IRL: Indy 500: Rahal Letterman Racing Pole Day report

PATRICK TAKES FOURTH IN INDY QUALIFYING MEIRA QUALIFIES IN THIRD ROW SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Pole Day for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 proved to be an eventful day for Rahal Letterman driver Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira. Patrick piloted...

PATRICK TAKES FOURTH IN INDY QUALIFYING
MEIRA QUALIFIES IN THIRD ROW

SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Pole Day for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 proved to be an eventful day for Rahal Letterman driver Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira. Patrick piloted her # 16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Honda/Panoz/Firestone to fourth on the grid while Meira drove his # 17 Rahal Letterman Team Menard/Johns Manville Honda/Panoz/Firestone to seventh.

Patrick posted the fastest lap of the first day of qualifying at 227.860 mph, but it was her first lap everyone was talking about. Patrick nearly spun the Argent/Pioneer car after taking the green flag to start her qualifying run. That momentary wobble resulted in the lost off precious tenths of seconds and left Patrick with a first lap of 224.920 mph. Patrick recovered to post a four lap qualifying mark of 227.004 mph. Patrick tops the sixth place start of Lyn St. James in 1994 and now holds the mark for the highest start for a female driver at Indianapolis.

"I am a little disappointed in that I feel I had a car capable of winning the pole and we didn't," said Patrick. "I had some severe oversteer and almost spun it on the first lap and that really hurt my qualifying average. If I could have run something close to my last three laps on my first I would be on pole. I was able to make up a lot of ground, but when you are two miles and hour off you have a lot of catching up to do. It is frustrating because I really wanted to be on the pole, and we were almost there. That just shows how our expectations have increased since the start of the season."

Patrick's teammate Vitor Meira had to pull out of the qualifying line just prior to taking his initial qualifying run. A last minute check of the car by the crew found an oil leak. When Meira finally took to the track he posted a four lap qualifying effort of 226.848 mph. Meira will start on the inside of Row 3 and he matches his seventh place start of a year ago.

"I think left a little bit out there in qualifying," said Meira. "I tried to make some adjustments inside the car on the third and fourth laps and I think I went too far. I am disappointed because I felt we had a front row car. It doesn't take much here to just miss out on a good run. You can see how close the speeds are after four laps. Look at Danica, she missed the front row by a tenth of a mile an hour. We were in line right before Danica and we had a small leak when we fired up the engine. We wanted to be on the safe side so we pulled the car out of line and fixed the leak. I don't know if the conditions were better earlier, but some of the fast speeds were set early in qualifying."

Under the new qualifying rules a driver can withdraw his qualifying speed and attempt a second and third qualifying effort on a single day. Both Patrick and Meira contemplated withdrawing their times and taking another shot at the front row.

"I was pretty adamant about going back out for a second qualifying attempt," said Patrick. "Thank goodness Bobby [Rahal] and Scott [Roembke] were able to be the voice of reason. Bobby came back to the garage and told us that we were going to go out a practice and if we could consistently run laps fast enough we could take another shot at the front row. Looking back now I am so glad we didn't throw this time away, because the practice laps we ran would have put us even further back on the grid."

"We went out to practice again and the car just wasn't as comfortable as it was before," said Meira. "So we decided to stay with the first run. We had a great race starting seventh a year ago so who knows what can happen."

Practice will resume at Noon on Wednesday at the Speedway and the second weekend of qualifying for the 89th annual Indianapolis 500 will begin at Noon on Saturday when 2004 Indy Champ Buddy Rice will make his qualifying run.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Lyn St. James , Buddy Rice , Vitor Meira