MILWAUKEE, July 24, 2004 - Tomas Scheckter qualified in the top 10 for the eighth time in nine races and Jaques Lazier turned in his best qualifying performance since 2002 to lead Chevy's qualifiers for Sunday's Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at...
MILWAUKEE, July 24, 2004 - Tomas Scheckter qualified in the top 10 for the eighth time in nine races and Jaques Lazier turned in his best qualifying performance since 2002 to lead Chevy's qualifiers for Sunday's Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Scheckter will start Panther Racing's Pennzoil Chevrolet eighth on the grid with a 166.829 mph qualifying speed and Lazier will start from the ninth spot with a 166.375 mph qualifying lap.
Other Chevy qualifiers for the inaugural IRL IndyCar Series race at the historic 1-mile oval include Townsend Bell (12th at 165.826 mph), Felipe Giaffone (13th at 165.210 mph), and teammates Ed Carpenter and Alex Barron (15th and 16th respectively). The pole went to Vitor Meira in a Honda G Force at 169.338 mph.
"I found a little speed everywhere, and that was one of the best qualifiers I've had," Scheckter declared. "I was flat out on the lap before the green. Chevrolet has been making progress with every race, and I hope it will all come together for the Panther crew this weekend."
Scheckter was the first of the 22 drivers in the qualifying order.
"Going first was a little disadvantage, but I made the most of it," he recalled. "I had my mind right and the weather was cool, so it was good for a fast lap time."
Lazier was elated with his qualifying speed in only his second race with the Patrick Racing team.
"We got the gears just right, we got the tires just right, and Chevy power came through," Lazier said. "We were just barely hitting the soft rev limiter in Turn 3. We're making strides, and everything is coming together faster than we anticipated.
"The car was good, despite the fact that we missed a practice session yesterday with a gearbox problem," he continued. "We could have gotten down on ourselves, but they said we'll get 'em tomorrow and things are going well now. Tomorrow the good cars are going to go to the front and the bad cars are going to go to the back, so you have to be patient and let it sort itself out."
Townsend Bell qualified 12th, the same starting position that he had in the preceding race in Nashville. He circled the 1-mile oval at 165.826 mph in the Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara.
"That's the quickest we've gone here," said Bell. "This team just keeps working harder and harder, and so does Chevy. The car was really hooked up, I was wide open and hanging on.
Bell, who won an Indy Lights race in Milwaukee in 2001, knows what to expect on this flat oval.
"I think it's going to be a tough race once everyone gets strung out," he said. "I'm confident the Panther guys will give me another good car."
Felipe Giaffone's 13th starting position is his best since he joined the Dreyer & Reinbold team in May. He might have qualified the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet even faster with a few more ounces of methanol in the fuel cell.
"It was a shame because the second lap I ran out of gas just as I crossed the start/finish line," he reported. "It might have run a tenth quicker because it was really hooked up on the second lap. I'm very pleased with the team. Every session we've gone faster. We just kept working together and it went very smooth. It's more of a handling track because it's so flat, but Chevy did a great job in bringing us power, and now the team has to just keep working to improve ourselves.
"In the race you're going to see cars going backward and forward because it's all about handling," he predicted. "I think we should be going the right direction and one of the guys going forward."
Red Bull Cheever Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and Alex Barron will start side-by-side on the eighth row after qualifying 15th and 16th respectively.
"That's the quickest I've gone all weekend," Carpenter reported after qualifying with a 164.278 mph speed. "I've taken a conservative approach this weekend. We've had a problem tearing up race cars so I'm making sure I go about things in a real consistent manner. We've been quicker every session, but we still need more speed as a team. I've been working on a lot of race setups and I think we'll have a good car for the race."
"We backed up our practice time, but I thought we could get a little more out of it," Barron noted. "It was cooler and it seemed the track was a little looser. I like this track; if you have a good car you can move forward. This always seems like a long race because you've got your hands full. You've got to have a car that works inside and outside."
The Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 will start at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 25. The 225-lap, 225-mile race will be televised live on ABC.