SCHECKTER FASTEST ON RAIN-SHORTENED "FAST FRIDAY" INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 13, 2005 -- Tomas Scheckter topped the speed chart on a rain-shortened day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the day before MBNA Pole Qualifying for the 89th running...
SCHECKTER FASTEST ON RAIN-SHORTENED "FAST FRIDAY"
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 13, 2005 -- Tomas Scheckter topped the speed chart on a rain-shortened day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the day before MBNA Pole Qualifying for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Scheckter, driving the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, lapped the 2.5-mile oval in 39.5076 seconds, 227.804 mph to claim the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap award. Scheckter's lap was the fastest recorded this month.
IRL IndyCar® Series defending champion Tony Kanaan was second fastest with a lap of 39.6142 seconds, 227.191 mph. Danica Patrick, who paced the field May 12 in her No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, was third fastest at 39.6880 seconds, 226.769 mph.
Shortly before the rain began, the yellow flag came out due to an incident involving Paul Dana and Sam Hornish Jr. Dana's car spun in Turn 2 and made contact with the SAFER Barrier. Hornish's car flipped after running over debris. Hornish walked away from the incident and was cleared to compete in MBNA Qualifying.
Dana was awake and alert when he was transported to Methodist Hospital where he was listed in good condition after sustaining a spinal fracture and concussion.
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Our time was improving, and we were looking forward to continue working on our qualifying setup this afternoon. It is too bad the rain shortened the day. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will be clear and we will be able to put the Marlboro Team Penske car in the show."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "We didn't get to run much before the rain came, but we're confident. We shook down the Team 7-Eleven car and everything ran well, which was good. It was a very short day for everybody. Now we'll see what tomorrow brings."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was really warm and humid today, and we don't think this will be very representative of the conditions we'll have tomorrow for qualifying. We'll look to go back to what we learned yesterday, make an engine change, and hopefully the ArcaEx car will be strong for qualifying. It would have been nice to have had another couple of runs before the rain came."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We are excited for qualifying tomorrow. Like many teams, we didn't have a chance to fully do our qualifying runs due to the weather, so we know we have quite a bit of speed yet to show. With the anticipated condition changes that will happen with the storms moving in, everyone will have to rebalance their cars anyway so we will pick up in the morning and really see what we have for speed. I am pretty confident. It would have been nice to have a qualifying simulation with our present package in the bag, but we were working on race setup in the morning and had planned to focus on qualifying this afternoon. The speed of the storms surprised us."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "This is the day before Pole Day, and we were trying to work a little bit on race setup and then work on our qualifying setup. After our one-hour session on race setup, the rains came. I think we have quite a good setup for qualifying and shouldn't have a problem. I am just looking forward to qualifying tomorrow."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 5 Investment Properties of America Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was a short day. I think there is promise in what we found today and we'll see tomorrow. There is not much to say as we have very limited laps but at least with the laps we did, it does show promise for tomorrow. I am pretty optimistic."
LARRY FOYT (No. 48 A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "We're going in the right direction, but we were pretty far off on the setup when we started. We're gaining on it, and we have a long way to go but the good thing is that all the changes were the right changes."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "It was good. It was a couple laps (at that speed) as well. It's a lot of hard work from everybody at Chevrolet and Panther. They've worked a lot. We knew we had something. I don't think we knew we had that much, but it's always good to have a little bit more than you expect. We still think we've got some more stuff for tomorrow." (About running the fastest lap without a tow): "No, we did four laps in there, so it was good, it was encouraging for everybody. Again, I just have to take my hat off to Chevrolet. They've kept at it, they've worked hard and it means a lot to everybody here and all the Chevrolet fans out there as well."
DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "Well the weather buggered us a bit today as I was hoping to run later in the afternoon. Losing the #10T Target Toyota back-up car in the accident on Thursday was a small setback, but we've gotten a lot of good work done and we're looking forward to qualifying. With the new format it certainly will make things interesting for all involved."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9T Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/ Firestone): "It's been a productive week and the atmosphere has been more fun too. I think because there seems to be a lot more people this year probably because they are more excited with format in general. It will certainly make this weekend more intense. Hard to tell where we were at today as we found ourselves chasing the track a bit. We did make some really good gains this week, and the car is really decent. All three of the Target cars are pretty even so we do expect to make the top 11 in qualifying tomorrow. I think we'll see the top speed in the mid-227 mph range."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 33T Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/ Firestone): "It's been a really good week. You can really feel the build up this week. It's been fun to get to know the history of this place, meet some of the interesting characters and fans and hear the stories associated with this race. On track, the Target team has done a lot of work fine tuning the car for qualifying. I feel really confident with the car. I got to test it in all kinds of different conditions; hot, cool, wind coming at various directions and intensities. I certainly learned a lot, and it's great to get all the time to test on the oval. I feel like I have a lot of the tools now to be much more comfortable out there. Working with Arie Luyendyk has given me lots of valuable information and has had the effect of keeping everyone on the crew a little more relaxed. The only expectations I have for qualifying is to exercise patience while waiting to qualifying, and maybe re-qualify, and then on track be smooth and fast. I'm confident that Toyota will provide us with a good engine so we just have to go out there and get the job done."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "We had a very strange day today. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car has been pretty quick all week, and when we went out today, we couldn't get out of our own way. We were running pretty slow. I'm not sure exactly why that is, and we're certainly going to be looking into that and see if we can run for the pole tomorrow."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We didn't get everything accomplished today that we would have liked in the XM Satellite Radio car. We did get one full run and another half run in today before the rain came. I think we're a little better off today because we made some improvements, but we've still got some work to do for tomorrow."
ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "We got out there early and got some quality laps in. I felt like we were heading in the right direction, but we weren't able to really tell because of the rain. We're going to make some additional adjustments to the car tonight so we're ready for qualifying tomorrow."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "It was a difficult day because we weren't able to determine whether the adjustments we made have us going in the right direction. We're just going to have to get the cars ready for qualifications, and hope the work we've been doing pays off."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 36 Newman Haas Team Centrix Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "I only ran three laps (at speed), and the car didn't feel right, so we came back to the garage. We found some things that could explain why the car was acting the way it did and were fixing them then it started to rain. It's a shame that we didn't get to work on our qualifying setup because we had to concentrate on our race setup this week. It's important that we learn as much as we can in the morning practice and then we can try to make a strong qualifying run."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 37 Newman Haas Team Centrix Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "We were only able to make one qualifying attempt before the rain came. Obviously, it wasn't the kind of speed we expected, but the balance was good. Realistically, we took enough drag out of the car to expect a bigger improvement than we had. We should have been at least another mile and a half quicker, but we discovered something on the car that might explain why we were slower than we expected. Tomorrow is another day though. Today, we weren't satisfied with P9 (position nine), so hopefully, we will be satisfied with a top-five tomorrow."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Since it is my first time here, I am not sure how all the rain will affect the grip level on the track. Maybe the track will be back to where it was for Rookie Orientation. We got most of the way through our program today. Although we didn't get a chance to try every trick, I still think we have a pretty good grasp of where things will need to be for tomorrow. This week has gone by so fast. I am still trying to take it all in. It still seems like a dream, but tomorrow, I will make my first qualifying run here at Indianapolis. I think we have a shot at the front row. My goal for tomorrow is to qualify. As a team we want to get both cars in the field tomorrow, and then, we can focus on getting ready for the race.
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "I suppose this is the right time of the week where you want to pick up your speeds. The team's done a great job. Chevrolet, they've really put a lot of work into it. We knew we had a little bit left, we didn't know we had quite this much, it sort of surprised me on my first lap by. I thought my dash was a bit broken but, it just shows how much hard work these guys have put into it and I really appreciate it." (Was there any sort of tow?): "I had four of them (laps) in the 227s so I don't think there was much help at all. I think the car is very good. It's an Indy-qualifying car where it's on the edge and it's from wall to wall, but that's where it should be here, and that's what it takes to qualify on pole and that's what we'll do." (About his luck): "For sure, I think all that bad luck I've had before, if it comes right here then it will make up for it, for sure. Again, I don't want to be speaking too much about luck, I want to be speaking about hard work and what the team's done and what we have to do to ensure we win this race." (About his maturity): "I suppose it's with all ovals, but with this oval you really have to respect it, and it's like you say, it's a different level of respect. Each year you come back, again you learn a little more. This track changes by the minute, and you've got to be aware of that. Any time you think it's easy or you think you're getting on top of it, it catches you out so you've always got to be aware. I've got good people around me, and it's helped in everything we develop and me also getting a handle on this track as well." (About competition for the pole): "I think it's a bunch of guys, you know, it's not going to be easy at all. The Andretti guys are all very quick. I know they've worked very hard. The Rahal guys are doing a great job, so there's a whole bunch of them. And that's what it should be, that's what it takes. It shouldn't be easy to get a pole position at Indianapolis. It's going to still take a lot of hard work and it's still going to take four perfect laps to make it happen. So, there's a whole bunch of guys." (Do you feel like a true threat for the pole?): "Yeah, I do. And I always have felt that way. You know we worked on our car, and I think that another thing that I've learned as well is how to approach the month and what to concentrate on. It's so easy to get here and then your first run or your second run the car's pretty good and you can not touch it at all and it comes the day before qualifying and you start messing with things. That's the biggest problem that I really tried in the beginning of this week to go back and forth and really find something that I'm comfortable with. So now I'm in the position that I don't want to touch the car at all now." (Going into today, was everything positive when you made a change?): "Yeah, a lot of times, you step in the wrong direction, but then you know which is the right direction and we did that earlier this week, and we just slowly went at it and put things together and it slowly came together into a car I'm really happy with now." (Did you do any major changes or just a lot of little stuff?): "In the beginning of the week, we did some major changes, just to see, we learned some stuff from Japan and we wanted to see, "Okay, what happens if we go in this direction?" That stuff didn't work and we had to revert back to it, but we tried to do longer runs and really just get a feel. Sometimes during qualifying runs around Indy, you do little laps and you're just driving on the edge. You don't really feel the change. We preferred to do a little bit longer runs, a little more downforce and get a feel for what's happening on the chassis and come up with a mechanical basis of what really works." (About Danica Patrick): "Oh, it's great and she's done an unbelievable job. There's no doubt about it. This place really takes a couple of deep breaths to get around here quick, and she's really done a super job as a rookie. She's got great schooling. She's been aro und Europe for a while and I watched her there. Plus, hopefully in a press conference, she's a little bit cuter to sit next to than Tony Kanaan. (Laughter) It makes it a little bit better, but she's done a really great job and I take my hat off to her." (Tomas, are you as curious as the rest of us as how this new format is really going to pan out tomorrow?): "I'm not sure, because I think you've seen from the times this week, they've sort of stabled out. It's not like they've just gone quicker and quicker and quicker and people have got loads left, and I think after someone's done their first run, considering the conditions don't change massively one way or the other, I'm not sure how many people will go back out again. One thing's for sure, the quickest guy's going to end up on pole and that's really what matters. I think what the Speedway's done with the surface, it's good, it's very consistent, it's good on the tires. I think it should be fine because tomorrow morning we'll do some running, we'll clean it off a little bit and get back to it, so I don't think there should be a problem." (How far have things come with the Chevy engine, especially since you're in a good position given your great run at Motegi?): "Again, the Chevy guys have really worked hard, and that makes me very, very happy because a lot of people put them down and they've really, really worked very hard, and this is my month to try to convince Chevy to stay in this another year. That would be great. It's a great American company. I'm proud to be carrying a bowtie on my car and pushing me forward. They've worked very hard and it's showing now, but we still have a lot of work to do."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): (What was going through your mind?): "Um, this isn't going to be fun. I came around the corner there, saw the yellow, I was on the brakes, trying to slow down. You don't want to get on it too hard. Kosuke (Matsuura) got on it real hard the other day when Buddy (Rice) crashed and spun, so I was like, 'Need to slow it down.' One of the half-shafts came out of Paul's (Dana) car and was cart-wheeling down the track. I thought, 'That's going to hurt a lot worse if I hit that,' because you clip the bottom of that you don't know which direction it's going to go. It's a long piece of steel rod that's going to come back into the cockpit, so I thought I'll go over there and as soon as I look over I thought, 'Well, I'd better center that (piece of debris), whatever it is, and I hit it. I thought, 'That's going to tear up the bottom of the car,' and I hit it, but I hit it hard enough that it shook my head so I was looking down, and I thought, 'That's going to hurt the car.' Then I looked up and all I could see was the fence, so then I was like, 'Maybe the car's not that big of a deal right now.' Definitely the wildest ride that I can say I've ever taken in one of these cars, but probably the least amount of injury you can have too." (What was your visual sighting as you were in the air?): "Sky, fence, ground. And I was hoping I didn't get caught up in the fence because that starts whipping everything around and it's a lot easier when its (the car) like a piece of Styrofoam flipping through the air. You don't want to get it -- everything seems to jerk around and accelerate when you touch anything as far as the fence or whatever. I didn't even realize I'd hit my knee until I was sliding upside down, and I thought, 'That hurts just a little bit.' Stopped, called the guys and told them on the radio I'm OK. They're like, 'What? Are you OK?' 'Yeah, I'm OK.' I thought the antenna's got to be gone because the one sidepod was ripped off and both antennas on top of the car were gone, so I threw that out, kind of braced myself because I've heard stories of people letting themselves go when the belts (release), so I just put one hand down, turned the other one (belt lock) and started crawling out. The safety guys were there." (So you were out before the safety crew got there?): "I was unbuckled and starting to come out, but my HANS device, when I was trying to get out, kept getting stuck in the grass so I had to have them help me take that off. It was interesting." (Was your helmet on the ground?): "No it wasn't on the ground at all. The roll hoop bent a little bit but it was fully intact, but it was good as far as that goes."
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ABC at 1 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.