IRL: St. Pete: Panoz race report

Panoz places fifth with Meira in St Petersburg IRL street fight ST PETERSBURG, April 3, 2005 - It was a Dickensian day for the nine Panoz drivers who competed in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the ...

Panoz places fifth with Meira in St Petersburg IRL street fight

ST PETERSBURG, April 3, 2005 - It was a Dickensian day for the nine Panoz drivers who competed in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the series' first foray into city streets after nine years of making only left turns.

In a wild 100-lap contest around the 1.8-mile, 14-corner street circuit that also incorporates a municipal airport, Andretti Green Racing took the top four slots. They had to fight the best Panoz drivers and some contact was inevitable throughout the field. It's a testament to the strength of the sole IRL chassis designed and built in the United States that, with five cautions there was only bent pieces, not people.

Vitor Meira finished fifth with the #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone entry from Rahal Letterman Racing after what he termed "a wild race. It was really crazy there." Meira snuck to the front from 12th on the grid and admitted it "felt good to road race again. We knew this race was going to be very hard on the cars but my Panoz held up well" with all the wheel banging. With this finish, Meira holds fifth place points.

Scott Dixon too had several contacts and recovered to take sixth in the #9 Team Target Panoz/Toyota. The 2003 IRL champion believed he had a top-three car, "but we took a gamble that didn't quite pay off. We stayed on the tires we started with until the last stop and they really held up, but we had a lot of understeer on cold rubber." Dixon fought physically with teammate Darren Manning (#10 Target Panoz/Toyota) and Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda) but still managed to bring his car home.

Finishing seventh, Buddy Rice came from 17th on the 21-car grid in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda and thought it was "a great showing for us today, with all our problems in qualifying and then in the race. We got some points and we know what to expect for Motegi and Indy and we can win at both those places. I think we'll be right in where the Panoz/Honda combination works the best."

Despite leading the most laps (43), rookie Ryan Briscoe retired the #33 Target Panoz/Toyota when he and eventual second-place finisher Tony Kanaan fought for real estate toward the end of the race. Former Formula One pilot Briscoe had "a truly amazing race where the team did everything right and the Panoz was perfect. I honestly made sure to brake late, took a look and Kanaan wasn't there. I was the leader and we were fighting for the win and I was up for the challenge," he declared. I held my line so I guess we'll call this a racing incident."

The IndyCar Series Panoz troops have time to recuperate prior to heading for Twin Ring Motegi and the Japan Indy 300 on April 30th, race #4 in a 17-contest challenge.

-panoz-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Dixon , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Vitor Meira