PATRICK EARNS POLE FOR AMBER ALERT PORTAL INDY 300 SPARTA, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005 -- Danica Patrick became the second woman in IndyCar Series history to start from the pole position at Kentucky Speedway after late-afternoon rain washed out...
PATRICK EARNS POLE FOR AMBER ALERT PORTAL INDY 300
SPARTA, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005 -- Danica Patrick became the second woman in IndyCar Series history to start from the pole position at Kentucky Speedway after late-afternoon rain washed out Marlboro Pole Qualifying. The starting grid was set on combined practice session results minus the Nos. 2 and 4 Panther Racing cars that will start from the rear of the 23-car field because of engine changes.
Sarah Fisher in 2002 at this 1.5-mile oval was the pole pioneer.
Patrick recorded her fast lap of 217.516 mph (24.4947 seconds) in the second session (about 12:45 p.m. EDT), while Wheldon's fast lap of 217.500 (24.4965) topped the morning session. It was the second time this season (Nashville) that rain canceled qualifying.
"(Qualifying is) the true earned way for sure, but that doesn't make practice any less difficult," said Patrick, who recorded a field-high 107 laps. "You're definitely putting yourself out to see what your car will do in qualifying, and that's what I was doing. My engineer, Ray (Leto), and I -- he came up with a good plan, and I just went 'OK.' He planned it right."
The starting position tied Wheldon's season best (Phoenix), though with four victories among eight top-5 finishes, he's obviously been able to make his way to the front. Wheldon holds a 78-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr. with six races remaining.
Hornish (217.307 mph) -- who in 2003 won going away and in 2000 led his first IndyCar Series laps at this facility -- will share Row 2 with Scott Dixon (217.268). Reigning IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan (217.089) will be on Row 3 with Vitor Meira (217.036l). Buddy Rice, the pole sitter and race runner-up last year, will start 10th after a quick lap of 216.329 mph.
Also on Aug. 13, Travis Gregg claimed his third victory of the season as he led every lap of the Bluegrass 100.
Points leader Wade Cunningham edged Marco Andretti for second place.
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, qualified second): "We will be on the front row tomorrow. I am pleased with that. Kentucky is a great facility, but there are some bumps out there. This year you seem to be able to feel the bumps a little bit more. I think the NASCAR testing here has made it bumpier than it has been. I think you'll see the side-by-side racing that everyone is used to, but not to the extent of a superspeedway." (Is starting position critical here?): "With the championship in mind, you like to start up front. I've seen Sam Hornish come from the back here. The key is to have a car that will handle for the race. If we can do that, we should be fine for tomorrow's race."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified first): "All of our races are on similar conditions. You turn left a couple of times, and they're all ovals, so they're all individual. Something as simple as this one having a couple of extra bumps in it really changes the characteristics of the car and the way you have to set it up. Every one is a battle in its own. I would have thought that we would have gone to Michigan and been strong, and that wasn't the case. It's very individual." (About the number of practice laps in qualifying setup vs. race setup): "I did 63 laps in the last practice, and I only did four in qualifying simulation at the beginning and then went into race mode, so I guess about half and half."
(About not qualifying for the pole): "That's the true earned way for sure, but that doesn't make practice any less difficult. You're definitely putting yourself out to see what your car will do in qualifying, and that's what I was doing. My engineer, Ray (Leto), and I -- he came up with a good plan, and I just went 'OK.' He planned it right. A pole is a pole. I really think we had a good shot at it."
(Did you take rain into consideration during practice): "Not at all. I never even looked at a weather map at all. Today, it was a beautiful day. I literally came out of the garages, even walking from the truck through the garages, I didn't even see the sky. As I was walking down pit lane in the big open space, I went, 'Wow, there's a cloud up here.' I never expected to look for rain. I honestly didn't think it was going it to rain. I was sitting in the car -- there were a few cars in front of me for qualifying -- and I thought that it was just a blow-over cloud. The wind was shifting a lot, starting to get still and then gusting, so it was inevitable once it started."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone, qualified fourth): "We had a pretty good day, and the No. 9 Target Toyota was quick from the start. We actually didn't work very much on qualifying setup, so it worked out quite well. It might have been fun to see where we might have ended up in qualifying, but a fifth-place starting position is respectable. We still need to do some full tank runs as we have too much understeer in traffic, but things look good for the race."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified third): "I think we're starting higher up the grid (fourth) than we would have if qualifying had been completed, so the rain worked in our favor. The important thing is we've got a good race setup. This track is tough because the car moves around a lot going over the bumps so we need to make sure it handles well. My Marlboro Team Penske crew has been giving me great pit stops, and we need to make sure that is the case tomorrow. We can run two wide here, and there are a lot of close calls, so I need to stay out of trouble and bring it home. Kentucky is a special track for me as I led my first IndyCar (Series) laps here (2000-38 laps), and if we lead tomorrow it will mark the 50th IndyCar Series race I've led."
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 14 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast will also be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Bluegrass 100 on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 18. The season finale of "The Fast Life" airs at noon (EDT) on Aug. 14 on ESPN2.