IRL: Richmond: Qualifying report

Castroneves Wins Pole At Richmond With Record Run RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 25, 2004 -- Helio Castroneves used a record-setting run to claim the MBNA pole position for the SunTrust Indy Challenge June 25 at Richmond International ...

Castroneves Wins Pole At Richmond With Record Run

RICHMOND, Va., Friday, June 25, 2004 -- Helio Castroneves used a record-setting run to claim the MBNA pole position for the SunTrust Indy Challenge June 25 at Richmond International Raceway.

Castroneves' lap of 15.7708 seconds, 171.202 mph, broke Gil de Ferran's 2002 track record of 16.0043 seconds, 168.705 seconds. In all, 11 drivers exceeded de Ferran's speed.

"I'm extremely happy," Castroneves said. "The guys did an excellent job. It's one of those things where you need to be in the right place at the right time. Things always change at this place, but I'm very comfortable right now. The Marlboro Team Penske car seems to be responding very well. When your car is handling like that, it makes putting it on the front row very easy."

Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice qualified second at 170.782 mph, his fourth front-row start in six races this season, while rookie Mark Taylor qualified third at 170.683 mph, his career-best starting position.

The SunTrust Indy Challenge begins at 7:55 p.m. (EDT) on June 26. It will be broadcast live at 7:30 (EDT) on ESPN2 and the IMS Radio Network.

POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

This is Helio Castroneves' fifth career MBNA Pole Award. His last pole was at California Speedway in September 2003.

Castroneves won a pole for the third consecutive season -- tying him with Greg Ray, Billy Boat and Mark Dismore for the series record for most consecutive seasons with at least one pole.

This is the 10th IRL IndyCar Series pole for Marlboro Team Penske.

POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "I'm extremely happy. The guys did an excellent job. It's one of those things where you need to be in the right place at the right time. Things always change at this place, but I'm very comfortable right now. The Marlboro Team Penske car seems to be responding very well. When your car is handling like that, it makes putting it on the front row very easy. We've been very strong all weekend. It's the best we could get from the car."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer/Argent Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): "This year is much better all the way around. Rahal Letterman (Racing) has done an excellent job so far, and this is a big turnaround for our entire team from what happened at Phoenix earlier this year. We struggled a little bit at Phoenix. We tested right after Phoenix on a Honda day, and we were able to come back. We had an excellent test day at Milwaukee (June 16), and now we've unloaded quite well and are on the front row again. We just need to get one spot better." (Are you surprised that over half the field broke the track record?): "No, I don't think it's very surprising. Last year, the track was a nice track, but it was so bumpy that it held everybody back. Also, I think that if you look at what happened when the (NEXTEL) Cup cars were here and how much faster they went, I think it wasn't that big of a surprise. We were going to come in here and do the same thing. You can only imagine how fast we would have been if we had a 3.5-liter (engine) in the back of these cars. We easily would have been mid-15's (second laps), no problem, maybe a little bit quicker than that. They've done an excellent job here at the facility, and they've added the SAFER Barrier, which I think is a huge improvement for safety."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The Pioneer/Mo Nunn team did a great job with the setup of the car today. With one less practice session, they found a pretty good setup that provided a good balance for the No. 12 car. The track is much smoother this year, providing more downforce and grip. We look forward to a very competitive and close race on this short circuit."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Toyota/ Firestone): "The first lap, the car felt good, but I knew it could be faster, so I drove very hard into Turn 3, and the car wouldn't turn. It pushed hard. I don't know if I could have run close to (teammate) Buddy (Rice), but I know I could have been better. I think we'll be good in the race. The car is good in traffic."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I thought we had a good shot at the pole, but unfortunately, with the qualifying setup we ran, that's all we had. We're still starting in the top five, and this is a race you can win from anywhere. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night. Richmond is a fun, demanding track, and I think we've got a good car. We'll be running in traffic all night, so we need to stay out of trouble and execute clean pit stops."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Qualifying was very difficult. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was really loose, and around here, that makes it very hard to drive. This puts us in a tough spot because it is very difficult to overtake here at Richmond. It's a good track, but you have to make sure you have a good balance on the car because if you don't, you're in trouble, and unfortunately, we didn't."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "You always come out of qualifying thinking, 'Man ,just one more adjustment here and make it a little bit different there, and we'd be a lot better.' But that was the best we have run in the XM Satellite Radio car, and I'm pretty happy. I can't believe how fast this track is. You put so much steering input into the car, you can't believe you can make it all the way through the corner. Richmond has done a really great job improving the track. They added the SAFER Barrier, and the surface is a lot nicer for us. Last year, it was so bumpy it was giving us fits, at times, and this year it is very smooth. It's a fun place to come and race now."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We've had some problems with our gear ratios today. The car is handling good. We just have to get the gearing lined out for the race."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Everything is just so tight, time-wise, at a two-day event that you have to get everything sorted out very quickly. We didn't have an opportunity to test here, plus it rained, which shortened our track time. I got loose on my second lap and had to check up off the throttle. It's a tough racetrack, and qualifying is very important. I'm not a complainer, so we'll just get ready for tomorrow night's race. In the past, Team 7-Eleven has had good races starting from the back, so we'll see if we can do that again."

MARK TAYLOR (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "It's nice to qualify third because all the guys have been working hard, and they deserve this. But at the same time, we all know the important thing is what takes place tomorrow and finishing the race up front, where we started. We've been quick all year and run into some bad luck. Running in the top five hasn't done us any good if we don't finish. I want to prove that the Menards/Johns Manville team is one of the best out there, and the first step is completing the race tomorrow at the front. I know I can do it, and everybody on this team knows I can do it."

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
Noon Indy Racing League garage opens
3-3:30 p.m. IndyCar Series warmup
7:55 p.m SunTrust Indy Challenge (250 laps/187.5 miles), ESPN2 & IMS Radio Network (live)

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mark Taylor , Greg Ray , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Buddy Rice , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske