Rookie Patrick claims third front-row IRL start SMYRNA, TN - Rookie sensation Danica Patrick earned her third front-row start for the Firestone Indy 200 today in only her ninth Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race on the 1.33-mile concrete ...
Rookie Patrick claims third front-row IRL start
SMYRNA, TN - Rookie sensation Danica Patrick earned her third front-row start for the Firestone Indy 200 today in only her ninth Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race on the 1.33-mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway oval.
Following her first pole position at Kansas two weeks ago in the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer, the 23-year-old set the fastest practice lap in the second test session at 203.088mph.
After persistent rain showers cancelled qualifying, Patrick starts second for the race, just 0.0957 seconds slower than polesitter Tomas Scheckter.
Patrick "would have liked to qualify because we thought we had the car to sit on pole. We improved our Panoz each time out today so I'm disappointed not to take my second straight pole position. We made a lot of changes that were positive today and we'll make some more in the warm-up session and continue to make our car as good as possible," she declared.
Teammate Vitor Meira, who began the 2004 Nashville contest in second place will bring his #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda to the green flags in sixth place, based on his practice lap of 202.561mph. "That is okay to start sixth," Meira shrugged. "We had a very fast Panoz here last year (he led 113 laps) and I think the car will be just as good in this race," he surmised. "I think we'll be ready on Saturday night."
Veteran Scott Sharp holds the eighth starting spot with his #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda after turning 202.511mph. "I am really pleased with our progress today and think if we had the chance to qualify," he predicted, "we would have been a few spots farther up. I think we have a good car for the race and everyone is pretty pumped up right now. We haven't had a chance to run nose-to-tail yet and I don't think we will until race-time."
Teammates Darren Manning (#10 Target Panoz/Toyota) and rookie Ryan Briscoe (#33 Target/Pioneer Panoz/Toyota) hold ninth and tenth grid slots, respectively and are the fastest Toyota drivers. "I did my fastest laps on my own so I felt we could have qualified pretty well here," Manning disclosed. Briscoe, the Australian former Formula 1 tester acknowledged, "The Panoz is very sensitive to changes so we were able to quickly find the direction we needed to go."
The fifth annual Firestone Indy 200, race #9 in a 17-event IndyCar Series campaign takes the green flags at 7PM EDT Saturday night, weather permitting. The 200-lap contest on the 1.33-mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway airs live in the USA on ESPN.