IRL: Michigan: GM Racing qualifying report

Hornish qualifies new Gen IV Chevy fourth at MIS BROOKLYN, Mich., July 26, 2003 - It seemed like old times for Sam Hornish Jr. today as he qualified the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 fourth on the starting grid for the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan...

Hornish qualifies new Gen IV Chevy fourth at MIS

BROOKLYN, Mich., July 26, 2003 - It seemed like old times for Sam Hornish Jr. today as he qualified the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 fourth on the starting grid for the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Hornish, the fastest driver in Friday's combined practice sessions, will start the Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara on the outside of the second row after his 221.837 mph qualifying lap on the 2-mile oval. Tomas Scheckter won the pole with a 222.458 mph lap in Ganassi Racing's Toyota G Force.

"We're excited about qualifying in the top five on a superspeedway, which is something we haven't done this year," said Hornish, the only driver testing the new Chevy powerplant under race conditions this weekend. "Everything is going very smooth so far. We'll put our race motor in for the final practice this afternoon and then see what it does tomorrow in the race."

While Hornish set the pace under calm and sunny skies in practice yesterday, qualifying today was conducted in windy, overcast conditions.

"Yesterday in practice we had a very good handling race car," Hornish reported. "That's something we've worked on a lot this year to make sure that when we got the power we needed we'd have a car that could make the most of it. The wind picked up a little bit today. We didn't do many qualifying runs, so we didn't know exactly how the car would run, but we're happy with it."

The Firestone Indy 400 will be a demanding 400-mile test of the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8. The 2-mile banked track requires nearly continuous full-throttle operation.

"We ran over 400 miles in testing with the new engine, and the way it looks right now we're not going to have a problem with it, but you never want to speak too soon," Hornish cautioned. "We'll just go about our strategy like we have at every other race this year. It's all about being able to maneuver through traffic and position yourself for the last five laps of the race."

Vitor Meira was the fastest Chevrolet driver who qualified with the Gen III version of the Chevy Indy V8. He circled the MIS circuit at 217.439 mph in Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara, putting him 17th on the starting grid.

"It was windy out there and we had to shift," Meira said. "We had a range of gears to fit every situation."

Meira was impressed with the initial performance of the new Chevrolet engine in the Panther Racing entry. The Gen IV engine will be available to all full-time Chevy teams for the event at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 17.

"I can't say enough; the numbers and the speeds that the Panther team has been showing speak for themselves," said Meira. "There's still a race to run, so this is a good test. If the reliability is good here, it will be good everywhere.

Tomorrow's race is going to be drafting, drafting, drafting," Meira predicted. "You must have a good car in the draft. We are struggling a bit; we are missing something on our race setup with full tanks and old tires. We are going to really make an effort on that."

Buddy Rice will start Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara from 18th on the grid with a 215.828 mph qualifying speed. The #52 Cheever Racing entry is currently the second highest Chevy team in the entrant points standings; the IRL has determined that the second-ranked Chevy team at the conclusion of the MIS event will test the new Gen IV engine in the Emerson Indy 250 on Aug. 10 at Gateway International Raceway.

"For qualifying today we just trimmed our car down and it's the fastest we've probably gone the whole weekend," said Rice. "The hope is that we'll get the new engine for St. Louis, so we're preparing our car for that. We're going to wait and see how the weekend goes and move on from there."

"Hornish has made a big impression this weekend with the way he is running," said Rice. "I think it's going to be a big relief for all the Chevy teams."

-gmr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Buddy Rice , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing