Patrick On Point For Irl IndyCar Series Amber Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented By Gps Industries
Rahal Letterman Racing rookie Danica Patrick will become the third female to start a Kentucky Speedway race from the pole position when she leads a 23-car Indy Racing League IndyCar Series field to the green flag for "The AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries" tomorrow at 3:45 p.m.
Qualifying for tomorrow's race was rained out today at the speedway. The starting grid was set by combined practice times from four sessions that spanned from late morning to early afternoon.
Patrick will start her No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing /Argent/ Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone on the inside front row for the second time this season after turning her best practice lap at 217.516 mph (24.4947 seconds). Series championship leader Dan Wheldon of Andretti Green Racing will share the front row after turning his best practice effort at 217.500 mph (24.4965 seconds).
The 23-year-old Patrick will make her fourth front-row start of 2005. She drove to her first pole win at Kansas Speedway on July 9. She started second at Texas Motor Speedway on April 30 and Nashville Superspeedway on July 16. The Roscoe, Ill., driver starts tomorrow's race 11th in the championship standings after registering two top-five and five top-10 finishes through 11 races this season.
"I did 63 laps in the last practice," Patrick said. "I only did four in qualifying simulation at the beginning, and then went into race mode. My engineer, Ray (Leto) came up with a good plan and I just went 'OK.' He planned it right."
She felt she had a chance to win the pole outright following two strong practice sessions earlier in the day.
"(Qualifying for the pole), that's the true earned way for sure, but that doesn't make practice any less difficult," she said. "You're definitely putting yourself out to see what your car will do in qualifying and that's what I was doing. A pole is a pole. I really think we had a good shot it."
Patrick will be the second female driver to start an IRL IndyCar Series race from the pole position at Kentucky Speedway. Sarah Fisher, who set the series track qualifying record at 221.390 mph (24.0661 seconds), was the first in 2002. She finished the race eighth.
Patrick also is the second female to win a pole position at the track this season. Evernham Motorsports development driver Erin Crocker qualified first for an ARCA RE/MAX Series stock car race on July 8. She finished second and currently holds the track record for best finish by a female driver. Wheldon and his No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone start tomorrow's 200-lap race with a 78-point lead over 2003 Kentucky Speedway race winner Sam Hornish, Jr. The top four drivers in the championship standings are separated by just 84 points.
"We will be on the front row tomorrow and I'm pleased with that," Wheldon said. "With the championship in mind, you like to start up front. The key is to have a car that will handle for the race. If we can do that, we should be fine."
He matches his season-best starting position. Wheldon owns a series-leading four wins and a total of eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes through 11 starts.
Tickets for tomorrow's AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries will be available at the speedway main entrance at Gates 15 and 16.
Gates open at 10:30 a.m. with the final 30-minute IRL IndyCar Series practice session. Country music trio SHeDAISY will take the WUBE-FM B-105 Country Sound Stage at 1:00 p.m.
Parents will be able to obtain a free AMBER Alert Child ID computer flash drive 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Meijer Child ID stations located the main concourse. Approximately 750 IDs will be available. The keychain-sized IDs will contain a child's photo and personal description. IDs can be connected to AMBER Alert Portals in state patrol cars in the event of an emergency.
Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher will officially activate the statewide AMBER Alert Portal System during prerace ceremonies.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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