Panoz drivers provide punch in final Indy 500 qualifying weekend INDIANAPOLIS, May 22, 2005 - Four Panoz drivers provided all of the excitement in the final weekend of qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, as the remaining 11 spots...
Panoz drivers provide punch in final Indy 500 qualifying weekend
INDIANAPOLIS, May 22, 2005 - Four Panoz drivers provided all of the excitement in the final weekend of qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, as the remaining 11 spots available in the traditional field of 33 cars were set.
Claiming the fastest second weekend speed - and fastest overall - Kenny Brack rejoined Rahal Letterman Racing when 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice had to withdraw due to injuries suffered in practice May 11th.
1999 Indy winner Brack, recovered from a horrendous crash in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series 2003 finale at Texas Motor Speedway had never driven a Panoz/Honda/Firestone package like the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer machine with which he drove four laps at227.598mph, earning 23rd starting position.
"The Panoz is new to me but this package is the best I've ever had at the Speedway," the Swede declared. "The Panoz is good at this track but it was definitely different for me. It didn't take long," Brack noted, "for me to get comfortable with this car."
Ryan Briscoe was the first driver to qualify on Saturday and drove his #33T Target/Pioneer Panoz/Toyota to a conservative four-lap average of 224.080mph for 24th on the grid. The Australian rookie crashed in his first attempt on MBNA Pole Day but was "confident we could run well. Those were four solid laps, my Panoz is working very well and I feel confident I can keep my foot down with this car."
Jaques Lazier took the start-up #21 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Toyota to 27th with his four laps at 221.228mph. "Four and a half weeks ago we had a bare Panoz tub but today we had a solid run. I'm very, very happy with the package we have," the veteran said.
The final driver to qualify was quite a surprise. Felipe Giaffone, who did not expect to be driving in the Indy 500 two hours before he was called from a shopping trip on the north side of Indianapolis, stepped into the Foyt Racing #48 Panoz/Toyota, performed all of 49 practice laps and bumped Arie Luyendyk Jr. from the field with four consistent laps of 217.645mph.
A bit shell-shocked by the abruptness of the activity, Giaffone nonetheless expressed pleasure with the Panoz car: "I was surprised just how right the car is. It's extremely drivable."
Panoz design engineer and track liaison Richard Wilks commented, "We can be very comfortable with our prospects for this race. We have three teams who compete regularly on the circuit who have great opportunity for the 500: three Fernandez cars, three Ganassi cars and three Rahal Letterman cars.
"In addition," Wilks said, "the teams who have Indy-only entries like Newman Haas Racing, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Playa Del Racing and, now A.J. Foyt Racing (for Giaffone) all feel they can get into our Panoz cars and learn them very quickly."
The 89th Indianapolis 500 takes the green flags next Sunday, May 29th at 12PM EST. In the United States, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing airs live on ABC TV.