Greg Ray posted the two fastest speeds during practice May 16 for the 85th Indianapolis 500, while Billy Boat was the fastest non-qualified driver as track activity resumed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a two-day break.
Ray, who qualified second on MBNA Pole Day May 12, was fastest today at 222.266 mph in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone earlier in the practice. He posted the second-fastest speed, 221.085, in the last hour of practice in his No. 22 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
"We worked hard on race setup, running with full tanks," Ray said. "We're looking for more balance in muggy, thick air like we had today. It makes the car a lot different in this type of air."
Shigeaki Hattori was the second-fastest driver at 220.639 in the No. 55 EPSON G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, followed by 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series Rookie of the Year Airton Dare at 220.369 in the No. 88 1-800-BAR NONE TeamXtreme G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
Boat was next at 219.203 in the No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Unlike the top three drivers of the day, he still must earn a spot in the 33-car field on Bump Day this Sunday.
"We know we need a couple more miles an hour to make the race," Boat said. "What we're looking for is consistency with our laps. We've been struggling with a mid- to corner-exit understeer. You can't qualify here if you're lifting off the throttle."
Boat is hoping to avoid the drama of his qualifying effort last year, in which he entered the track less than one minute before Bump Day qualifying ended and earned a spot in the field.
"This is the Indy 500," Boat said. "There are no guarantees here. Until you are really qualified for this field when the gun goes off Sunday (to end qualifying), it's hard to be really sure, if you're in the back six or eight, that you can be there. I'm hoping we can run a solid 222. That's our goal."
This was the quietest day of practice since the event started May 6, as 22 drivers turned a total of 691 incident-free laps in 21 cars. It was the first track activity since second-day qualifications May 13.
Practice continues from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (EST) Thursday.
AIRTON DARE: "Today we focused on suspension adjustments, especially the shocks and spring configurations. I was content with my morning laps; I hit a little over 218 mph. The air was so thick, though. It was very humid, not real high temperatures, but lots of humidity. There were a few other drivers who couldn't get past 215 mph. I think I was the second fastest in the morning session. This afternoon it seemed a bit cooler. With our new suspension setup we broke the 220 mph mark. Basically, we are fine tuning our setup and getting it prepared for Sunday if we have to use the No. 88 1-800 BAR NONE primary car. The next three days will be very busy for the crew and I, but we are taking big strides and making lots of progress."
SCOTT GOODYEAR: "We spent the day finding a comfortable race pace with fuel. We're checking the balance of the car and identified areas to work on over the next couple of days. As the week wears on we'll try to run in traffic and get a better handle on the car. We'll see how the week progresses."
SARAH FISHER: "We had a problem with our oil pressure; it wasn't up to par. We went out and tried to fix it. We pulled out an oil filter, changed it and saw there was a little camshaft material in there. So, the lobes on the camshaft are probably grinding off. We're not really sure, but we don't want to run a motor that's on the verge of blowing up. So we just decided to can it for the day and wait for an engine tomorrow."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE: "We ran the car this morning with low downforce, and it was OK. Roberto (Guerrero) went out with more downforce, and it was faster but not fast enough. The trick is to run with low downforce to have more straightaway speed. Right now, Roberto can run flat all the way around but the speed is not there. There will be no problem adjusting the car to be comfortable for me. We know how to adjust the car for our different driving styles. That won't be a problem."
SHIGEAKI HATTORI: "We tried our race setup today. It was good, very consistent. I have a good feeling for what the car will do. It's pretty good in traffic. It's very consistent in any conditions."
ROBBY MCGEHEE: "We're probably done until Carb Day. Our Race Day setup is perfect. We're going to do everything else that is associated with Indy. The car was great. We're very happy with the car." (About the extra week in the schedule): "I like it. It kind of extends the ambiance of Indy. As a race driver you want to be here, and to be here for an extra week is great. It's great if you're qualified. If you're not, it gives you another week to stress."
MEMO GIDLEY: "Our clutch went out this morning when we went out to try to learn some things. Unfortunately when it slipped, it zinged the motor. So we have to check both the clutch and the motor. It's hard to know right now (what we are capable of). I know how fast we need to be, at least 221 plus. How we are going to get there? I am not sure. We have a lot to do with only a short time. Many teams have been here for a long time so they can find more speed. Not just this month, but many teams have been here for years. With a new group like ours, we need to get consistency and need to take steps forward. It's great to be here, but I want to run up front. I'm not here just to be here but to run up front with my team and to eventually come back and win this thing. Right now, we're focused on the "500", but hopefully we will be able to continue to some other events later this summer one step at a time."
STEVE KNAPP: "This car only has 35 laps on it with a high speed of 219 (mph) on Sunday. I was even lifting when I ran that 219, so we know there is more. Today we put on different suspension looking for more speed. After we went out, we found the lower wishbones are pushing on the undertray affecting the aerodynamics and handling. I've driven G Forces here with Mitch Davis in the past. He is the one who has given us the suspension and setup here today. We just need to get out and run a few laps. Mitch is smart. He has a great history here at the Speedway. I plan on being up front on Race Day, but I guarantee you Jeff Ward will be (up front) with the experience Mitch has here. He's almost untouchable here. I'm not worried about any pressure on Sunday. Last year I had only 27 laps in a car, and this car already feels very comfortable. I'm actually thinking about going for the fastest speed of the day tomorrow. Everyone else says just work on getting your car in the race. I expect to go at least 223."
GREG RAY: "We worked hard on race setup running with full tanks. We were looking for more balance in muggy, thick air like we had today. It makes the car a lot different in this type of air. We've been really conservative with our tire usage this month. With only 25 sets per driver, you've got to watch how you are using your tires." (About Bump Day): "There are a lot of great teams and drivers but their pressure is much different than what we faced last week. Most of them are really chasing their cars. The first weekend was much more exciting than myself, (Eddie) Cheever, (Buzz) Calkins and (Eliseo) Salazar wanted it to be. But that is what makes Indy, Indy. This weekend should be great for the fans but tough on the teams trying to make it."
ROBBIE BUHL: "We actually had three days off track. We took Sunday off as well, which was good for the guys. We needed to regroup. Today we got out there in race mode. We tried some new bits with the Infiniti guys. We want to get comfortable with our durability and reliability. We will do that again tomorrow. We'll check gears, check ride heights with full tanks. Most importantly, we'll put some mileage on some new bits so that we have 100 percent confidence going into the race."
JEFF WARD: "We had a great plan going out early today. We wanted to do as many short and
long runs as we could with a race setup, and the car was really running well for awhile. But, the engine we were practicing with began to vibrate, and it was just miled out. The team got the car in the garage, switched motors, and we were back out for the last 20 minutes of practice. It's tough when you miss valuable hours on the track like that, because these practice days mean everything to the team. With this Indiana weather, we have to run in every possible condition, because no one knows what to expect on Race Day. We want to be sure we have all our bases covered."
BILLY BOAT: "The CURB Records Beck Motorsports team is working real hard. What we're working for now is consistency. We think we found some things today that will help with that. The problem is that you run out of tires. Obviously, you run the fastest with new tires, but you have to save tires for the race. Firestone brought a great tire here, but they are best when they are new. That's when you can really tell if you're making gains." (About rumors that drivers, including Billy Boat, might end up in a TBA entry): "Right now, my focus is to put the CURB Records Beck Motorsports car in the race. We have two attempts with this car, and there is another car in the garage." (About strategy with remaining days of practice and few tires): "That's the trouble we have four days before qualifying. You can either make gains or loose ground here. You can lose ground here real easy in four days. I obviously wouldn't have scripted this situation for me again this year. This is the Indy 500. There are no guarantees here. Until you are really qualified for this field when the gun goes off Sunday (to end qualifying), it's hard to be really sure, if you're in the back six or eight, that you can be there. I'm hoping we can run a solid 222." (What is it going to take to make the show?): "I'm hoping we can run a solid 222. That's our goal. Two-twenty one and a half will probably make it. I think anything in the 20s, and you're going to be sweating it." (About point when you push it to max): "Usually that point becomes the qualifying effort on Sunday. As a driver, you want to push it all the time, but you don't want to put yourself further back than you already are with a torn-up race car. You want to push it hard enough to know where you are at, but not hard enough to go over the edge. It can be frustrating, and that's the whole challenge of Indianapolis. It can be taxing. We know we need a couple more miles an hour to make the race. What we're looking for is consistency with our laps. We've been struggling with a mid- to corner-exit understeer. You can't qualify here if you're lifting off the throttle.
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