IRL: Indy 500: Honda Pole day report

Honda Dominates Indy 500 Pole Day Honda drivers covered the field in MBNA Pole Qualifying Saturday for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500, taking the first seven positions out of the 22 cars making successful qualifying runs in a ...

Honda Dominates Indy 500 Pole Day

Honda drivers covered the field in MBNA Pole Qualifying Saturday for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500, taking the first seven positions out of the 22 cars making successful qualifying runs in a rain-shortened day, and all but one position in the first three traditional "rows of three" starting grid. It is by far Honda's most successful qualifying performance in four appearances at Indy.

In just his second Indy appearance, Rahal Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice claimed the pole and was the only driver to average more than 222 mph for his four-lap qualifying run. Andretti Green Racing teammates Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti will complete the first row of the 33-car starting field for the May 30 Memorial Day weekend classic.

Making his first IndyCar start for Honda, Bruno Junqueira will head the inside of the second row for Newman-Haas Racing, followed by Tony Kanaan in his Andretti Green entry, and Fernandez Racing owner/driver Adrian Fernandez.

Honda's "Magnificient Seven" of qualifiers is rounded out by Vitor Meira, another Rahal Letterman Racing driver making only his second Indy 500 start this year. His seventh-fastest qualifying run places the Brazilian on the inside of the third row.

Roger Yasukawa, also driving for Rahal Letterman and also making his second 500 start, will line up 12th, on the outside of the fourth row. The final Honda driver to make a qualifying run Saturday, Bryan Herta crashed in Turn One during his attempt, one of three drivers to do so, but all apparently escaped serious injury.

Qualifying for the remaining positions in the 33-car starting field continues Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with television on ESPN2 from 1-4 p.m., and again 6-7 p.m. EDT.

Buddy Rice (#15 Argent/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Honda) Pole Qualifier for the 88th Indianapolis 500: "It was a real roller coaster ride. Whoever did it the best was going to end up on the pole, or at least the front row. We knew that going in and set the car up that way; it was sliding all the way around, from the start of my run through the last turn on the last lap. It was a real 'hang on' deal from start to finish, but that's what it was going to take today. You can't say any more for Honda; they've been the engine to have all year. I wasn't sure we were going to run 222 [mph), but we knew we had enough to go for the pole, for sure. People say we're under the radar all month or something; I just think that we don't cheat ourselves. We make sure we know where we're running and where we need to be. We make sure we try to do as many of our laps as we can."

Dan Wheldon (#26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green Racing Honda) Will start from the middle of the first row: "In all fairness, the conditions are difficult out there. It seems it takes a little while for the tires to get up to temperature, and I think with how competitive the field is, certainly this year it seems more difficult than last year for people that to suddenly contend for the pole. The cars are just moving around a lot. But my boys gave me a well-balanced car, and the old Honda was real strong into [Turn] 1, which was good. But I was a little bit apprehensive. I got loose on my last lap in practice before qualifying, and I was apprehensive after what happened to Bryan [Herta]. It is more difficult when you're so close to somebody and they crash. That's a new experience for me, and one I don't particularly like. It's OK, but I'm going to kick his butt for scaring us like that."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Qualified on the outside of the front row: "I'm surprised with it, actually. Bryan [Herta] and I had decided that in our side of the AGR team that we were going to work on qualifying late in the week. But then, unfortunately, it rained pretty much the whole time Thursday and Friday and I thought we might struggle. TK [Tony Kanaan] and Dan [Wheldon] were going to work on qualifying all the time. So we were really behind coming in this morning, but we made some good progress in the practice session before qualifying. So honestly, thanks to the guys because they did a wonderful job. The last time I was here, I qualified on second weekend, in the back, so I'm definitely happier than I was then. I'm excited to start in the front row of the Indy 500, obviously. I'll be focused on the race and the next 500 miles and trying to do the best job I can to make sure we win."

-honda racing-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Jim Beam