Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Buddy Rice with a team fit to win the Bombardier 500

AP , FORT WORTH, TEXAS

Buddy Rice got his first IndyCar Series win at the Indianapolis 500. But he's always been fast.

Rice finished second in his IRL debut two years ago. He has top-10 finishes in 12 of his 22 races, including all four this season for Rahal-Letterman Racing in the seat of injured driver Kenny Brack.

"To have an opportunity to drive for this team is really cool, to be associated with two other Indy 500 winners and past champions," Rice said. "I'm in some big company and I have a lot to live up to."

So far, he's doing his part.

Rice joined team co-owner Bobby Rahal and Brack as champions at the famed Brickyard last month. He is third in season points at 129, behind Andretti Green teammates Dan Wheldon (158) and Tony Kanaan (157).

Now in the first race since Indianapolis, Rice qualified second for his third front-row start of the season.

Dario Franchitti is on the pole for Saturday night's Bombardier 500, his first front-row start in the IRL. The top-five spots were Hondas, including his Andretti Green teammates Kanaan third and Bryan Herta fifth.

Wheldon, who like Rice has two poles this season, qualified 12th.

"I have to just try and join them up front as early in the race as I can," Wheldon said.

Texas is where Brack suffered multiple fractures last October in a terrifying accident near the end of the IndyCar Series season finale.

Brack got back in a race car for the first time last week, during a test session at Richmond and hopes to race again this season. But he's not part of this weekend's race.

"It's even tougher for Kenny to be sitting out," Rice said. "I know he wants to be here. You will see Kenny come back and he's going to win more races and do the deal. He's pretty strong, and he's going to be pretty fast."

Aerodynamic changes and smaller engines that slowed down speeds at the Brickyard are having the same effect in Texas, where the IRL races for the 14th time since 1997.

Franchitti's pole speed of 337.260kph was 21kph slower than Gil de Ferran eight months ago.

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