Indy Bump Day notes Panther Racing rejoined an old friend and will have a familiar look in the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, as the team announced today that Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka has partnered with the team to be the primary sponsor on former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice's No. 44 entry. Rice, who won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 from the pole position, qualified seventh yesterday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Panther's second-best starting position at the historic 2.5-mile race track.
"It's great to have Fuzzy Zoeller and Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka back home with Panther Racing," Panther Racing Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. "Fuzzy is the kind of guy we like to have on our team - he's a champion, a fierce competitor and somebody who wants to win the Indianapolis 500 just as badly as everybody on our team. Buddy Rice has done an unbelievable job for us this month and we're happy to find a great partner like Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka to help get us one step closer to victory lane at the Brickyard."
Zoeller is the winner of two Major Championships, as the golf legend won The Masters in his first appearance in the event in 1979. He won the 1984 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club and won the Senior PGA Championship in 2002 and is a native of Indiana.
"In racing, like golf, sometimes you play two balls," Zoeller, winner of 12 tour victories on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, said. "We're looking forward to rejoining last year's partner Panther Racing and sponsoring the No. 44 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka driven by Buddy Rice. We had a great run last year with Panther and we look forward to another exciting Indianapolis 500 together."
Rice is the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner and is returning to the Indianapolis 500 this season after a two-year hiatus during which he won another of the world's most prestigious auto races - the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In his career Rice has a total of three IZOD IndyCar Series victories and finished a career-best third in the series championship in 2004.
"I'm just really happy to have Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka on the No. 44 car for the race next weekend," Rice said. "All the guys on the team talked about how great it was to have Fuzzy around last season and I'm looking forward to meeting him and putting the Fuzzy's Vodka car at the front of the field in the 500. We've had a great month so far, and the car's been quick out of the gate and, for me, I'm just excited to be back at Indianapolis - especially for the Centennial. This only comes around once and thanks to John Barnes, Panther Racing and Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka we're going to have a great package for next Sunday."
Indianapolis 500 veteran Willy T. Ribbs will serve as the honorary starter today. This is the 20th anniversary of Ribbs becoming the first African-American driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, in 1991.
Ribbs announced May 12 that he has formed Willy T. Ribbs Racing to field an entry for 21-year-old African-American driver Chase Austin, starting in the Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 27. The team was created in partnership with Starting Grid Inc. principal Chris Miles.
WILLY T. RIBBS: "Well, this place, to say it's special for me is an understatement. It is where my most important happening in my life took place. I could say career but what happened in 1991 was the most special moment in my life, apart from my three kids being born." (Have your feelings changed in 20 years compared to how you felt that day?): "Every time you walk in here, it feels the same. It's an unbelievable experience. The Hulman-George family has been very good to me. The Speedway has been very good to me. The city of Indianapolis has been good to me. I don't live in Indianapolis, but it's my home." (On being a Firestone Indy Lights car owner with driver Chase Austin): "Well, it's no secret my long-term goal is to be an IndyCar team owner in the big championship (IZOD IndyCar Series). I've got a one-race deal with Chase Austin. I think he's going to be a hell of a driver. He's young, and if he has the right resource around him, he'll be able to do real well."
Riley Hoffman, from Greenwood, Ind., was crowned 500 Festival Queen on Saturday during the annual 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard.
Hoffman, a student at Indiana University, will receive a $2,500 educational scholarship from the 500 Festival and Indianapolis television station WTHR.
Laken Kurtz of Muncie and Alexandra Norman of Zionsville were selected as members of Hoffman's court from the field of 33 Festival princesses.
Members of the Indianapolis 500 starting field will disperse across the United States and Canada on Monday for a media tour promoting the 100th Anniversary race. Drivers will visit these markets: Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Dayton, Ohio, Las Vegas, Louisville, Ky., Miami, Milwaukee, Nashville, Tenn., New York, Orlando, Fla., Tampa, Fla. and Toronto.
Indianapolis 500 veteran Patrick Carpentier talked about his accident this morning and his relationship with Dragon Racing.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: "I feel good. I was a little bit dizzy at first, as I hit pretty hard. I thought it was going to be a fun comeback, but it was a hard comeback. What can you do? I was just starting to enjoy it. I started to go sideways a little bit, and I hit the white line. You don't want to do this with these cars, and it just swapped around on me." (On his emotions the last 24 hours): "They (the team) told me yesterday at about 2:30. The last flight was at 4:50, so I flew all night and got in at 12:30 this morning. It was a short night, but I enjoyed it. The car was pretty good at first. We had a lot of downforce in it. We were just running around and taking some of the downforce out and trying to loosen it up a little bit. That worked out pretty well. We did loosen it up." (On the mood of the team after two accidents): "It's really disappointing, I'll tell you. I know these guys had a tough month. I thought I'd be able to come in and at least post a time for qualifying." (On the background of how the deal with Dragon Racing came together): "I went to Long Beach and met with these guys a little bit and saw everyone there. I guess with me being a good friend of Paul Tracy, Paul said, 'You've got to give Pat a shot and try him out.' Paul called me, these guys called me, and I was on my way here. I was pretty happy. I want to try it again. It's been awhile." (On the plans for Dragon Racing today): "It's a great team. I'm so disappointed for these guys. They were working hard and had their hopes up wanting to make it in. But, unfortunately, I think the car is pretty damaged. That's going to be it for them, I think."
100th ANNIVERSARY INDIANAPOLIS 500 FIELD NOTES:
•There are five former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010), Buddy Rice (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005). Between them they have eight victories. The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992. The fewest, other than the inaugural race in 1911, is zero in 1912.
•There are five Chase Rookie of the Year candidates in the field. This year's rookies: JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Charlie Kimball and Pippa Mann. Last year there were six rookies.
•John Andretti is the most experienced driver in the field, with 11 previous Indianapolis 500 starts. The record is 35, set in consecutive years from 1958-1992 by A.J. Foyt.
•Dario Franchitti has led 255 career laps in the Indianapolis 500, more than any other driver in this year's field. Other drivers in the field who have led more than 200 laps are Dan Wheldon (234), Helio Castroneves (231), Scott Dixon (220) and Tony Kanaan (214).
•Seventeen different drivers in this year's field have led a total of 1,563 laps in previous Indianapolis 500 Mile Races.
•There is a combined 142 previous Indianapolis 500 starts among the 33 drivers in this year's field. The record is 260 years of experience, set in 1987 and 1992. There were 140 years of combined experience in last year's field.
•The oldest driver in the starting field is Davey Hamilton, 48. The youngest qualifier is Graham Rahal, 22.
•There are 10 veterans of the INDYCAR-sanctioned Firestone Indy Lights series in the field: Marco Andretti, Ana Beatriz, Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Charlie Kimball, Alex Lloyd, Pippa Mann, and Graham Rahal.
•Eight Indy Lights champions, under CART and INDYCAR sanction, qualified for the race: Townsend Bell, Scott Dixon, JR Hildebrand, Jay Howard, Alex Lloyd, Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia and Paul Tracy.
•In addition to the five rookies in the race, there are three drivers - Buddy Rice, Oriol Servia and Paul Tracy - who did not start in last year's race.
•This is the closest-matched field by time in Indianapolis 500 history: 2.5399 seconds separate fastest qualifier Alex Tagliani and slowest qualifier Ana Beatriz. The previous record was 3.0622 seconds set in 2010.
•This is the fifth-closest matched field by speed in Indianapolis 500 history: 3.593 mph separate fastest qualifier Alex Tagliani and slowest qualifier Ana Beatriz. The record is 3.130 miles per hour set in 1953.
INDIANAPOLIS 500 BUMP DAY QUALIFYING NOTES:
•Mike Conway failed to qualify for the first time in his "500" career. His previous starts came in 2009 and 2010, both with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
•Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to qualify for the first time in his "500" career. His previous starts came in 2008 with Rahal Letterman Racing, 2009 with Vision Racing and 2010 with Andretti Autosport.
•Raphael Matos failed to qualify for the first time in his "500" career. His previous starts came in 2009 with Luczo Dragon Racing and 2010 with de Ferran Dragon Racing.
•Sebastian Saavedra failed to qualify for the first time in his "500" career. His previous start came in 2010 with Bryan Herta Autosport.