AVONDALE, AZ, March 22, 2003 - Tony Kanaan took his second consecutive MBNA pole position of the 2003 IndyCar Series at the Phoenix International Raceway mile oval and lauded the Andretti Green Racing team he's driving for this season. "We put a...
AVONDALE, AZ, March 22, 2003 - Tony Kanaan took his second consecutive MBNA pole position of the 2003 IndyCar Series at the Phoenix International Raceway mile oval and lauded the Andretti Green Racing team he's driving for this season.
"We put a good setup together and the teamwork we have here gives me great hope for the future," Kanaan said after posting a hot lap of 20.1667 seconds (178.512mph) in his #11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda.
Kanaan was joined on the front row by Felipe Giaffone's #21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota as the 2001 IRL Bombardier Rookie of the Year logged an earlier speed of 20.2513 seconds (177.716mph).
Homestead-Miami winner Scott Dixon earned the third starting slot for Sunday's Purex/Dial 200 race, posting a hot lap of 20.2633 seconds (177.661mph) in the lucky #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. "Not too bad," was how Dixon characterized his run. "I was loose at the exit to turn 2, but I'm definitely happier with this result than I was with qualifying in Homestead."
Last year's PIR winner Helio Castroneves starts fourth, based on his flyer of 20.3359 seconds (177.027mph) in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. "Since I was a kid I've been battling this guy," Castroneves complained of Kanaan after his qualifying lap. "We've got an excellent race car but I had to make a big lift in turn 2 when the car drifted up to the wall."
There were no incidents in qualifying today, held under warm, sunny conditions. Sarah Fisher, who was second in the draw declined to post her fast lap and drove the #23 Team GM Upromise/Raybestos Dallara/Chevrolet to a single qualifier. "We thought conditions would be better later in the session," she explained, lining up 14th in the 22-car field.
Michael Andretti copped the 5th starting slot in the #7 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda, with a tour of 20.3572 seconds (176.84mph). The veteran, retiring after the 87th Indianapolis 500 said his car was "very good. I was wide open the whole way 'round. The car feels good, but we can still make some improvements for tomorrow's traffic."
Gil de Ferran was the first driver out for qualifying today, which occurred right after the USAC Silver Crown cars took their hot laps. "My first lap was okay and I thought, there's one in the bank," de Ferran mused. "We pushed a bit off turn 2 on the second lap. It was a bit more slippery after this morning's practice," he noted. De Ferran will start 7th in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota with a lap of 20.3929 seconds (176.532mph).
Tomas Scheckter holds 8th spot on the starting grid in his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, with a lap of 20.4034 seconds (176.441mph). Scheckter, still working to jell with his new team is "happy with the way things are going. They are talking about making turn 2 a little wider; I wish they'd have done it today," he remarked after getting a bit loose in that turn during his hot laps.
Dario Franchitti was the fourth driver to qualify in the #27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda and was "massive loose at the exit to turn 2. I'm happy with the balance of the car; we ran some pretty consistent laps in morning practice," the Scotsman noted. His lap of 20.4202 seconds (176.296mph) was good for 9th on the grid.
Rookie Roger Yasukawa, who had a tough time on Friday with a different car and seat that had to be swapped out, placed the #55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda into 10th place with a lap of 20.4311 seconds (176.202mph). "We're chasing the track a little bit and made some aero balance and ride height adjustments for qualifying. These were not ideal conditions" to set a fast lap, he said.
Nineteen cars qualified within one second on the track today. The fastest Bow-Tie runner is again Jaques Lazier and the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet entry. Lazier will start 12th and he's pleased because "this is the first time we've had a consistent package. I think we've found the sweet spot" in setting up the chassis. He shares the 6th row with Scott Sharp, who brought the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota in for 11th grid slot.
All the drivers talked about the difficulties of this Phoenix International Raceway oval. With its elevation changes and near five turns, it's a place where a good setup for the race is essential. Many shrugged off their qualifying efforts and Al Unser Jr. remarked, "You can win from any starting position at this place."
With the race start at 2pm (local), teams and drivers will have to battle in the heat of the day to take laurels in the Purex/Dial 200. Two hundred miles will tell the tale of preparation for these 22 contestants. It should be a wild one.