IRL: St. Pete: Saturday qualifying report

HERTA OUTDUELS FIVE OTHERS FOR ST. PETE POLE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Saturday, April 2, 2005 -- Bryan Herta won the Marlboro Pole Award for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 3 after improving three positions during the Indy Racing ...

HERTA OUTDUELS FIVE OTHERS FOR ST. PETE POLE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Saturday, April 2, 2005 -- Bryan Herta won the Marlboro Pole Award for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 3 after improving three positions during the Indy Racing League's inaugural Firestone Fast Six qualifying format.

Herta, driving the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, lapped the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in 1 minute, 2.5096 seconds, 103.664 mph, to earn his second consecutive pole position. Herta had the fourth-quickest time following the single-lap qualifying attempts by 20 of the 21 cars entered in Sunday's race. A.J. Foyt IV did not make a qualifying attempt due to mechanical failure.

In a format designed specifically for the IRL's road- and street-course events, "The Firestone Fast-Six Qualifying," the top six cars returned to the track for 10 minutes to battle for the pole position. In the extended session, Herta moved past Tomas Enge, Helio Castroneves and teammate Dario Franchitti.

Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, will start second after a best lap of 1:02.6933, 103.360 mph. Tony Kanaan will start third.

POST-MARLBORO POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's easy for me to say it's a good thing because it worked out for me, but I really do think it was cool. I was on the fence about it, but it's exciting. The single-car thing isn't as exciting, but the six-car shootout was really exciting. It put a lot of pressure on the six of us trying to improve our times. (What was the difference?): "You learn every time. After the single-lap qualifying run, I had made a couple of mistakes, and we made a couple of adjustments. Between me getting a better lap and making the car a little better, those two things paid off."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "One lap I was too cautious and the second one I was a little too much. I was trying too hard. I think in the back of my mind I was thinking, 'If I stuff it in the wall, I'll be sixth.' It's a shame. The car is good. We're going in the right direction, but tomorrow is the day with the paycheck."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was awesome. I think it was very exciting, and I hope the fans liked it. I enjoyed it. We had to the opportunity to get better, and we did, so I enjoyed it even more."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We changed the tires, and we changed the tire pressures slightly and it made a huge difference in the balance. The car was nowhere as good as it was in the one-lap shootout. I was very disappointed with that. Hopefully we can challenge from where we are, and I think we can."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I was happy to make the top-six. It was a good showing and I still have a lot to learn. To be able to run my best on the single lap, it was a good day. I give a lot of credit to my team, Marlboro Team Penske, and Helio (Castroneves). I'm super excited to be up here."

TOMAS ENGE (No. 2 ROCKSTAR Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We were able to put together our best lap of the weekend when it counted today. The team didn't make any changes before the shootout, I just couldn't get grip like before in the first qualification run. It's going to be a good race tomorrow, and if we work hard, we should end up on the podium. We were working on our race setup until today, and even this morning I couldn't get a clean lap. The RockStar guys are great to me, and everything was much better today in our Chevy. We are up front, where we want to be, and I think it's going to be a great race tomorrow."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz/Honda/Firestone): ""It was a pretty good run. The car was very good, and I didn't make any mistakes. That was my fastest time this weekend, and I am the quickest Panoz driver. Aguri (Suzuki, team owner) really helped me a lot. I spent a lot of time with him. He has a lot of experience from Formula One and other series, and every session we improved. I am very excited for the race. Tomorrow will be a tough race and physically difficult at 100 laps. This is my first time in a long race [on a street/road circuit]. I am really looking forward to it."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I left three tenths out there on the track after I made some mistakes early in my qualification run. The problem is, when you do that, you're thinking about it the rest of the lap and that's never good. I'm not worried because the Chevy motor is great, and the Pennzoil crew is working really hard for me. We can be better tomorrow in the race, but we've already made several improvements since yesterday.

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "I feel like I still had a little more speed in the car, but I didn't quite put it all together in one lap. The Target team has worked really hard to get the back up (car) race ready, and I'm looking forward to getting out there."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "I thought we did OK considering we missed all day Friday. If you miss just a half hour in a session you are behind all weekend. Because of that, I had to run a lot this morning just to learn the track. I couldn't do a qualifying simulation to find out how the car was in a single-lap run. It was more important to do a lot of running this morning to work on the car for the race. I am ready for the race. I think we have a good race car. We are going to have fun in the race tomorrow."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We thought the second lap was a great lap. Now we have to worry about tomorrow. It's a long day and we have to focus on shifts. It was nervewracking as Dario said. I got a good lap. That's as good as I could do."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "After single-lap (qualifying), I had nothing to lose. I always said that the second lap would be better, but for me, it was the fifth lap. It is the first street course for everybody. We will all make mistakes. The person who makes the least mistakes will win.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The one-lap event went very well for us. We found the balance of the car. We made a couple of changes, and by Lap 2 of the shootout, the changes we made, made it understeer a lot more, and because of that, I couldn't carry the speed into the corner. The car before that was quick, so that was unfortunate. But as good as the car was on that one lap, I think we would have struggled to catch Bryan. I'd have liked to have had the chance to challenge for the pole."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a great finish. On our single lap, I got a lot of understeer, which wasn't expected. Especially in the slow section, and I almost hit the wall. The good news is that we're comfortable enough to be in the top six. It was one of those days where it ain't over until the fat lady sings, or until Bryan (Herta) comes out. He did a hell of a job. I was trying, trying, so we'll look forward to tomorrow."

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Chip Ganassi
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing