Dixon, Sharp, Rice lead Panoz troops in Phoenix qualifying AVONDALE, March 18, 2005 - The XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage might not have Panoz runners on the front row of a 22-car grid but all eight agree their cars are...
Dixon, Sharp, Rice lead Panoz troops in Phoenix qualifying
AVONDALE, March 18, 2005 - The XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage might not have Panoz runners on the front row of a 22-car grid but all eight agree their cars are ready for 200 laps around the fast and tricky Phoenix International Raceway one-mile oval tomorrow afternoon.
In the first two-day meeting on a 17-race 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series calendar, Scott Dixon qualified eighth in the #9 Team Target Panoz/Toyota/Firestone entry at 175.439mph, one mile per hour off polesitter Bryan Herta's quick lap.
The 2003 IRL champion remarked he was "fairly happy with the car. It's definitely better in turns 1 and 2 here - the key to a fast lap around this track - and we were flat, trimmed out for qualifying."
The soft-spoken Dixon, who finished second here last year, had "a gearbox issue in the morning that we needed to sort out. The car is pretty decent considering the [small] amount of laps we had. We're pretty consistent on the long runs," the Kiwi noted.
Marking his 100th IRL start, Scott Sharp lines up ninth after lapping this track at 175.362mph in his #8 Delphi/Fernandez Panoz/Honda. Sharp feels like he's not a new lease on his racing life after joining Fernandez Racing for the 2005 season: "I've got a good race car for tomorrow. We cut into our qualifying performance a bit and may have hurt our grid spot" by concentrating on the race set-up.
"The engineering staff really know this car and they've put great time and effort into finding things to make it better. The car is just solid; we really took a step forward with the Panoz. Tomorrow is pay day and that's where I think we are going to shine," declared the 1998 Phoenix race winner.
Phoenix native Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner starts tenth with his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda at 175.115mph. Rice recognizes this is "a handling track and we have to stay with the pack early; then we can make the right adjustments after the first tank-load," he revealed.
"We ran a lot of laps in practice with lots of fuel and I think our Panoz is pretty comfortable. Traffic will play a major role in the race so we need to have a good solid car early so we can be competitive. I'm confident we can run with the leaders. That's our goal," Rice declared.
In what is known as the Valley of the Sun, qualifying was held under cool and overcast conditions today. Rain has been forecast for tonight and showers for tomorrow but the Indy Racing League and its denizens hope squalls spare the area sufficiently to accomplish a 200-lap sprint around Phoenix's daunting walls. The race will be telecast live in the USA on ABC television.