RAIN WASHES OUT FIRESTONE INDY 200 QUALIFYING LEBANON, Tenn., Friday, July 15, 2005 -- Rain showers and the forecast of thunderstorms conspired to wash out Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. The ...
RAIN WASHES OUT FIRESTONE INDY 200 QUALIFYING
LEBANON, Tenn., Friday, July 15, 2005 -- Rain showers and the forecast of thunderstorms conspired to wash out Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.
The starting grid was based on combined practice sessions results from the morning and afternoon. Tomas Scheckter, driving the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, had the fastest lap (203.117 mph; 23.0409 seconds) and will start from the pole. IndyCar Series rookie Danica Patrick will join him on the front row on the basis of a quick lap of 203.088 mph.
Scheckter had the top time in the first session, while Patrick posted the top speed (203.088 mph) in the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone in the second. Scheckter will start from the pole for the third time this season.
"To be honest, I didn't like this track too much, until a couple of minutes ago when they said I was on pole," Scheckter said. "It's very satisfying. I was extremely happy about this pole. It's a tough track to get a pole. We were the quickest in the first session, and we were pretty quick in the second session, as well. We felt we had a pretty good chance if we qualified. For some reason, knowing how difficult it is, it's good to walk away with the pole."
Buddy Lazier (202.927) and Dario Franchitti (202.892) will occupy Row 2.
Also on July 15, Panther Racing announced that it will field a third entry for Lazier in two additional races this season. Lazier will drive the No. 95 Pennzoil/Byrd's/American Sentry Guard Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 14 and Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 11. Lazier is already scheduled to compete at Michigan International Speedway on July 31.
FIRESTONE INDY 200 POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified first): "To be honest, I didn't like this track too much, until a couple of minutes ago when they said I was on pole. It's a funny sort of track, and it gives you a funny feeling. It's great having Buddy here. It's a lot of good, quality information and it helps us set up the car so much better. You can just feel by the engineering meetings that really having him here has jumped the team to another level. That's what we need to compete with the Andrettis and the Rahals. Hopefully, we can continue this success with all three teammates for the rest of the season.
(Is it satisfying to win the pole like this?): "It's very satisfying. I was extremely happy about this pole. It's a tough track to get a pole. We were the quickest in the first session, and we were pretty quick in the second session, as well. We felt we had a pretty good chance if we qualified. For some reason, knowing how difficult it is, it's good to walk away with the pole."
(About starting next to Danica Patrick): "At least I know the photographers will be in my area. She's very sensible. I think she's proved in the last three races what a good race driver she is. A lot of people in her situation would be bold and overdrive the car, and she hasn't. She has a lot of experience and for a really tough track, she's done a good job with the second-quickest time."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, qualified second): "I thought we would come in here with a good car. Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira) were very fast here last year, and the team put together a good car. I haven't been here before, but luckily enough, when you have a good car on a big oval, you can keep your foot down and it's more straightforward than a lot of other tracks, or road courses or short ovals. I felt good five laps after I got out there and made little improvements here and there. I think now sitting P2, I would have liked to qualify, because I think we have a fast car that can sit on pole. Nevertheless, you never know what can happen in qualifying. Front row is always good. I'll take it and focus on the race. I've proved that you can start in the front and go backwards at some points, with Texas and places like that. You have to make sure you have a good car for the race and one that can go the distance without having too much trouble."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 95 Pennzoil/Byrd's/American Sentry Guard Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified third): "It's such an unusual racetrack being concrete and with the high humidity. It's a great place and winning here and winning that guitar is extra special. I couldn't thank Panther Racing, Chevrolet, Pennzoil enough. It's such a fast race car and a great race team. I really enjoy working with my teammates Tomas and Tomas. It seems to me that multiple-car teams with the extra track time and feedback that you get is part of the formula that you need for success and I'm really glad to be part of this team."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth): "I am really pleased with the progress the Delphi Fernandez team made today. I think if we had the chance to qualify, we would have been a few spots farther up. Still, we are solidly in the top 10 and I think we are going to have a good car for the race. Everyone is pretty pumped up right now."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, qualified sixth): "That is OK to start sixth. I think I had a top four, but we can move from there. It is hard to pass here, but I am confident in the crew that we can pick up some spots in the pits. We have done that for the past few races. Of course, I'm very glad to have the Honda engine at a track like this one in Nashville. You need a handling car here, too. We had a very fast car here last year (after leading 113 laps) and I think the car will be just as good in the race. A big difference this year from last year is that everybody else (other teams) has caught up on the kinds of tracks like here in Nashville. They are just as tough now and the competition is very close. You look at that lineup. Buddy (Rice) is 14th and he is a hundredth of a second off the pole. You just can't make a mistake in this series. I think we'll be ready on Saturday night."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone, qualified 17th): "I'm very happy because I think we're making progress to eliminate scrub in the car to make it go faster. I'm also starting to understand some of the technical aspects of the cars now, so I can help the engineers. I'm really looking forward to the next few races because I know Toyota is going to help us, but there are some things that we can do to help ourselves also, and we're working hard on that. I was disappointed that we didn't get a chance to qualify because I thought we would have a decent car. (Dan) Wheldon was running a 23.273 all by himself, and we were at 23.400. We've never been that close on these longer ovals, so we were looking forward to getting out there to see what we could do. Now we just have to go racing and see what happens. The main thing is that we keep learning. As long as we're doing that, I'm encouraged."
ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified 19th): "Overall, things went pretty smoothly today despite being pretty long with the rain and all of the waiting around. Unfortunately, we didn't get as much track time as we were hoping for. Since they're taking practice times for the qualifying order, we're not starting as high as we were hoping for. It's a shame because we wanted at least one more session, qualifying or not, to make one more change to make the car quicker. I guess we'll just hope for the best whenever we get back out."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (#55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified 18th): "With the rain this afternoon, we couldn't qualify. I am really disappointed because I know that I could have had a better time. We were not working on our qualifying setup this morning, so I didn't take off any drag. I think I could have been two-tenths quicker than my best time, but these are the results and we have to concentrate on the race now. I think we have quite a good race car, and I am pretty confident for the race."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone, qualified 13th): "It's unfortunate that it had to rain today, because I'm sure we would've been able to qualify the Marlboro Team Penske car higher than 13th. We'll use the final practice session to shake down the race car, and hopefully we'll be able to put it towards the front tomorrow during the race."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone, qualified 15th): "It's too bad that qualifying was rained out. However, I don't think we would have improved our time that much from practice. The important thing now is making sure we've got a good setup for the race. This track is really tough. It is a combination of a lot of elements to get the car right, and we really need to take care of the tires on the concrete surface. Marlboro Team Penske has been doing all they can to make sure Sam (Hornish Jr.) and I can bring home a strong finish tomorrow."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified 14th): "We didn't get much luck today. We ran some full tank runs this afternoon, and we thought we would be ready for qualifying. A few hundredths of the second, and you drop 10 positions on the grid. You have to have the right balance in the car for a place like this one. We were good here last year, and we are using a lot of the same stuff as last year. This is a big handling track. We'll need some long green flag runs on Saturday. You have to be patient here because the car is going to go off on the long tire and fuel stint. The Honda engine was great here last year in the race and I expect that again Saturday night. The concrete track is hard on the tires and the engine works hard coming off the corners here. We just have to play a good strategy to go the 200 laps."
The 10th season of IRL IndyCar Series competition continues with the Firestone Indy 200 at 7 p.m. (EDT) July 16 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Cleanevent 100 on July 16 at Nashville Superspeedway. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) July 21 by ESPN2. The next episode of "The Fast Life," ESPN2's behind-the-scenes series about the IndyCar Series, airs at noon (EDT) on July 17.