22 cars qualify at Indy
In spite of great weather conditions -- 65 degrees, a light wind, and overcast skies -- bumping at Indy today proved to be a very trying exercise. Especially, it turns out, if you're Scott Sharp.
Scott Sharp has an ALMS race in Utah next weekend, so qualifying next week really complicates his life. The forecast for Saturday at Indy calls for rain, and the ALMS race is on Sunday. So, the pressure was on for Sharp to make the show today.
Sharp tried twice to find the speed to make the field, but in both cases was too slow to lock himself into the field. Sharp's first attempt was fast enough to bump Milka Duno from the field, but at 221.103 was not nearly fast enough to make the show today. He later withdrew his car, and his second attempt was barely good enough at 221.333. He was then bumped by AJ IV at 5:40 p.m., causing him to make his third attempt.
Finally, with time running out -- the gun sounded as Sharp took the green flag -- Sharp made his run. Posting a speed for 222.162, he bumped EJ Viso from the field, and made his life next weekend a whole lot easier.
Before that, Vitor Meira had his own drama when his first qualification attempt negated when the car failed tech inspection. The team was already frustrated with the car's lack of speed, and the disqualification just added insult to injury. "I'm really glad it happened," he told the press. His second attempt was fast enough, and he bumped AJ IV out of the field. Vitor claimed that 80% of the speed improvements were from changes made by his team, but did suggest that the track had more rubber down and perhaps was a bit quicker.
At 4:45 p.m., John Andretti joined the long list of people doing spins into the wall of the north short chute. The car was extensively damaged, and it caused minor damage to Graham Rahal's car, which spun to avoid Andretti. Making matters worse, Sharp's second attempt bumped him from the field, forcing a second weekend attempt. "We've been fighting the balance on the car, making changes. We were loose the time before, and I guess that was my out lap and probably got a little bit hot for the balance of the car and just lost the back end. I had a little bit of an oops this morning, too, and managed to save it, but that one jumped too far on me too quickly. I feel fine. The car took a hard beating, and that's frustrating. The team will work on it. They'll get it back together, and we'll be back on next week." Andretti is cleared to drive.
A few minutes before the end of the day, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alex Tagliani each took qualifying runs. Each was too slow, and no doubt Tagliani's run was simply a shakedown after rebuilding it from the crash earlier in the day.
2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos led the day's 11 qualifiers with a four-lap average of 223.429 mph in the No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon car to become the first Chase Rookie of the Year candidate to qualify for the May 24 race.
Paul Tracy (223.111 mph), Vitor Meira (223.054) and Justin Wilson (222.903 mph) make up Row 5, while Hideki Mutoh (222.805 mph), Ed Carpenter (222.780) and Dan Wheldon (222.777) make up the sixth row.
Foyt (222.805 mph), Sharp, Sarah Fisher (222.082 mph) and Davey Hamilton (221.956 mph) round out the day's qualifiers.
The final 11 spots of the 33-car field will be set on May 16 with Bump Day following on May 17.
- So you want to own an Indy car? Paul Tracy hinted at an engine program that limited the number of miles that he could drive for the month. According to Honda, a 1-week motor program costs $95,000, for which you get one motor that can run 1400 miles, including the race itself. Reading between the lines, one wonders if Paul's call to the GEICO's CEO was for more money, since a second run (and more tires) were suddenly available. For the record, a motor agreement for the entire month is $225,000, for which you get two motors -- one for practice, and one for the race. An entire season costs $950,000 plus practice time, or around $1.2 million. The last race failure for a Honda motor was in early 2007; the "second motor" used for the race itself will be used at Milwaukee. Davey Hamilton's engine failure during practice last year was the lone motor failure at Indy for the past 3 years. Tim Wohlford reporting from Indy
Qualified To Date
1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 224.864
2. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 224.083
3. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 224.010
4. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 223.954
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 223.867
6. (11T) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 223.612
7. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 223.331
8. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 223.114
9. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 223.028
10. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 222.882
11. (99) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 222.622
12. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 223.429
13. (15) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 223.111
14. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 223.054
15. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 222.903
16. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 222.805
17. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 222.780
18. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 222.777
19. (41) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 222.586
20. (16) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 222.162
21. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 222.082
22. (44) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 221.956
SECOND DAY QUALIFYING QUOTES - Sunday, May 10
