IRL: Kansas: Qualifying report

PATRICK CLAIMS POLE FOR ARGENT INDY 300 AT KANSAS KANSAS CITY, Kan., Saturday, July 2, 2005 -- IRL IndyCar Series rookie Danica Patrick will be the second woman in series history to lead the field to the green flag after winning the Marlboro...

PATRICK CLAIMS POLE FOR ARGENT INDY 300 AT KANSAS

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Saturday, July 2, 2005 -- IRL IndyCar Series rookie Danica Patrick will be the second woman in series history to lead the field to the green flag after winning the Marlboro Pole Award for the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway tri-oval.

Patrick, driving the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Honda-powered Panoz qualified with a lap of 214.668 mph (25.4905 seconds). Sarah Fisher started from the pole at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 11, 2002.

Patrick, the 21st qualifier, bumped defending race winner Buddy Rice, her Rahal Letterman Racing teammate, from the provisional pole. Rice (214.650; 25.4927) won last year's race from the pole.

"Have I learned enough to win? I hope so," Patrick said. "Am I ready to win, as in wanting it? I've been waiting 14 years for this moment. Let's do it."

Another Rahal Letterman Racing driver, Vitor Meira (214.546 mph), will start third, creating the first top-three qualifying sweep since Cheever Racing in 2002 at Michigan International Speedway (Tomas Scheckter on pole, Rice and Eddie Cheever Jr.). It also was the third consecutive IndyCar Series event that teammates swept the front row.

Patrick, who was second overall in the pre-qualifying practice sessions (214.745 mph), had a first qualifying lap of 214.562 mph. But there was more in the powerplant the second trip around the circuit with 14 degrees of banking.

"Qualifying should be fairly straight-forward; that's why you do your homework in the morning," said Patrick, who will make her second front-row start (Twin Ring Motegi) in her eighth IndyCar Series start. "I was almost as nervous as I was at Indy."

Patrick said she thought during practice there was a shot at the pole. In the race, it will take a balance of horsepower and handling.

"What's going to make the difference is going out there and competing with my teammates, who did such a great job," said Patrick, who topped Rice's 2004 pole speed by 4½ mph. "The car just gets better and better everywhere we go. I knew going in to the qualifying run that we'd be strong because we were first and second in the practice sessions. We definitely had a shot at the pole.

"I'll race my teammates as hard as I would anyone else."

POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified fourth):

"I think we have a pretty good setup. We actually did race stuff, and my teammate did qualifying stuff, and obviously, he did a great job. We have some fast times. I'm pretty happy."

DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone, qualified fifth):

"We hit the setup right. You'll always lay a little bit more on the line in qualifying. We just did it all good. The second time by was perfect for us. It was probably a little less push in the car than third time by. We had the good setup for the short line, and we hit the gear ratio perfect. It was just one of those qualifying runs where you couldn't have done anything better. That's just what we need to do every time."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth):

"I think the track lost a little bit of grip with the heat. I just think the Rahal car, Buddy (Rice), was very strong. We certainly improved things from Texas, but we still got a bit more to do. For me, we ran a lot of race setups this morning, and the car looks reasonably good. We're pretty happy with that."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone, qualified seventh):

"I thought we were quicker than that, but it always slows down for qualifying. The car was very neutral, especially on the first couple of laps. We're pretty happy with it. It's about what we had in mind. With the temperature coming up, you know, the front tires pull off a little quicker than the rears in qualifying."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth):

"The car was OK. I knew we didn't have a very strong car for qualifying. Dario was better than us all the time, so I would say let's see what we can do in the race. (Have you been doing long runs in practice?) Just race, I never did a qualifying run (in practice.) I did two long runs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I think we have a competitive car."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth):

"We're still working on our race car. I think we have a really racy car, we just didn't have the fastest car, but it handles well. I don't think anybody really knows exactly how their car is going to handle. We've spent more time than others drafting."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified 10th):

"I'm a little disappointed with my qualifying run. I was hoping to start a little farther up the grid, but the good thing is you can win this race from anywhere. I was happy with the way the Marlboro Team Penske car handled this morning on long runs. Hopefully, we'll maintain that consistency for the race. The key will be to stay out of trouble and be there at the end. We really need to leave here with as many points as possible."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 13th):

"It's been a very disappointing weekend at Kansas, so far. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car has been very slow since we rolled it off the truck, and we really don't know why. We just don't seem to have an answer for it. Right now, I've got a lot of people in front of me that are going to be difficult to beat."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified 14th):

"We thought we'd have a little more speed today, but that's the way it goes sometimes. We tried a number of things in practice; we just couldn't find what we needed. Qualifying is over, so now we have to forget about it and focus on the race. There seems to be quite a bit of difference in speed out there, so it will be important that we try and follow the leaders all day tomorrow. If we get the Marlboro Team Penske car set up well, we should be able to stay with the lead pack and hopefully bring it home in the top 10."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards Johns Manvillle Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified third):

"We were a little bit weaker than Buddy and Danica at the beginning of practice. I think the team did a great job of catching up for qualifying. It's just amazing how much detail goes into it. We are repeating the story again. Last year, it was me and Buddy first and second, and now we are first, second, and third. It doesn't get much better than that. Like Buddy said, we can't say enough about the team."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified second):

"I think we're this strong on all of the mile-and-a-half-and up. If you've looked at our qualifying, don't just look at my car, we haven't had a solid year at all, but the two rounds we've qualified and actually made it through qualifying, we've qualified up front. We've been fast every weekend. (About All-Rahal Letterman Racing front row): "It's nice for the whole group to get back on a mile-and-half track. With this being Argent's race and sponsors of my car and Danica's car it's great to have a whole front row." (About Danica's run): "It's great for her to be able to come here on an Argent sponsored weekend to sit on the front. The first one is always a very memorable one." (About his thoughts on Rahal-Letterman team strength at Kansas Speedway): "With any mile-and-half track this team is strong. We three cars we have that much more information. I think it makes us that much stronger. I think our cars excel, and we did a lot of work to make that happen."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, Marlboro Pole Award winner):

"It was kind of a mad dash to get into the car in pit lane before we went out. They were going through tech and everything. It was just a matter of sitting in the car and relaxing. Qualifying really should be fairly straightforward. That's what you work so hard in the morning for, so you can go out there and just drive the car that you know. You don't really have time to stop and make a change, or make a lot of corrections out there. We did our homework in the morning, all three of us, and as you can see it worked, it paid off. The car was good, I thought it was a little bit better than it was in the morning, and that's all you can hope for in qualifying." (Extra pressure because Argent sponsors the race and your teammates did so well this year?): "I feel no extra pressure. I feel more excitement, more nervous. It's always far more nerve wracking for me to be competing for the pole than it is to be competing for mid or back pack. There's just a lot more at stake for me, I'm sure for anybody. I'm almost as nervous as I was at Indy." (How long looking forward to coming to Kansas?): "Each race in itself I was anticipating. I'm excited for the big tracks. I think that our team is very strong. While I wasn't necessarily looking forward to Richmond, let's say, I was looking forward to Kansas and when Richmond ended was when I started thinking about Kansas." (About excitement of winning something): "It feels very satisfying. I'm very proud of how hard the team has worked, how hard I've worked. I'm just proud of the whole situation. I'm a little bit relieved." (About making history): "Sarah (Fisher) had won a pole before, so this is not untouched territory. What's going to make the difference is going out tomorrow and staying up there and competing with my teammates who did such a great job last year." (About finding speed today): "I can't tell you everything we did. It's hard work in the morning. There were definitely a couple of times when I went out there, and it wasn't drivable. It was too much understeer, too much oversteer. So it's finding that perfect balance, and the guys do such a good job of always knowing what's going on with the air, the temperature, the gears. They hit it and they did a great job today."(About weight issue): "It sure didn't help me at Richmond." (About three teammates starting up front): "We will race each other as hard and as fair as anybody else. That's how I race anyway. I would race Helio or Tony or Vitor or Buddy--all the same." (How big is winning the pole): "On a big track like this it probably matters just a little bit less. There's the tow and people can draft behind you and go around you, so sometimes being the first person is not the best. But at least you're able to choose when you want to hit the gas when the green flies, and you can kind of control the start of the race. You don't have other cars in front of you changing the wind in front of the car." (About her setup): "Overall, you want the downforce of the car, for me I like a little bit of understeer. I don't like to feel my butt coming around on a big oval going 200." (Are you ready and able to win): "Have I learned enough to win? I hope so. I hope so. I'm not sure, but I hope so. Am I ready to win as a person going out there and wanting it? I've been waiting for this for 14 years, trying for my whole life to get to this point. So I feel like we all arrive as an Indy car driver already good. But everybody wants to be great."

***

The 10th season of IRL IndyCar competition continues with the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at 1 p.m. (EDT) July 3 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Cleanevent 100 on July 16 at Nashville Superspeedway. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) July 21 by ESPN2. The next episode of "The Fast Life," ESPN2's behind-the-scenes series about the IndyCar Series, airs at noon (EDT) on July 3.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing