Rice third on Michigan grid with Panoz performance BROOKLYN, MI, July 30, 2005 - 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice got back to business today in qualifying for the Firestone Indy 400, taking his ...
Rice third on Michigan grid with Panoz performance
BROOKLYN, MI, July 30, 2005 - 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice got back to business today in qualifying for the Firestone Indy 400, taking his #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer to the third-best speed in qualifying.
The 17th IndyCar Series driver in the 23-car line to take two timed laps around Michigan International Speedway's 2-mile oval - where he is the reigning champion - Rice turned up the wick and ran 218.909mph, just 0.232 seconds behind polesitter Bryan Herta.
Working with new front wing endplates, new toe links and other suspension bits including front pushrods this weekend, Rice admitted his Rahal Letterman Racing team had "a lot of help from Panoz" to try and turn around his season. "This is a good, big track and this result is a big boost for everyone on our team," Rice said. "We're working with our own set of ideas and it's been a combination of everything that's brought us here."
Another stranger to the sharp end of the grid, 2003 IRL champion Scott Dixon starts fourth with his #9 Target Panoz/Toyota tomorrow after running fastest in practice earlier in the day. Dixon's lap of 218.890mph wasn't the result of doing "much very different. The Panoz has been pretty good and we've had no major problems. We've got a limited number of laps here (it's a two-day race meeting) so there was probably a little bit more in the car today."
Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp earned the fifth best speed of the afternoon in his #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda at 218.745mph. The veteran thought his race weekend was "going well. The idea is to climax at the right spot and our Panoz is very good. We've been working in the third and fourth groove against the wall and our package is working pretty well. The guys did a great job in tweaking the balance and gears a little bit right before qualifying," he revealed.
Rookie Danica Patrick holds eighth place on the grid in her #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda at 218.479mph. "We had a tough time this morning," as her team tried a variety of different setup choices. "That qualifying run is the first time we have had our Panoz balanced well today and I'm happy with that."
Teammate Vitor Meira starts ninth with his #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda, giving the Rahal Letterman Racing team all three cars in the top ten. Meira's 217.590mph lap is "a good help to us. We've been a little bit behind and that's no secret." Meira's part of the team spent much of practice "looking for speed" and his knowledge translated to all three cars. "Here, qualifying really doesn't matter much. It's a long race where heat could be a factor for downforce."
The Firestone Indy 400 takes the green flags at 3:45PM EDT and airs live on ABC. It is the 11th race in a 17-event campaign and the third race in a row for the Indy cars.