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Source — Indy Racing
Date Posted — October 02, 2004
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FONTANA, CaliforniaHelio Castroneves earned his third consecutive MBNA Pole Award, winning the pole position for the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway.

Castroneves recorded a lap of 33.1067 seconds, 217.479 mph, in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. 2003 IRL IndyCar® Series champion Scott Dixon qualified second, his best starting position of the season, with a lap of 33.2869 seconds, 216.301 mph. Defending race winner Sam Hornish Jr., with a lap of 33.3237 seconds, 216.062 mph, will start third.

Darren Manning qualified fourth with a lap of 33.4664 seconds, 215.882 mph, but was taken to Loma Linda Medical Center for x-rays on his back after crashing on his second qualifying lap.

The race is scheduled for 3:27 p.m. (EDT) and will be broadcast by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.

Also on Oct. 2 at California Speedway, James Chesson claimed his first IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series™ race victory, winning the California 100.

Chesson took the lead as the white flag was displayed and won the race when Thiago Medeiros and Jeff Simmons were involved in a spectacular crash on the final lap. P.J. Chesson finished second, while Phil Giebler was third.

Medeiros, who has earned five wins and seven pole positions this season, clinched the series title despite his ninth-place finish.


HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “The guys have been working so hard, and it's coming together. It's a combination of Marlboro Team Penske and Toyota. They've been working their butt off all season long. We keep working, and we keep climbing, and that's awesome. All the people who are connected to us, a big thumbs up. I'm extremely excited. I'm real happy. The guys have been working on race setup. We were really focused on qualifying all day, and the guys have been working very hard. Tomorrow's another day, but for now, for sure, we're going to enjoy it." (About Toyota's performance): “It is a good improvement. It's better late than never. There's still two races to go. Tomorrow is 400 miles, and anything can happen. We're happy right now with the performance, but races always change, so hopefully, tomorrow we'll have a good result, as well."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): “It was pretty good. We’d been struggling a little bit for speed compared to (teammate) Darren (Manning) throughout the weekend. We had the same type of problem in Chicago. The two cars have been running together. They have a few differences. We were pretty good in qualifying, pretty loose. The first lap was pretty bad, seemed to blow up a little bit in Turn 1 with the wind, had to change that for the second lap. All in all, it was good. Not bad for the pink car. It's a good sign for us, the best start of the season. It's good for team Target." (About the wind): "It definitely hurt me on the first lap. I just wasn't used to. It was a lot harder to turn the car into Turn 1. I think the same sort of thing happened with Darren, unfortunately, and he just didn't catch it. I don't know if it sort of knocked him down into the white line or something like that, but it was definitely a lot worse than this morning."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “The Marlboro Team Penske car was handling well during my qualifying run. We just didn’t have the speed we were hoping for. However, we’re starting third, so we’re in good shape for the race. Tomorrow will be a long day, so we need to make sure we’re smart and patient for the first 390 miles so that we’re around to fight it out in the last 10.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “Going into qualifying, we weren't too sure how we were going to end up. We had the goal to reach 214 mph, and we just barely squeaked by. The wind made everyone's qualifying runs a little bit tricky because you had to try and anticipate which way the wind was going to take you. It pushed me into Turn 1 harder, that's for sure. It's a fine line to walk between staying on the track and running right off. Overall, Chevy gave us all a better engine for this race, and I could definitely tell during qualifying, but it seems that Honda and Toyota got some extra help too, so we'll see where we stand tomorrow."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “It was a pretty good run for us. The wind came up, and we made adjustments in our gearing, and we made all the right adjustments. It's the fastest we've run all weekend, and it's the right time to do it. Toyota's been working hard to find more horsepower, and with five Toyotas in the top 10, it's paying off.”

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): “I don’t think we could have freed the car up any more than we did for qualifying. Now, the race is a different story. You have to have downforce in traffic and racing conditions. To be honest, we thought we would be quicker than we are today, but we’ll have to take what we have right now and get ready for the race. We were able to improve from the first lap to the second. A lot of guys went slower on their second lap. So we got the car a little better. Obviously, it wasn’t enough help to get speeds that the guys on the front row got. I’m pleased with our car in race trim. It is much different for the race than qualifying. The wind was much stronger for qualifying than it was this morning in practice. And the wind was a factor this afternoon. But that wasn’t really the problem. We didn’t get the setup on the car that we needed for qualifying. But we’ll have a good car for the race. We will be passing cars all day long on Sunday and I will be getting passed too. It will be a good race for the fans. I just want to be in position to race for the lead at the end of the race Sunday.”

TOMAS ENGE (No. 20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We had a good run. I'm still learning everything. In the morning, we were trying to set up the car for the race. We were concentrating more on the race than we were for qualifying, but so far, so good. Let's hope we can do good tomorrow, as well.”

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer/Argent Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): “We ran about the same time that we ran in practice. It doesn’t really matter where you start at this place. If you have a good racecar on Sunday, you can get to the front. I think we’ll have a real good racecar come Sunday. I think we’ll have a similar car to the one we had at Michigan, and we did OK there. The wind was steadily picking more from this morning, and it had a little bit of affect on the car. We were looking for a little more speed this afternoon, but I’m not sure the wind was a factor. For being a big speedway and a drafting track, you really need handling here. The best handling car is going to win this race on Sunday. You need the consistent car through the day to win. You won’t see big packs like Michigan. This place tends to string out the cars in more single file. I may not have raced here before, but we have enough track time and the team has run well here many times, so I think we have the information we need to win. It’s just getting the proper setup for the conditions. I don’t run over the big bump in Turn 3. I usually run in the middle of the corner and go around the bump on the inside of Turn 3.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "You know, there are days like this, and we haven't had one all year, so I don't think I can complain. Honestly, I'm really not disappointed. We just need to keep our spirits up. This is racing. Thank God it happened now. I'd be much more upset if it had happened tomorrow. We still have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, 400 miles. I won a 500-mile race from a lap down, and I don't need to win here. I want a big win, but I don't have to. My guys told me after the session, 'Hey, you haven't started in the back and moved to the front this year as you did last year, so we think it's time for you to show us again, and we'll have some more fun.' I just don't take this as a negative. I think it's a very positive thing. It's good that it happened today."


JAMES CHESSON (No. 67 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Unbelievable. Traveled all this way, 3,000 miles from Jersey. I'm happy to be here. Kathryn Nunn, a great job to her. Applause to her and my brother, and my dad. My dad, man my dad, he's been real instrumental in this whole deal. I’ve got to thank him, my girlfriend, everybody, my whole team. It was intense and it got pretty dicey at the end there. I saw Thiago (Medeiros) and (Jeff) Simmons really battling. They got pretty close and they might have lifted a little bit, and I got a good run on the outside. I was just trying to hold them down, so I could get in front of them and clear them, and it worked out well."

P.J. CHESSON (No. 76 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I tell you what, it was a crazy race. I don't know where we were going to be. I went back to fifth, to second, to fifth, sixth, and then he comes smoking on the outside and stuck it on the pond. It was just unbelievable. I'm so proud of him."

PHIL GIEBLER (No. 2 Western Union Speed Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "That was a wild race. You had to be in the right place at the right time, and depending on how your car was working, you had to be really strategic and figure out where you could run. Everybody was running real tight, so if you had a problem with understeer or were loose, you really had to watch yourself because there was a car right there. But man, I'm really happy to be out there this weekend, and to come home in third is a good finish, starting in eighth. I'm just happy to be out there. I hope to be in the next one and get another win out there."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “I think it was my fault really. We touched out coming out of (Turn) 4, and I don’t know if it might have bent something a little bit, because I was having to hold it a little bit right. We got on the backstraightaway there, and we were running really close. I was trying to stay close to (Thiago Medeiros). My car got sucked left, and soon as I touched him, it really must have bent the left-front right in, because I was all the way to the right and I just kept going left right into him. I bounced right into him again and it flipped him over. I had no control over my car and I went straight into the wall. I’m sorry for everybody for Team ISI, Kenn Hardley and for Thiago (Medeiros) as well. Nobody likes to damage a race car, especially on the last lap like that.

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “It was sad the race ended the way that it did, but I'm happy to get the championship. I think the job that I did this season got the attention of IndyCar Series owners, so hopefully, I'll get a ride next year. We'll see. I think I'm ready. If you want to go two-wide, three-wide, let's go. Let's go three-wide. Let's go from the outside, from the inside, everywhere. I just need a little bit more seat time in the IndyCar Series car.” (About the accident): “I think (Jeff) Simmons and I touched wheels about two laps before that happened. I was running down the backstraight, and I got hit twice on my back wheel. Then I just lost downforce, and some air got under the car and flew us into the fence. I flipped over a few times and went into the grass. I'm happy. I did my best today. I'm glad I wasn't injured in the accident."####

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Article posted by staff on October 02, 2004.