INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 15, 2004 -- Rahal-Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice recorded a four-lap average speed of 222.024 mph May 15 to win the MBNA Pole Award in qualifications for the 88th Indianapolis 500. It was the second IRL IndyCarÂ®...
INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 15, 2004 -- Rahal-Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice recorded a four-lap average speed of 222.024 mph May 15 to win the MBNA Pole Award in qualifications for the 88th Indianapolis 500.
It was the second IRL IndyCar® Series pole for Rice and Rahal-Letterman Racing, which also sat on the pole at the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29.
Rice had a combined, four-lap time of 2:42.1445 in the No. 15 Rahal-Letterman Argent/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone. Rice claimed Honda's first Indianapolis 500 pole, and the manufacturer took the top seven starting spots.
"To come here and drive for a team as big as Rahal-Letterman and to get not only their first pole for them at Homestead, it was my first pole, and now it's all of our first poles here again at Indy," Rice said. "It's just an unbelievable feeling right now."
Dan Wheldon was second (221.524 mph), and Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti (221.471 mph) completed the front row for the May 30 "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Wheldon has started on the front row in the last three IRL IndyCar® Series events.
"In all fairness, the conditions are difficult out there," said Wheldon, the IndyCar Series points leader. "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 that suddenly people that could contend for the pole."
Twenty-two cars qualified, and 27 turned laps on a cool afternoon. Three drivers' qualifying efforts ended with separate incidents in Turn 1.
Drivers Alex Barron (Red Bull Cheever Racing) and Felipe Giaffone (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) were uninjured following their accidents, which occurred shortly after each took the green flag.
Bryan Herta, who also crashed shortly after taking the green flag, suffered abrasions to his right leg and foot after his car made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1. His status will be re-evaluated on May 16.
Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 continues on May 16.