Rice, Kanaan lead way -- again


SPARTA, Ky. -- Buddy Rice won his fifth Indy Racing League
pole of the season at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, moving within
one of the series record.

Rice's qualifying speed of 216.016 mph left the reigning
Indianapolis 500 champion one short of Billy Boat's record six
poles, set in 1998. Two other drivers, Greg Ray (2000) and Scott
Dixon (2003), have recorded five poles in a season, but Rice still
has five races left to tie or break the record.

"We came off the trailer a little aggressive, and it worked
out,'' Rice said.

Rice is tied for the IRL lead in victories at three with Tony
Kanaan, who joins Rice on the front row for Sunday's Belterra
Casino Indy 300. The 28-year-old Rice, who had no poles and no wins
in 18 IRL starts during the past two years, entered the weekend
second in the point standings, 57 points behind Kanaan.

"It's getting exciting, me and him in every race, wheel to
wheel,'' Kanaan said of his budding rivalry with Rice.

"He has the talent, but he's fair and he's clean,'' said
Kanaan. "We're both aggressive and both know what we have to lose.
He's pushing me to the limit.''

Rice said his points duel with Kanaan is good for the IRL.

"This whole series thrives on close finishes and close
battles,'' Rice said. "If either one of us makes a little bit of a
slip-up, there's a guy standing right behind him, lurking.''

The defending race champion, Sam Hornish Jr., qualified third,
his best effort of the season. He's finished in the top five in his
last three races, moving him into fifth in the points standings.

Hornish Jr. won the IRL points title in 2001 and 2002 and
finished third last year, thanks to a late run started by his win
at Kentucky Speedway.

Adrian Fernandez will start on the outside of the second row.
Dario Franchitti, whose wife, actress Ashley Judd, will be the
race's grand marshal, qualified fifth.

Two drivers, Bryan Herta and Townsend Bell, had the engines
changed in their cars before qualifying began and were not allowed
to make qualifying attempts. Herta and Bell will start at the back
of the 22-car field.

In the Kentucky 100, an IRL Infiniti Pro Series race run
Saturday, P.J. Chesson held off Paul Dana by 0.0514 of a second to
win. Chesson took the lead with seven laps remaining from Leonardo
Maia, who finished third. Travis Gregg, who led for 57 of the
race's 67 laps, finished fifth.