PAUL TRACY (No. 15 GEICO/KV Racing Technology): "I'm not really happy with the laps we qualified on, so I'm disappointed. But we're. just out of miles and need to get some full-tank running in. We wanted to be in the 223s today. We achieved that on the first lap, then started sliding the front tire with a tail wind in Turn 1, and then it kind of fell off. The last couple of laps I just couldn't get the speed out of it. The race is a long race, and we've got an OK starting position. We're starting in mid-pack, and we'll go from there. A lot of things can happen in a 500-mile race. It's three times longer than any other race in the series, and a lap can change over the course of the race. You work on that car until the end of the race to get it competitive." (On his tire situation): "You always think you're going to have enough. You think, 'Ah, I don't need to run that much,' but when guys were up there yesterday running 40 to 50 laps of qualifying runs to get their car ready to qualify and you sit all day watching them, it's definitely frustrating. From that standpoint, we qualified OK. It's definitely not where we'd like to be, but the race is what counts. We've got to go out today and get some race feel in the car and be ready for the race." (After second qualifying attempt today): "(The qualifying format) makes your mouth dry and your nerves get up. You know, to do it once is OK, but having to hang on four or eight or 12 times is a different story. As a team, we weren't happy with the (first qualifying) run. We'd just gone out and ran a 223.3, and then went out to qualify and ran a 222.7 and fell off. By the time I got done with all the interviews and got back, the crew was sitting around with frowns on their faces. I said, 'Well, that wasn't very good,' and they said, 'You want to do it again?' And I was like, 'If you guys want to.' Jimmy (Vasser) came in and called Kevin (Kalkhoven) first. Kevin said, 'If you guys want to do it again, go ahead.' We had one available set of tires left to do a qualifying run. We called the Geico CEO, and he said: 'Yeah, I love it. Go out and do the best you can. That's what our company is all about.' So we put it on the pad, changed a few little things and went back out. It still fell off a little bit. I went out and did a run that was a little bit more consistent. Then the qualifying run fell off a little bit, but we'll take that."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Window World): "It's just unfortunate. We didn't start out fast enough, and we didn't finish fast enough. That's all I can say. You know you always have to work to do here at the Speedway. I don't know why it ran like it did, but it didn't run good. We need to get in today so that we can work on the race stuff. If you don't get in today, you're still battling to get into the race, and you can't really work on the race stuff, so that's the disappointing part about it all. You know, whether somebody else can go up there and beat that and knock us out of the top 11, I don't know but it's certainly not the quality time that we were expecting. All I care about is that we're here and we should be going quicker than that, and we didn't." (About Richard Petty's visit Saturday): "It was great to have Richard here yesterday and got to spend some time with him, and he enjoyed himself. I'm sorry I can't get in a happy mood right now, you know, I'm just not happy. We're going to go figure out what we're going to do, and do it, and get 'er done. This morning started out real good, felt good about the car. And then for qualifying, it didn't do what I expected as far as speed, and the handling is kind of what I expected, and I played with it a little bit, but that wasn't all of it so I don't know what to say. Right now it's a little bit confusing, but we'll go back, we'll look at data and we'll go back out. I thought we would run in the 222 range, and we didn't at all, not even a lap, and that's disappointing. I really felt like we had it in the car, and after practice we went back and we did this, we did that, you know, you do the little tweaks and twiggers and you're supposed to go out and go a little quicker."
DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 44 Hewlett Packard): "The car is great. We were just a little bit off pace. We were a little bit slow, but as long as we're in this race today is the most important thing. Yesterday we went out early, and with the wind, it just wasn't good. We made a lot of changes and came back out and did a 222.2, and I thought at that point a 221 would get us in, so I thought, 'Let's go put it in line.' By the time we got out there, all those guys were challenging their own times, were so far in front of us, we just didn't get a chance at it. Not saying we would have made it, but we would have at least gave it a shot. The car was pretty easy to drive. We had some understeer and that scuffed some speed off, but yesterday was the day for the front row. If we start 15-16-17, it's all kind of the same. The most important thing is that we are in today." (On doing an Indy-only effort): "It's very difficult to do a one-month program and be competitive. I mean, these guys are in the car week in and week out with engineers and the crew. It's hard to get down here just once a year. It's just tough, but I keep taking that challenge as long as I keep making it in. This race right here is what made me get healthy again and get strong from my injuries. I wanted to get back in a race car, and if it wasn't for this particular race, I don't know if I would have had the drive, so this is everything for me." (About decision to pull out of line so Scott Sharp could make last-gasp attempt): "We were in a safe position, so we pulled out. We were running 222 mph. I probably should have put the car in line earlier. We're 22nd - I do kind of regret not going back out and upping my speed."
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "We have to try again because we have to fix a few things in the car. We have to make the car faster; this is what we want." (Are you more comfortable this year than you have been in past years?): "Of course. Every year, because we know the track, we know everything around, we have more confidence, but still you have to work really hard because the track changes all the time. You have to make sure the car will be fast with the weather, the wind. You have to work with everything together. Just because I know already from the last two years, I am a little more confident. We are working hard. We have a good team that is working and making the car fast. We learn every year, but still it's tough because the weather changes, the wind and everything, but because I've been here the last two years, I can be a little more confident. So realize we are working very hard to make the car fast every time." (About conditions): "It was a little windy in Turn 1, but it was something in the car that was not helping me to get flat. We are not happy. We have to correct, we have to fix a few things in the car. I think we know that we can make the car fast, and we were faster in practice."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "It's been difficult, so far. We have an imbalance in the car, and certainly, the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing team did a good job to get the car back together after yesterday. But we're just missing a little bit. By the same token, I think if we work hard, we can hopefully fix it. The team is certainly good enough to do that. It's just made for a very challenging opening few days. Obviously, with the problem that we have, having less downforce for a qualifying trim kind of accentuates that. But if you're going to win this race, you have to feel like you have a very good balance and you feel 100 percent comfortable in the car." (Do you feel you have a car capable of winning the race?): "Not right now, but that's what this month is all about. It's a very challenging month, and there's a lot of highs and lows. That's what Indianapolis is all about. It's a tough month, and it can be very hard. But it can also be very rewarding." (Adversity only makes you stronger, right?): "I feel like I'm getting very strong this year. I prefer to be weaker and not worry about these points. But, you know, it's just part of it. We're going to continue to work harder. This team is certainly good enough to figure it out. It just hasn't gone our way so far. That's not to say that it's not going to go our way, by any stretch."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing): "As upset as I was (Saturday), I'm that happy today. Today is a whole lot faster, the track is better, and we made the car better, too. I'm not sure what other people are going to do, but we're done qualifying. I'm happy to be in the race. We changed a little bit, but not much. Yesterday we were to the point that we were going to go out again at the end of the day, but we wondered was it worth the risk to go out there just to start 11th. We weren't even sure we could do that. It was coming down to the fact that we were just using up tires." (About the race): "The car is going to be good for the race. I was much more worried about qualifying speed than I was the race."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs): "I really enjoyed being out there. The car was working well, and Dale Coyne Racing had the car to where it was comfortable and fun to drive. Each time we went out this weekend, we were quicker. Things really worked out. It was fun to drive today. The run was fairly straightforward. I noticed straightaway that I had more push than I was expecting. I kept playing with the roll bars and weight jacker to cancel out the understeer. It usually gets worse lap after lap, and I was canceling that out with my adjustments. The more laps in the car, the more I enjoy this place and you appreciate what it's about. Every time I came out of the corners, I had a big grin on may face. Now is the time to begin getting ready for the race, to get everything as perfect as we can and go do some race setups with full (fuel) tanks and long runs."
SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "The first run was a little hairy. We just had to readjust some things from our first attempt and put in a solid run in our second time around. We were a little quicker than we were all week today, by ourselves, so I was really happy with that. We would have liked to have qualified Saturday, but with the weather and needing to make readjustments to the car, it just wasn't in the cards. Boy, that first run really woke me up. Obviously, I didn't have enough coffee this morning. The car just had too much push in it and wouldn't take the extra speed going into Turn 1 with the wind. We then went back to our pit to make sure the car would tolerate that extra entry speed." (About the team): "I had yet to be in the right place at the right time for 10 years, and we are so lucky to have Dollar General by our side this year. A lot of people put their lives on the line to start a business, and we were no exception. My husband, Andy, and I were committed to starting this team even though we didn't really have the means to do it. Dollar General saw us struggling and stepped in and saved us." (About Janet Guthrie's call to Fisher this morning): "Janet told me to be smart today." (About what Fisher would write on her Twitter account today): "Thank God." (About decision to pull out of line so Scott Sharp could make last-gasp attempt): "Out of sincerity for Scott. That's why we pulled out of line. We knew that we weren't going to get bumped."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing): (That was a fast run): "Yeah, I was a little bit surprised, but we did a qualifying simulation during the five minutes before qualifying started, and we made a few adjustments in the car for the qualifying run and found almost half a mile an hour. So I'm extremely happy for the Air Force Luczo Dragon team. The whole crew did an amazing job. Let's go racing." (This is a big boost for this team): "The team has spent a lot of time working the car over in the winter. Unfortunately, we didn't qualify yesterday, but we did put in a great effort today. We were impressed with our speed, and hopefully we'll have a fast car for the race." (Can you play the "what if" game - if you posted this speed yesterday you'd be in Row 3): "Yeah, but it's hard to compare like that because the conditions were definitely worse. It doesn't matter because we made a change in the car overnight and the change worked, and that's what counts."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 16 Tequila Patron Panther Racing): "We were a mile an hour faster in a simulation run we made a little earlier, but it got away from us. It seemed to slide a little bit, and I don't know why that was. We have to go back and see why that was. It's been tough the last few days for us here, but that's the way it is sometimes." (About American Le Mans Series commitments next weekend): "It makes life easier, for sure, if I can get in this weekend, and I had the speed to do it." (After second qualifying run, last run of the day): "Wow. It's been a tough week, let me tell you. I mean, it's not supposed to be this tough, I thought. You know, with all my experience, I guess leaning on that I figured I'd comeback in and pretty easily, and I did early, pretty easily get up to speed and pretty much thought, I didn't know, obviously, if we'd be a first- or second-row contender, but thought if maybe things really fell into place we would be but certainly a top-10 car, no problem. And just, obviously, had a few things go wrong that led to our crash the other day. The team did an amazing recovery. The Panther guys, I can't say enough about them. A few of the guys pulled all night Thursday night to get that done. And then Dan, of course, had his crash, so it's been really tough, but they've rebounded and never missed a blink. But yeah, today we pulled out, and it just seemed like we were really chasing a bit of speed and got a fair amount of wing our of the car and still couldn't really get a lot of speed out of the car. We'd make a couple of runs in practice with no one in front of us with no tows and run a good enough speed to get in to the field, and then go do it for ourselves with no one in a qualifying run and couldn't get the number, so it was very strange. And then I really thought at the last bit we were done because we made a change to the car at that point where we were down to our final draw. We laid the wing down some more, pulled up into the tech line. I lost my radio. I don't know why, but I couldn't hear anything anymore. I saw four guys in front of me, and I looked at my watch, and it said six minutes to go, and I said: 'That's it. It's over.' And then all of the sudden, just boom, boom, boom, and I want to thank the IRL. They were great. They did it last night. I watched them do it and they did it again tonight. You know, the guys that aren't going to make a run or if you're not fast enough, to take up a lot of track time they got them off or got them out of the way, and all of the sudden, it was fire it up and go." (On his ALMS commitments for next weekend): "Yeah, It's a tough sort of task we've chosen here competing against these guys that are doing it every week in the Indy cars and then to come here and not be able to run much of the second week or certainly the second weekend. So we sort of had to make the task a bit more difficult and to compound that with a crash, and it's just, wow, it's been a little uphill. But certainly I'm sitting there in the tech line and I'm saying, 'Wow, this isn't going to happen,' and I'm thinking: 'OK, I got to rent a plane, I guess. I got to go to Utah on Friday so I can figure out the car, fly back Friday night. I'll try to qualify this thing Saturday morning. I'll fly back Saturday night so I can race Sunday.' This is all going through my head and finally I was just like: 'I can't be thinking about this. I got to be thinking about the car.' And all of the sudden, these two guys pulled out, and it's like 'Let's go!' and I just held it down." (On the car sliding and figuring out why): "Actually, it was out qualifying attempts that were sliding. It seemed like more because we had just run about a half a mile an hour or six-tenths a mile of an hour more on average for a four-lap run on our own out there in the simulation. It was amazing. It was just chasing a little bit of the downforce, a little bit of the track changing, and I was pretty amazed how the speed was just up and down with the car. I'm not sure what all that was, and finally at the end, we're looking at each other and obviously little Foyt went out and did a great run, and we're like: 'Well, we can't go out again. We got to do something.' So, the team hustled hard, laid the wings down a bit more and we just had to go for it." (After second qualifying run, last run of the day) (cont.) (About his emotions the last few hours of the day): "Well, I've never been more happy, I think, to be 20th. And certainly had some great runs here, but the emotion to end the day like we did it's obviously rewarding for everybody. Certainly all the effort the guys have put in all week, it's rewarding to be in the show and to end it on a positive note and to get ready for the race car. You know, I think one of the things that attracted us so much to Panther is just they've consistently had good race cars here. Look at the race they had here last year and felt and talking to the engineers about the type of setup we were going to run for the race, I'm excited about that. Obviously, we had to get in the race, and there were some moments this afternoon, but certainly it's surprising, like I said a little earlier, that we just didn't have the speed. It seemed like the car should have been faster for us. That was nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, you can only do what you can do. And I was listening to Dario yesterday when he did his run, and he was like, 'Ugh, I guess I'm going to have to go out again.' I was thinking about that before I went out at the end, and I'm like, 'I've had about 10 of those today. Between every sticker run I've made, every qualifying attempt I've made, you can only do what you can do, and that 's the attitude you got to take. I'm just going to put it all out there, and if it's enough, it's enough. If it's not, I guess I'm fine in some way to come back next Saturday."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing) (After second qualifying run today): "The main thing was getting in the show today. That's more important than the position you qualified for today. If we are in the race, we don't have to worry about that anymore. We can start working on the balance of the car. The weather was better today and that helped, but so did a lot of changes that we made. We came back to basics a little bit, and it worked. We got the speed we were looking for on a day like this, but yesterday is where really wanted to be. Our starting position was secondary to the priority of getting qualified today. Now we have a whole week to think about the race."
E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing): "We have made very big progress from this morning to this qualifying session, and it went 222. It never went that fast during all this spring, and now I don't think we want to go faster than that; we just want more consistency. There was a big difference between the first lap and the last lap, so I think if we can find a more consistent car, maybe working a bit more mechanically, it's going to be a little better. There was massive understeering out of (Turn) 1 and into (Turn) 2. I stayed flat out, but I think I even brushed the wall, maybe. I had a lot of weight jacker that puts a lot of weight in the front, so I ended the last lap over 80 percent of weight jacker, what you usually do in 20 laps and I did it in four laps. It's not a good feeling, especially going 220 miles an hour by a wall knowing that we don't have many spares on the team, so we want to keep that car fast." (After getting bumped): "There was a lot of drama going on, and things obviously didn't end up as we all wanted. But we knew that being in the 21st, 22nd position is a very vulnerable position, and anything could happen. And it happened just in the last minute, and that's a sad thing because we didn't have time to go back out and defend ourselves."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 21 Vision Racing): "Of course, I'm very disappointed. The whole team is. Both of Vision's 21 and 20 engineers are working together, and that's been a great help. There have been some improvements that way, but we don't know what's going on. We have similar settings, but there's a mile-and-half an hour speed difference. We'll look at the data over again and try to understand more over the next three days, but we need an answer."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 41 ABC Supply/Foyt-Greer Racing): "Since we got here, we knew we had a solid car. We knew it was going to be tough to get into the top 11, but we really knew we had a solid car and especially a solid race car. We figured we'd keep on trimming (out) and get the speed. You know, it didn't come as easy as expected today to get in (the field). Obviously, the No. 14 car is really stout; Vitor. That shows that the car's good and the setup's good, but we just go to find it. We were scrambling down there to find it. You start getting close to 5 o'clock, and everything starts turning into a rush. But we found it - that's the big thing." (What went through your mind during the last couple of hours as you sit and wonder if you will have time to get out there?): "I was so nervous and so stressed out. You know, I haven't ate nothing all day, and it feels like I just got out of the Golden Corral eating a big buffet. My stomach was in such a knot. I'm just thrilled to be in the ABC A.J. Foyt car here in the Indy 500 again."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): "I'm glad to be done qualifying and to get the chance to work on race setup. The track today was much calmer than yesterday, and we were able to run some practice laps later in the day. The car felt good, and I'm looking forward to the chance to work on making chances and finding an even better car for the race."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 34 Conquest Racing): "I'm disappointed, but I guess that's just one of those deals. When you have an accident early in the morning like this especially on a qualifying day, you don't have overnight to repair the car. The crew did just absolutely amazing, just thrashing to do everything they can to rebuild that car. To just get us out there in the fashion we did, just making sure the car was solid, was actually really good, professional work. Our second lap on the screen was 221, but it was too late. I needed to do that first lap out. I really wanted to feel like the low-trim car again, just make sure everything was fine. And when I thought it was fine, it was just too late."