LEBANON, Tenn., Friday, July 16, 2004 -- Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice claimed his second consecutive IRL IndyCarÂ® Series MBNA Pole Award, turning a lap at 23.2568 seconds, 201.231 mph to win the pole position for the Firestone Indy 200 at...
LEBANON, Tenn., Friday, July 16, 2004 -- Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice claimed his second consecutive IRL IndyCar® Series MBNA Pole Award, turning a lap at 23.2568 seconds, 201.231 mph to win the pole position for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Rice, who earlier in the day was invited to visit President George W. Bush at the White House on July 19, knocked his Rahal Letterman Racing teammate Vitor Meira off the top spot to become the 10th IndyCar Series driver to win back-to-back poles. Rice also won the pole at the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway on July 3.
Meira, the first driver to make a qualifying attempt, lapped the 1.33-mile oval in 23.2874 seconds, 200.967 mph. It is the first time Rahal Letterman Racing teammates have shared the front row in the IndyCar Series.
"We have an all-Rahal front row," Rice said. "Hopefully, we can finish this way again tomorrow night here at Nashville. We've got to make the most of what we've got happening here. It's been superb."
INDY CAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer Argent Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): "Once again, we have an all-Rahal front row. Hopefully we can finish this way again tomorrow night here at Nashville. But you know, we've got to make the most of what we've got happening here. It's been superb. It's going good so far. (Teammate) Vitor (Meira) has been super-quick in practice, and we've been working on our setups together. We finished (at) Kansas exactly how we're starting -- first and second -- so it's excellent. It's super-close again, and that means tomorrow night's going to be an excellent race. We should have pretty good cars. I think it's going to be key to make sure that we can get through traffic all the way through because this track does not present itself to be always a two-groove track all the way around." (About strength of Rahal Letterman Racing): "The biggest thing with what's happened with Rahal Letterman (Racing) is that we have a two-car effort now, and everybody is focused in on working just at the IRL. The way Vitor and I have been exchanging information, and the way the engineers are working, everything is moving in the right direction. I think it's helped speed up the process of learning about the (Panoz) G Force and how to make it better for ourselves. What Honda has been doing in the way of power has been superb."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): "We've had a good car since the beginning. We were first place in the first practice and also first place in the second practice. We thought we had a good shot for pole, and we did. Being the first one to go out is not the most comfortable situation. It may pay off, but most of the time, it doesn't. I think we did pretty good, being the first ones to go out. I'm happy for Rahal Letterman Racing, and I'm also happy for Honda, with the top five cars." (Do you like the concrete surface?): " Obviously, if the results are good, I like it. We've been quick. The race is going to be tough, but so far, it's been good for us." (About strength of Rahal Letterman Racing): "Since Japan (in April), we've been really hooked up. It the work that Rahal Letterman Racing does, that Honda does, and the support that Centrix, Pioneer and Argent gave us. Nothing comes easy. In competition, nothing comes easy. We worked for it, and now it's paying off. It's not going to pay off forever. Everything's a cycle. Now it's our turn. We want to make the best of it, and so far, we're doing a good job of that."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "We lost our initial spot in qualifying because we made an airbox change and then didn't get through tech in time, so we lost a lap. It hurt a lot. We struggled all day with different issues during each session, which hurt us. We'll work on it for tomorrow. Last race, we were OK, and we should be all right to smooth things out for tomorrow."
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I wouldn't say that we're not happy, but we're a little disappointed. I thought for sure from the changes we were going to make, we were going to be able to back up what we ran earlier, and we ran real close to a 198. We fell a little bit short, but most importantly, we've been spending all weekend working on our race setup, and I know we have a real good race setup. In qualifying, the car was pretty freed up."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was a good run for us in the Pennzoil car. It's always better to keep it pointed forward instead of backward. We missed the gears a little bit, and the car has more speed in it, but we can't complain too much. We're the quickest Chevy again, and that's always good. In the last two races, we've ran right up front, so that's encouraging. This track isn't known for having two lanes like we prefer, but we'll find a way to get up front for sure."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm very surprised to be starting seventh. The balance of the car felt very good, but we just didn't have everything we needed today. I thought we might have run a bit quicker than we did, but to start as high as seventh shows that a lot of other people had problems, too. Being my first time here, I've had to learn a lot in just one day. This (Nashville Superspeedway) is my 'home' track, so it's going to be nice to get to race in front of so many friends and family members."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Our run in the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was OK. There are some very quick cars here, but I'm happy with the speed that I did. It wasn't quite what I thought I'd do, and I'm disappointed to not be on the pole, but I know we've got a good race car, so I'm looking forward to getting on with it tomorrow night."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "My run was good. I had a little bit of trouble getting up to speed. The XM Satellite Radio car was sliding a little bit, even on my first qualifying lap, but then the grip came up on the second lap. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong gear on the first lap and I shifted on the second lap, which I needed to do. But, man, if I'd have been in the right gear, I think we'd have had them."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We just didn't find everything we needed for today, but we'll turn our attention to the race and see what we can do. It is what it is. The important thing is that the whole Team 7-Eleven has been working so hard at being consistent and being smart, so we just need to keep doing what we're doing. We've been able to race really well, and that's where it counts."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We were fast early on but just didn't put it quite where we wanted to be. It's an improvement over where the Target team has been in the last little while, and that's a positive step. We've stepped things up a bit, re-thought the way we've been doing things and put in a lot of effort to make some gains in our qualifying efforts. That's starting to show now, but we still have room for improvement, and we're working hard on that."
DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "We're getting closer to where it is we want to be in qualifying. We're concentrating more on the small things, and that's starting to pay off. This is a very different track for me, and I've had to make some adjustments to the concrete surface. It's pretty bumpy out there on the straights, and that means there is a little more attention to the handling of the Toyota/Panoz G Force. I think that's where the Target team has made the most gains this weekend. For the race, tire wear will be an issue, and that makes it just a bit more challenging, but I feel pretty positive about where we are starting."
MARK TAYLOR (No. 13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I don't know. We're just scrambling together a bit at the moment, just making sure I feel comfortable in the car. We haven't really done anything qualifying stuff, which is why we're slow. We're working on race stuff. It should be good. We'll see what it's like, and we're looking forward to it."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We made some changes after the last (practice) session to free it up, and we went way too far. It was real loose."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "While our qualifying run was faster than our practice speed, we're not quite where we need to be. The Marlboro Team Penske car was a little loose, but you need to run it that way for qualifying. We're going to continue to work on our race setup tonight. I really enjoy racing at Nashville, and you can win from anywhere at this track. Last year I started in the back and was leading by the half-way point. I've led every year we've run here. I just haven't led the last lap. The crew has been doing a great job and hopefully tomorrow we can have a strong finish."
HELIO CASTONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Our qualifying run could have been better, but it could have been worse. The lap times were close to what we were running during practice today, but we have to keep working to find a little bit more speed. Tomorrow night is what counts and that's what we're focusing on. The Marlboro Team Penske car is consistent, which is exactly what we need for the race. We'll use the final practice to learn all we can and hopefully be in good shape for Saturday night."