IRL: Nashville: GM Racing qualifying report

Meira Top Chevy Qualifier for Nashville IRL Race NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 18, 2003 - For the second straight race, Brazilian Vitor Meira posted the fastest qualifying speed among the six Chevrolet drivers in the starting field for Saturday night's...

Meira Top Chevy Qualifier for Nashville IRL Race

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 18, 2003 - For the second straight race, Brazilian Vitor Meira posted the fastest qualifying speed among the six Chevrolet drivers in the starting field for Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. On a sultry afternoon with heavy air and high humidity, Meira drove Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara to a 201.916 mph lap on the 1.33-mile concrete oval, qualifying 15th on the grid. Scott Dixon won his third consecutive pole with a 206.211 mph lap in Ganassi Racing's Toyota G Force.

"We put in a good lap and the car setup was perfect for qualifying, just like in Kansas," said Meira. "The Menard engine shop is doing great work, and it's paying off. We're learning with every lap and every race.

"The fourth-generation Chevy is coming and that's going to be a big step for us," Meira added. "While we have this engine we are still making progress. We have a lot to do with the car, and I still have a lot to learn.

Although Meira has never raced on this unique concrete oval, he did gain valuable experience in a recent test here.

"We tested here two weeks ago," he explained. "We had a fuel pickup problem and tested with full tanks, so we have a lot of data on how the car will perform with a heavy fuel load."

Buddy Rice was the second fastest Chevrolet driver on the qualifying sheet with a 199.407 mph lap in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Dallara that placed him 17th on the grid.

"We ran in the low 200s in practice by ourselves, so with the wind change or more moisture in the air, the track's slowed down," Rice reported. "We trimmed out the car, so I'm not sure where we lost the speed. We've got to make sure we have a car that can run with the front pack and a setup that's aggressive enough that we can keep up. I think we have a solid car for tomorrow."

Sarah Fisher, Chevy's top finisher at the preceding race in Kansas City, will start Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's GMAC/AOL Chevrolet Dallara from the 18th spot on the grid after her 199.085 mph qualifying lap.

"The track's bumpy in places, but conditions are fine," said Fisher. "We usually don't race on a concrete track and, without testing, we've been focused on setup all day. The car's working consistently and reliably now, and we know the weaknesses we need to get around. We've picked up performance from practice and are looking forward to driving that home tomorrow. We're sitting as well as can be expected right now."

Robbie Buhl, Fisher's Dreyer & Reinbold Racing teammate, turned a nearly identical qualifying speed at 199.085 mph and will start his Purex/Aventis Chevrolet Dallara 19th in tomorrow's race.

"Despite this run, we have a good race car," Buhl declared. "We didn't run as well as we did in practice which is frustrating. But we didn't spend time on qualifying here. We're not going to be up front, so we've focused on race setups and 20-lap runs. Chevy's working hard and hopefully we'll see a different scenario in a month or so."

Sam Hornish Jr. is in position to mount another of his come-from-behind charges after qualifying Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara 20th with a 198.228 mph speed.

"Those weren't the numbers we wanted, but the race is what pays the money," said Hornish. "We never really worry that much about qualifying. This place has been known to have a few accidents, so the big thing is to stay out of trouble and keep away from the debris. This is a patience race. Our goal is to stay upbeat because there's hope on the way."

Buddy Lazier will ride shotgun on the field, starting Hemelgarn Racing's Delta/Life Fitness 21st on the grid.

"We didn't get the full practice session and unfortunately missed testing here," Lazier noted. "I was able to pull sixth gear this morning in practice so we didn't make a gear change. I don't know whether the wind came up or what, but we lost a lot of rpm on the qualifying run."

The Firestone Indy 200 will start at 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday night, July 19. The 200-lap, 266-mile race will be televised live on ESPN2 and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.

1. Scott Dixon, Toyota, 206.211 mph
2. Helio Castroneves, Toyota 205.339
3. Tora Takagi, Toyota, 205.051
4. Gil de Ferran, Toyota, 205.010
5. Tomas Scheckter, Toyota, 204.482

15. Vitor Meira, Chevrolet, 201.916
17. Buddy Rice, Chevrolet, 199.407
18. Sarah Fisher, Chevrolet, 199.163
19. Robbie Buhl, Chevrolet, 199.085
20. Sam Hornish Jr., Chevrolet, 198.228
21. Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 196.819

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing