IRL: Texas: Panoz qualifying report

Patrick leads Panoz drivers in Texas IRL qualifying Danica Patrick provided Marlboro Pole Day fireworks at the Indy Racing League's sole IndyCar Series visit to Texas Motor Speedway's 24-degree banked 1.5-mile oval tonight, earning third grid ...

Patrick leads Panoz drivers in Texas IRL qualifying

Danica Patrick provided Marlboro Pole Day fireworks at the Indy Racing League's sole IndyCar Series visit to Texas Motor Speedway's 24-degree banked 1.5-mile oval tonight, earning third grid position in single car qualifying for Saturday night's Bombardier Learjet 500.

Patrick, who started and finished fourth in the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race less than two weeks ago with the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone machine didn't know "if we could have improved. All in all it was okay," she demurred. "We know our Panoz is very good on long tracks like this; that's been proven."

For Patrick the difficulty will be learning to race on the Texas track. "I think the practices on Friday will be beneficial for me to learn to run in traffic here since this is my first race. I have to get used to running in high, middle and low grooves," Patrick explained. She had a small gearbox problem that prevented her from bettering her first lap of 212.661mph, a bit more than one mile per hour off polesitter Tomas Scheckter's mark.

The Patrick wing plate that landed in Tomas Enge's car at Indy is being auctioned on eBay by the Panther Racing team to aid Best Buddies, an Indianapolis charity. There are still three days of bidding for the collectible Panoz piece of history and the wing plate is garnering bids of more than $30,000.

Teammate Vitor Meira earned fifth on the grid with his lap of 212.041mph in the #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda. The Brazilian believes that he and his Panoz chassis will be "right in the fight for the win Saturday night" following his second place finish in Indianapolis. "I think we have the car and the team to win."

The third member of the Rahal Letterman Racing crew, Buddy Rice returned to action in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda, taking seventh position on the 22-car grid at 211.792mph. Rice had a problem in qualifying with his shifter but realized, "We had a fast Panoz today. At tracks like Texas you need a good race setup to win and we were fastest by ourselves this afternoon."

Darren Manning starts ninth with his 211.712mph lap in the #10 Target Panoz/Toyota. The Briton is "happy with our run today. This race is all about pack racing and being aggressive all race long. Our team has put together a strong Panoz race car and we'll work on making it comfortable for the race."

Panoz designer Nigel Wong agreed with the drivers. "Past history has shown our cars should run strong here." The Bombardier Learjet 500 takes the green flags at 7:45PM CDT Saturday, June 11th and airs live on ESPN.

-emt/panoz-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Darren Manning , Buddy Rice , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing