IRL: Kansas: Qualifying report

WHELDON WINS POLE FOR KANSAS LOTTERY INDY 300 KANSAS CITY, Kan., Saturday, July 1, 2006 -- 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon claimed the Marlboro Pole Award for the July 2 Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. Wheldon posted a...

WHELDON WINS POLE FOR KANSAS LOTTERY INDY 300

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Saturday, July 1, 2006 -- 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon claimed the Marlboro Pole Award for the July 2 Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. Wheldon posted a lap of 25.6257 seconds, 213.536 mph, in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Wheldon's time was .0196 of a second faster than Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., who recorded a lap of 25.7622, 213.372 mph, in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara. Scott Dixon was third-quickest at 25.7466, 212.533 mph in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara while series points leader Helio Castroneves (212.472 mph) and Kosuke Matsuura (212.404 mph) were fourth and fifth, respectively in their Honda-powered Dallaras.

QUALIFYING DAY NOTEBOOK:

This is Dan Wheldon's first pole position this season and the third of his IndyCar Series career. Wheldon's last pole came in April 2004 at Twin Ring Motegi. This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's first pole position of the season and its 10th pole in the IndyCar Series. It's last pole position came with Ryan Briscoe at Infineon Raceway in August 2005. Sam Hornish Jr. qualified second, his fourth front-row start of the season and tied his best-ever start at Kansas Speedway. He also started second in 2002. Helio Castroneves qualified third, his sixth top-five start this season and his third consecutive top-five start.

Some Kansas National Guard members and their families will attend the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway free of charge, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said. A thousand tickets were distributed to Guard members recently returned from deployments and to others recognized for their service. Kansas Speedway has donated 375 tickets.

Firestone delivered 700 Firehawk race tires for teams' use (32 total per team). This Firehawk debuted last fall at Chicagoland Speedway and returned to use this year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and most recently at the IndyCar Series Open Test at Kansas Speedway on June 13.

The second episode of Andretti 3, the reality series chronicling the rookie season of third-generation driver Marco Andretti will air at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN2. This week's episode will cover Andretti's IndyCar Series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

ABC Supply customers Peggy and Greg Rinehart have won the 'Your Name Here' contest for the Kansas Lottery Indy 300. Their company, Front Range Roofing, will be on the top of the sidepods of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. The Rineharts will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with Felipe Giaffone. The "Your Name Here" promotion selected winners by random drawing from a pool of entries sent in by ABC Supply customers earlier this year.

Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. will visit the White House on July 18. Hornish will be the second IndyCar Series driver to visit the White House. Buddy Rice met with the George W. Bush after his win in 2004.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt underwent successful knee replacement surgery on his left knee on June 26 in Houston. He started therapy that afternoon. "It was really painful, worse than I expected," said Foyt. "I'm not sure I would have done it if I had known it would be this bad." Foyt's doctors said surgery was complicated because of the injuries the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner sustained in a 1990 racing accident. Foyt will not be at Kansas Speedway this weekend. He expects to be released on June 30. Team manager Craig Baranouski will direct the team. Foyt's son Larry will also be on hand to assist Baranouski.

Selected quotes from Danica Patrick's availability on Friday:

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Team Argent Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"It's always nice to do well at a track, whether it's Indianapolis or Kansas or Michigan, especially if it's a first. As a driver, you always remember your firsts. This is a place I will remember as my first pole. I hope I can be successful again."

(About 1.5-mile tracks):

"I think we had very good setups on these tracks. We were quite fast on the mile-and-a-halfs. Over the last year, though, our Panoz chassis was very good at qualifying because it has lower grip than a Dallara, but that was the problem. It has less grip than a Dallara. That's why I went from first to ninth or 10th on the first lap. If you looked at my teammates, or anyone else who ran a Panoz, the same thing happened. I was looking at it as my fault, at first. After that, if I could just lead the first lap, I thought of that as a victory in itself because of the way we struggled coming up to speed. We should have had five or six poles. We were really close at Pikes Peak last year. We were fifth or sixth, but had been fastest in practice. I thought we should have been (on) pole at Indy. I don't think it was just the mile-and-a-halfs.

(About test at Kansas):

"It was pretty bad overall. I was surprised I was in seconds of the whole field because the car was so horrible. Something had to be wrong with the car. I just hope to goodness that it doesn't happen again in the race. My other teammates were any faster than me. Hopefully, they didn't have any other problems, other than being slow. Unfortunately, the team is struggling to go fast. We seem to make the car comfortable and able to feel good about it. We just can't find speed. There have been some parts that have come in the last week or two to the team -- suspension parts that should be aerodynamically less drag -- so we're hoping to find speed there. A track like this is a flat out track. The engineer needs to hit it. We're hoping it comes together and we're hoping to make the cars quicker as quick as we can."

(About winning a race):

"What would you headline it? Don't tell me you'd do something like "Finally." Finally, from the standpoint that people have been thinking about it since very early on in my IndyCar (Series) career. I'll feel lucky about that. From having a shot at winning a race in my fourth start at Motegi last year on. Not a lot of rookies can say that. I feel very lucky that there was that interest and talk so early. I think "Finally" would be the perfect word, but hopefully, there would be some unique (headlines)."

Eddie Cheever, the owner/driver of the No. 51 Cheever Racing Honda-powered Dallara, is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his win in the inaugural IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway this weekend.

EDDIE CHEEVER: "It's a great place. I like it. Kansas Speedway has always been a great facility. They have always had a lot of people come here. Great races. It kicks off the hard part of our season. This is the first one of the grueling races that we have in the summer heat. (Memories of his win here five years ago) I've never been one to look backwards. I always look forward, but its a good (memory)."

