IRL: Motegi: Panoz qualifying report

Panoz on front row for Motegi; Patrick nearly snares pole TWIN RING MOTEGI, April 29, 2005 - Rookie Danica Patrick nearly stole the show in qualifying for tomorrow's third Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi, the 1.5-mile oval owned by engine...

Panoz on front row for Motegi; Patrick nearly snares pole

TWIN RING MOTEGI, April 29, 2005 - Rookie Danica Patrick nearly stole the show in qualifying for tomorrow's third Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi, the 1.5-mile oval owned by engine maker Honda.

Patrick the 12th driver to take timed laps in her Rahal Letterman Racing #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer used her second tour to perform at 204.501mph. "We were able to put together two good laps with a very good car," she declared. "The car felt really hooked up in qualifying; this Panoz was easy to drive well."

Patrick's fast speed would last through seven attempts to unseat her, but the eighth time placed the Roscoe, IL native to outside front row as Sam Hornish Jr. took the Marlboro Pole Award by a scant 0.0311 seconds.

The good showing for American born-and-bred drivers and their chassis continued as Scott Sharp earned third on the grid in his #8 Delphi/Fernandez Panoz/Honda with a lap of 204.455mph. Attempting to become the sole repeat winner on this fast, tricky oval Sharp acknowledged his team "worked on the Panoz a lot yesterday and came up with some great changes overnight. You have to love it when a plan comes together."

The fifth of 23 drivers vying for the top spot, Vitor Meira starts seventh in the #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda, his second appearance on the Twin Ring Motegi grid. "The Panoz chassis has good stability right now," Meira explained. "I think it will be better in the race too; we always seem to have a good car in traffic and that will be important here."

Local fans get to see one of their own within the top ten as Kosuke Matsuura secured ninth place with his lap of 203.551mph in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda. Pleased with his run Matsuura agreed, "The Panoz was very good. For tomorrow we have a really good car and I have a lot of confidence for the race."

Buddy Rice took only two warm-ups and one qualifying lap and will bring the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda to the green flags tomorrow afternoon in 11th position. "I'm pleased with the direction of the Panoz right now," Rice said.

Darren Manning lines up 12th and is "pleased with the good changes" to his #10 Team Target Panoz/Toyota and rookie teammate Ryan Briscoe, the final qualifier starts 13th in his first race here with the #33 Target/Pioneer Panoz/Toyota.

The weather has been prime for racing thus far in the weekend and forecasts show mostly sunny, breezy skies and temperate conditions tomorrow when the Japan Indy 300, the 200-lap contest that is the final tune-up for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race May 29th gets underway.

-emt-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira