Rice, Meira on Fire in Music City with Panoz G Force chassis Lebanon, TN, 16 July 2004 Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira continue to show their American designed Panoz G Force rear wings to the balance of the 22-car ...
Rice, Meira on Fire in Music City with Panoz G Force chassis
Lebanon, TN, 16 July 2004 Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira continue to show their American designed Panoz G Force rear wings to the balance of the 22-car strong Indy Racing League IndyCar Series field, as the duo captured the front row for tomorrow evening's Firestone Indy 200 at the unusual 1.33-mile concrete Nashville SuperSpeedway, marking the final night race on the IRL's schedule.
Meira, driving the #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone was the first driver taking timed laps in overcast, 80-degree late afternoon time trials and set a mark of 200.850mph (23.3010 seconds) that would not be broken until the penultimate qualifier, teammate Rice took his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda to the best lap of the day, 201.231mph (23.2568 seconds). Of 22 slated to take the green flags tomorrow at 7PM EDT, six of seven drivers in the [American designed and built] Panoz G Force family qualified 14th or better this afternoon and were within .3332 seconds on a grid separated by 8/10ths.
Taking his fourth MBNA pole position at mid-point in the 2004 IndyCar Series season, Arizonan Rice understands the characteristics of a concrete surface, having raced on this type of track in the past. So does his team, which unloaded two "Panoz G Force cars that were quick all day," Rice declared, also citing a May test day for aiding development. "The way we have been exchanging information, we have speeded up the process of learning the Panoz G Force chassis and making it work for us."
Both Rice and Meira thought the latter had a shot at MBNA pole but for the Brazilian, "Being the first one out is not the most comfortable position. Our Panoz G Force has been good since we took it off the trailer this morning and, while I don't think you can copy the Kansas race (where he finished second to Rice by .0051 seconds) that would be nice," Meira said.
In earning sixth on the grid, Briton Darren Manning used his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to pull out a lap of 199.108mph (23.5048 seconds) to lead all Toyota-powered drivers despite dealing with "a very different track for me. It's pretty bumpy out there," he remarked. Teammate Scott Dixon in the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, who finished second in this final night race of the year in his 2003 championship season, holds eighth place on the grid at 199.027mph (23.5144 seconds) and called the effort "a positive step."
The 200-lap, 266-mile Firestone Indy 200 takes the green flags at 7PM EDT and airs live in the USA on ESPN.