it really counts for much in the big picture, but it's nice to qualify near the front of the field. The important stuff is going to be tomorrow, and we're going to do everything we can to get the ArcaEx car working well for the race. With four cars in the Andretti Green stable, we should be able to find a fast race setup for our cars."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We didn't quite find the speed we wanted for qualifying, but we'll take it. Tomorrow is a long race, and we have a pretty tough track awaiting us. If you have a good race car you can make up a lot of positions at this track, and we're definitely going to have to do that. I do feel that Team 7-Eleven has a good race car, so I'm looking forward to the race. Last season was a championship season for us, but it's over. Now we are in a new season, and we can't compare it to last year. We just have to focus on keeping the momentum going and trying to repeat our championship."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "My qualifying run could have been better. I think the Marlboro Team Penske car had a little more in it, but we're still starting in the top-10, so all-in-all I think we'll be okay. You can win this race from anywhere on the grid. The key is having a good race car that works well in traffic and putting yourself in a position to be there for a shoot out at the end. We'll fine tune the car during this afternoon's practice and do what we can tomorrow to bring home another win here."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm very satisfied with our qualifying run today. We didn't expect to be quite that fast. Marlboro Team Penske was hard at work every day during the off-season, and I think that our solid run shows that effort. At this track starting position isn't that important, but I'm glad we're near the front, so that hopefully we can avoid any incidents early in the race. Sam (Hornish Jr.) and I have been working well together this weekend, and I'm happy with how the Marlboro Team Penske car handles in traffic, so I think we're looking good for the race. It would be very special for me to win in Miami, not only because it's my hometown, but also because we'd be starting the Championship off on the right foot. It would be great to repeat our 1-2 finish from here last season, but hopefully Sam and I will switch places."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "It was a good run for us, especially considering that we never worked on qualifying until this morning. (Team engineer) Len (Paskus) and the team did a great job. We could've been a little more greedy, but it's the first race with this team and the first race of the season. Every year we've got new pieces to add to the car and more info to gather, but we've got a good baseline to work with and a really good set-up. We're happy with the race car."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "We're definitely pleased with that 24-second lap. That is the fastest of the weekend for us, so it is good to improve with each session. I'm very happy with the car and our team's performance this weekend. We believe we have a good setup for the race as well. Qualifying is nice, but the race is what everyone wants to win. That is our goal, too. I was glad the sun is out today, and it should be on Sunday, too. I think that will separate the field a bit more in the race. The car seems to be very good with the sun on the track. This is a fun track, and coming to Miami is fun way to kick off the season for the IndyCar Series. The race will be a strategic deal like most of these races. They seem to work themselves out as the race goes on. We just can't make any mistakes. Last year, we had a puncture after leading the first 40 laps. That is tough luck, but that is part of the game. I know we'll have a strong car. We need to have a consistent car throughout the race. I like the fact the sun is out. That is good for our Argent/Pioneer car on Sunday."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I am just thrilled. I can see the front again. I want to thank everyone on the Delphi Fernandez team. We have had a really strong car and I think we are going to have an even better car for the race. We made some minor adjustments and backed up our time from this morning under warmer conditions. I think that is a great step for us, and we are in a good position to go racing tomorrow."
DANICA PATRICK (No.16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent /Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We made a lot of improvements to the Argent/Pioneer Honda from the practice this morning. I am really happy with what my engineer Ray Leto did to the car. This morning, it was difficult to keep the car flat, but this afternoon it was easy, and that is what we really needed. If you have a good car in qualifying, you should have a pretty good car in the race. We have had a pretty consistent car on the long runs, which is something I really focused on in testing. To be honest, I am relieved that the first one is over with. I was definitely nervous before hand, but now I am just looking back wishing I would have done this or that different. One thing that never has changed for me from my days in karting through Atlantics to now in IndyCars is I still come away ticked off sometimes that I wasn't a little quicker. On my last lap, I scrubbed a little bit in the last couple of corners and maybe that extra tenth (of a second) could have made the difference to put me a little further up the starting grid. Heading into tomorrow I'll be smart and try not to make any stupid moves that could possibly put me in a bad frame of mind from the get go. I just want to run clean, be smart, hit my marks on the pit stops, not do silly things and finish the race to the best of my ability at this point. Hopefully over the course of the season my ability will grow and so will my results."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No 4. Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "It's been great. I feel kind of an odd situation, because the whole of last year I had to make excuses to you guys, and now it's the first time where I can actually say, 'Yeah, everybody did a good job.' Everybody on the team deserved it. They worked hard. Chevrolet worked very hard, and I'm just glad to be here." (About winning a pole position for Chevrolet): "It means so much to me on how hard Chevrolet worked. A lot of people started putting them down, and this really helps. To throw it back in everybody's face and get a pole position here, and hopefully there's a lot more to come, I'm just thankful for those guys and hope we can carry on. You saw races last year where we didn't qualify in the top 10, but we could run on the front for the lead. Now we've got a combination of a great engine and a great chassis, and I'm very confident for tomorrow." (About winning Pole Position): "It's great to be on pole, and it's nice to be on the front row, but the main thing is the race. I'm very comfortable with my team. We really don't need to show speed (in practice). I just concentrate on working on the race car, and that's exactly what we did yesterday. I don't think we're sandbagging, we were just working on what we needed to work for Sunday. This morning, we showed a little bit, and I thought we had some more, and we showed it in qualifying."
TOMAS ENGE (No. 2 Rockstar Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I didn't believe before qualifying that I would reach 214 (mph). When my engineer Andy Borme told me told me we were going to do 214 (mph) I told him, 'No way. Chevrolet has improved so much from the last test and a lot even from last year. The car is getting better and better, and I'm getting better and better."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I'm really looking forward to the race. I'm looking forward to a win here at Homestead. Everything that we've done here just proves that we've done our work. Everytime we went out, we got quicker and quicker. It's nice having a good qualifying run and being on the front row, but it doesn't mean a lot for the race." (Can this be your breakout race?): "I prepare for every race as a break out. We've doing the right things, and I finished every race last year except for mechanical problems. There's no reason to change. The win is going to come whenever. If we do everything right, things will fall into place. I'm going to continue to work and do whatever it takes."