Marlboro Pole winner Dan Wheldon arrived today at Kansas Speedway with a much different look than his normal clean-cut appearance. Following the Sun Trust Indy 225 at Richmond International Raceway on June 24, Wheldon decided he would not shave his face until he wins another IndyCar Series race. Today marks day seven without a shave for the 2005 IndyCar Series champion.

MARLBORO POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, Marlboro Pole Award winner:

"This was a great team effort. It's been a frustrating season, but we have two cars that have been strong we really want to beat the two Penske cars. It's become a good battle this season. We practiced here a couple of weeks ago, and it wasn't this hot. The heat is going to be a factor tomorrow, both the track teamp and the ambient temp. The combination of the harder tire compound and the heat makes it more important for a good driver and engineer relationship. I don't know if you're going to see as much side-by-side racing here tomorrow that you have in the past, but it's going to be fast."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second):

"We were really happy with the test (at Kansas Speedway). We came out here, and we didn't know that we were going to run over 213. When we ran this morning in practice, we were 212.9 or getting close to that area. We thought, 'We should be able to run that (in qualifying).' When Dan (Wheldon) ran a 213.5 we thought, 'We're not going to be close to that." But we messed with our gears a bit, which kept us from getting the pole. We're still pretty happy with the front row. We're here to race for tomorrow so we won't hold back."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third):

"I think our chances are pretty good. The mile-and-a-halfs have been pretty good for us. I think both of us (Dan Wheldon and Dixon) are pretty confident with our race setup. We just have to see how it plays out. It's always a difficult race here because it's a lot hotter and the wind -- I've never seen it this strong before.

(What do you have to do to chase down Marlboro Team Penske?):

"Everybody has got to be as consistent as possible. It's just trying to take points away every weekend. I think there has been once or twice each of us have had issues and haven't been able to take the points that we probably deserve. We just need to make sure we concentrate on trying to have a good, strong race. Don't take yourself out of it too early and hopefully put yourself into a position to win.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth):

"I was very happy with our qualifying run. The Marlboro Team Penske car was a little faster than I expected. Tomorrow will be hot and the track will be slick, but it always improves as the day goes on. We feel comfortable with the racecar, and I'm really looking forward to the race. We'll just have to play it smart and hopefully we'll be able to get our first victory here at Kansas."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth):

"The team did a great job after the test here. We improved the car balance a lot. I am very happy with this starting position. We are getting closer to the teams ahead of us. I was about one hundredth of a second slower than Helio [Castroneves] in fourth position. I am very excited. I think the race is going to be difficult because there is a patch between the two grooves [racing lines] which is very slippery, but our car balance is very good so I am pretty excited for the race."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth):

"We were quickest in the last practice session but the wind changed on us before we qualified. My entry in three was where we felt it the most and we were long on all the gears. Still, this is the best start we've had all season and we're happy about that. The main thing was the wind, whoever took that into account is leading and everybody that didn't was hurting. Even though we thought we'd be a little better this is still the best start of the year and we're really happy about that. This is a quick fix and we know we've got a great racecar tomorrow."

BUDDY LAZIER: (No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh):

"It was pretty good. A lot of us came to the team this year with realistic goals to make the team a contender, and I think now, about mid-season, a lot of the work that we put in is starting to show dividends. It's greatly improved. We would really be accomplishing our goal if we could finish in the top five, but anybody can win this race. We just have to keep digging. We are certainly not a favorite. I guess we would have a really outside shot."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth):

"I thought that I would run a little bit better than that, so that's disappointing, but the fact that we are starting in the top-10 still has me happy with the run overall. We had productive practice sessions today, and we were able to really dial in our race setups. I'm happy with our car for the race. I'm looking forward to a good race. It's going to be a different Kansas race than what we are used to because I think we'll be a little more strung out on the track, but I'm looking forward to it."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Team Argent Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth):

"We are making gains with the new Dallara package, and I think the run shows that Rahal Letterman Racing has been improving with these cars. We have been keeping our heads and working hard to learn more about the No. 15 Argent Honda. We are making progress in qualifying, and I think we'll be better in the race. We didn't have a bad race car at Texas before we had the mechanical problem. It isn't an easy process to test and race at the same. We are in such a steep learning curve right now that it is tough. We are trying to throw some much stuff at the setup, and we are working on every area possible. We are doing a lot of testing on race weekend. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. So it is a compromise. There are a lot of cars that are close in qualifying right now. I think we can get our car possibly to run towards the front. We haven't given up on this season. We are at the halfway point and there are a lot of people very close in points. Can we get into the Top Three? No. The Top Five? No. But I think the way we are learning about the Dallara that we can score points and get very competitive in the last half of the season. We have some room to grow with the team, and I believe that will happen in the last part of 2006. Then we'll ready for 2007."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 10th):

"We are working away on the car, but certainly thought we would be a few spots up on the grid than where we are right now. We are all dealing with a big change in the temperature here. It is beautiful at 8 a.m. for practice, and just quickly gets hotter and slicker as the day goes on. It is going to be a big challenge for tomorrow. Even though qualifying today was held at the closest time to when we are actually going to race, going out for four laps in qualifying versus 45 laps in the race is not the same. It is going to take a real consistent car that will keep turning and can run the low line. Right now, with the track temperature, you are asking a lot out of it."

The next IndyCar Series event is the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on July 2 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Liberty Challenge on July 1 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on July 6.

-IRL

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing