IRL: Rice reams 'em in Kansas

IRL: Rice reams 'em in Kansas

Buddy Rice continued on a roll, earning his third MBNA Pole Position for Sunday's Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race. Driving the ...

Buddy Rice continued on a roll, earning his third MBNA Pole Position for Sunday's Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race. Driving the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda from Rahal Letterman Racing, Rice will start first in the seventh race of a 16- event campaign that, not coincidentally, is sponsored by his car sponsor.

Buddy Rice.
Photo by Earl Ma.
The third driver - of 21 IndyCar Series pilots - to take two qualifying laps early this afternoon, Rice logged his quick one at 210.141mph (26.0396 seconds) and then remarked, "It felt good. We're solid on these 1.5 and 2- mile tracks. These types of tracks promote tight racing, like at Texas. This team," Rice remarked, "has done so much work to be competitive everywhere. At a place like this you've got to have your stuff together."

Tony Kanaan was in the second half of the qualifying order (15th) and the point leader turned a lap of 209.681mph (26.0968 seconds) to earn the outside slot on the front row for his #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda. Still, the Brazilian wasn't terribly pleased with his run. "It is what it is and we've got what we've got," Kanaan shrugged. "The car is good and the setup is good for the race. Superspeedway qualifying is not really, really important," he said.

Earning the third starting spot, Vitor Meira hustled the 317 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda to a quick lap of 209.342mph (26.1391 seconds). "We were having a problem with a push this morning and spent most of the time trying to solve that," Meira acknowledged. "We thought it was better to solve that problem before qualifying and now the car is working great," he grinned.

Sam Hornish Jr., who suffered electrical problems here last year starts fourth in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota with a lap of 209.262mph(26.1491 seconds). "This track can get slick but I think we're running really good. We're not really sure what to do with gears for qualifying here; the 6th gear we chose was too long, so we're about where we thought we'd be," Hornish allowed.

With the new 3-liter engines and subsequent aerodynamic changes to IRL chassis, speeds are down by at least eight miles per hour in 2004 vs. 2003, when Scott Dixon took the MBNA pole award with a lap of 218.085mph.

Tomas Scheckter starts fifth in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet after lapping this 1.5-mile oval at 209.138mph (26.1646 seconds). The South African thought his session "went well. We were quicker in qualifying than practice and we're getting better" at working together. "Chevrolet for sure is getting better with the engine development," Scheckter said.

Helio Castroneves was the second driver to qualify and put in a steady run for the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota to take sixth on the grid at 209.120mph (26.1668 seconds). Castroneves was "really surprised by the time I did today. We worked on qualifying set-ups during the second session this morning and he ended up fifth at that point.

Making his first IRL start in the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevy from Panther Racing, Townsend Bell earned seventh on the 21-car grid with his lap of 208.839mph (26.2020 seconds).

Bell did race at Kansas Speedway three years ago in the Dayton Indy Lights series and believes he has "a good car for the race and a great team to work with. I'm glad to be here and hope to be part of the solution. I've got to be realistic, keep my head down and one foot in front of the other. I'm going to try and stay relaxed," but it's easy to see his excitement being back in a race car.

Rookie Kosuke Matsuura starts eighth in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda with his lap of 208.652mph (26.2255 seconds). The Japanese tyro worked on his race setup this morning and thinks "the race should be a lot of fun here. I was flat all around for qualifying but the race will be a lot different. I think we can have a very good result and, hopefully I can finish the race, not like Richmond and Texas," Matsuura said.

Dario Franchitti qualified early in the session and placed his #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda ninth on the grid at 208.646mph (26.2262 seconds). "We're still a ways away at this point and I'm not very happy with that, but I'm hoping we've got a solid car for the race," the Scot said.

Teammate Bryan Herta, who won this event with fuel economy strategy in 2003) starts tenth in the #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda with a lap of 208.210mph (26.2812 seconds). Herta "thought I'd be faster than I was but I don't think the [gusting] winds were a factor."

Incredibly, Adrian Fernandez thought qualifying was "unbelievable. Put a donkey here for qualifying. You don't need a driver," he remarked. "We'll find out more about our car in the warm-up and the race is what counts." He starts 11th in his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda.

Alex Barron was the final driver to take timed laps in his #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet and placed it 12th on the grid. "I'm pretty happy," the Californian remarked. "We found a bit more speed from morning practice and, while we won't start up front the race is a different deal. It's a long one and I think the field should get scrambled. This place is very different from Texas."

It's not much different from Texas for Dan Wheldon, whose #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda is suffering from similar problems to what relegated the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year to 12th on that grid. He starts 13th tomorrow and claims the team "still has no idea why" they are having trouble. "If we could find the problem we'd be quick. I'm frustrated but we've got to keep working on it."

Felipe Giaffone and the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevy team are still getting familiar with one another. The Dreyer & Reinbold team hired Mark Weida to engineer the car at Richmond and he's with them again this weekend. "We keep working to make the car better and we were faster than we expected," earning 14th on the grid.

A.J. Foyt IV starts 15th in the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota and the young Texan thought his car was "pretty good. I found that if I keep it on the bottom we go pretty fast here." 2003 IRL champion Scott Dixon will start the race from 16th grid slot in his #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota.

"We're struggling to find out what the problem may be," Dixon said. "Our qualifying efforts have not been very good lately but it doesn't seem to be any one thing. Things have changed [since last season] and we need to adjust accordingly, but we just haven't quite put our fingers on what it is specifically."

Rookie Ed Carpenter will line up in 17th with his #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy after saying his car has been "the same all day. Chevy is coming up with something new every weekend for us but we haven't gotten everything out of the car that we should." Scott Sharp starts 18th in the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota from Kelley Racing.

Darren Manning wasn't terribly happy with his run in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota today and lines up in 19th spot. "We've just not been on pace for qualifying," Manning said. "I can run the high line without any trouble so I expect to do quite a bit of passing" during tomorrow's race.

For his first race in Patrick Racing's #20 Stacker 2 Dallara/Chevrolet, rookie Jeff Simmons drew the first qualifying slot and ended up in 20th position once time trials were completed. "It's a little disappointing that we were not a bit quicker," Simmons noted. "But it was a comfortable run and we have a little more time tonight to work on the car and try something before warm-up tomorrow."

Tora Takagi starts 21st and last tomorrow in the #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota. The Japanese veteran said, "The power isn't here. We're missing some speed and it's just been tough to stay competitive" as new teams enter the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series competition.

While today's moderate temperatures were in the mid-70-degree range with intermittent clouds, temperatures are expected to warm up for this Fourth of July extravaganza, to somewhere closer to 90 degrees. With the 21-car field separated by .6868 of a second - the fifth-closest field in League history - slicker conditions should make for an exciting Argent Mortgage Kansas Indy 300. The race will air live on ABC TV beginning at 12:30PM EDT.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske