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Chevrolet earns pole on way out

By BRANT JAMES
Published March 6, 2005


HOMESTEAD - Chevrolet is going, but it's not gone yet.

Tomas Scheckter started the American engine manufacturer's final Indy Racing League season with a flourish Saturday, earning the pole for today's Toyota Indy 300 with a lap of 215.115 mph at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Tomas Enge, Scheckter's teammate at Panther Racing - the lone full-time team with Chevrolets this year - took third at 214.152. Rahal Letterman Racing's Vitor Meira took the outside pole (214.317) in a Honda.

"Everybody's attention has been on the other teams, which is good in a way because it takes the pressure off us," said Scheckter, who took his sixth career pole but first since 2003. "We can work really hard and when it comes to showing what we've got, we've showed them and there's still a lot more we can show as well."

Chevrolet hadn't earned a pole ( Richie Hearn) or visited Victory Lane ( Sam Hornish) since 2003, not coincidently the first year rivals Honda and Toyota were in the series together. Chevrolet was collaborating with Ford-owned Cosworth at the time. After Toyota dominated in 2003 and Honda did the same in 2004, Chevrolet officials announced before the season it will not return for 2006.

Target Chip Ganassi rookie Ryan Briscoe crashed in morning practice and did not make a qualifying attempt. He will start 22nd and last in a backup car.

LET ME IN: It's a wonder Hornish wasn't banging at the tunnel gate on Feb. 1, yelling for someone to let him drive his black motorcoach inside to wait out the last month before the opener.

The success the two-time league champion has had at the 1.5-mile track, on different configurations, with different teams and different engines, led him to develop an affinity for the place.

With a win today, Hornish would have his fourth Homestead victory in five tries.

"I guess it's just good luck or karma, I don't know," Hornish said. "I don't know what it is about Miami. I liked the old track and they added the banking and I thought they might ruin it and I was out there having fun even before I won it."

Last season, his first in Team Penske Toyotas, he held off teammate Helio Castroneves by 0.0698 seconds. Hornish will start sixth.