Ex-CART driver Raul Boesel finds speed
Credit: Earl Ma/BSG
Greg Ray reigned supreme for the sixth time in eight Indianapolis 500 practices this month, topping the daily speed chart May 17 at 222.283 mph.
It was the second consecutive day that Ray led in his No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone as he prepares to start from the middle of the front row on Race Day, May 27. Former Indy Racing champion Ray led Wednesday at 222.266.
1998 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Billy Boat was second fastest during today's rain-abbreviated practice at 220.866 in his No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. He was the fastest non-qualified driver in the practice, trying to find enough speed to make the 33-car field on Bump Day this Sunday.
Twelve-time Indy starter Raul Boesel was third fastest at 220.518 in the No. 5T Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone - Arie Luyendyk's primary car -- in his first day on track.
"Indianapolis is so special, and every opportunity you have to run here is wonderful," Boesel said. "It's so special. I'm sure I'm going to improve myself the next few days."
Two of the three Infiniti-powered cars in the field rounded out the top five. Robbie Buhl was fourth at 220.222 in the No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, while Scott Goodyear was fifth at 219.959 in the #52 Thermos“ Grill2Go‘ Cheever Indy Racing Infiniti Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
Eliseo Salazar was next at 218.891 in the No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone in his first practice since his engine failed on the final lap of his strong qualifying run Sunday, forcing him to try and qualify on Bump Day.
Since then, Salazar and his wife, Kari, welcomed their first child, a son named Eliseo VI, on Tuesday morning in Miami. That capped a whirlwind 48 hours of emotion for Salazar, second in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series point standings.
"I always say that racing is a bit like the checkered flag, you have black and white," Salazar said. "We had the blackest moment last week. The birth of Eliseo the sixth happened Tuesday at 3:53 (a.m.), and that was a turnaround for us.
"It's not a question of having the speed. It's just a question that you get spooked that something is going to happen. Especially at Indy, you can never expect everything to be normal. Things like this happen, and we just expect to correct them on Sunday."
Twenty-six drivers turned 786 laps in 26 cars today, as morning showers delayed the start of practice by three hours and 37 minutes. The only incident occurred when Billy Boat brushed the inside retaining wall on the back straightaway after a spin. Boat was unhurt.
Practice continues from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (EST) Friday.
A.J. FOYT: "We're preparing two cars for Eliseo (Salazar) for qualifying on Sunday. If he gets the primary car into the race without any problems, then we'll put Donnie Beechler in the back-up car and try to qualify him too. But my main concern is to get Eliseo in the race."
GREG RAY: "We worked with a heavy, full race setup trying to find a good balanced car and also on aerodynamic downforce. Darrell Soppe and I communicate very well together. He can help build a very solid race car. I try to be very open minded and listen to them. As a driver you sometimes are concerned about your input and don't listen to the crew chief, but I have been giving 100 percent attention to him, and we are working very well together."
RAUL BOESEL: (About his last time in an Indy car): "It is a long time. It was last year here." (About today's practice): "It was a good day. We made good progress. We just hope the weather will cooperate on Sunday. We hope it doesn't get too sticky because it gets more difficult to run good speeds. Indianapolis is so special and every opportunity you have to run here is wonderful. It's so special. I'm sure I'm going to improve myself the next few days."
DAVEY HAMILTON: "We were doing race setups. I found a full-load setup that I'm pretty happy with. If the conditions are just like today on Race Day, we feel pretty confident. We feel we have a really balanced car. We're just hoping that conditions on Race Day are like today."
SCOTT GOODYEAR: "Things are going well on full tanks. We did a lot of full tank testing today. We made the car better than it was last week. Now I wish we could qualify again, but we've made a lot of progress in the last day, and we will have a good car on race day."
JEFF WARD: "We had a good practice today. The car felt great. We ran a full race setup, and everything went very consistent. We got the car up to 218 (mph) with a full fuel load, so the team is very confident with the run we had today. There were a lot of yellows, but you'll have yellows on Race Day. So it helps the team prepare for all aspects for Race Day. Of course, we'd like to stay out longer to run the full fuel load. It's good to see all different scenarios during practice."
SAM HORNISH JR.: "We went out and worked on our race setup. We're happy with the race car, and right now we're waiting for the race to come."
BILLY BOAT: "I think we are making progress. We made a big change to the setup, and we had more success. We've got something very good to work with and tweak. Conditions are constantly changing and we're working with them."
BUDDY LAZIER: "We learned a lot. It was a hot and slippery day. We played with a lot of things. Business is normal." (About ideal conditions on Race Day): "Whatever it is, is fine with me. It could be hot and slippery or cold and slippery. It is going to be slippery no matter what. We're going to keep on running. Now is the crutch of the work we're going to do. We're going to do everything to get me and the car happy. I'm blessed with a great team. I have total confidence in them."
DONNIE BEECHLER: "I've been fortunate because Robby (Gordon) and Eliseo (Salazar) have already shaken down the cars. They are already set up. It makes my job easier. We're still taking it easy. Our main objective right now is to get Eliseo in the show. I have no doubt in his ability. I am confident in it. I'm praying for him. We'll run a little tomorrow. Saturday is the day we will really get up to speed. Today was more of an orientation. I haven't been in a car since October and haven't been here since last year. We weren't planning on going fast, but I took some laps and A.J. slapped some tires on. We clicked off a 218 (mph), and I stayed in the car and did some more laps. We brought it in, and he said we'll take it back and work on it tomorrow."
ROBBIE BUHL: "We had a good day. We accomplished everything we set out to do in practice today. We were focusing on our race setups, so we were pleased to see our times were so quick."
SARAH FISHER: "Today we just wanted to shake the car down after changing the motor last night. Now the guys can start fine tuning it. We wanted to run between normal race hours, but the rain held us back a little bit."
ELISEO SALAZAR: (About his new baby Eliseo Salazar VI): "I have to keep the tradition. I like the name. It's not that common in Chile, it's not that common in Spanish. Being the fifth, I hope we can carry it to the tenth." (About today's practice): "You know, I always say, racing is a bit like the checkered flag, you have black and white. We had the blackest moment, you know, last week, we had four days in a row with incidents and crashes. So, I hope this will turn around things. The birth of Eliseo the sixth happened Tuesday morning at 3:53 and that was a turnaround for us. And now, we are taking out a brand-new car. We had the backup car at 223 and a half when we had the engine problem on Sunday. So, we have that, but, you know, A.J. is just a big racer, and he wants to do the best he can. So, he bought a new car, and we're shaking that down, and we have the other car that's also up to 223, even quicker if we want. So, it's not a question about having the speed, it's just a question of do you get spooked, and if something's going to happen, it's going to happen like last week. But as we said, hopefully, that has turned around and will be different." (About the birth of his child): "We spent a hectic 48 hours there preparing to go to the hospital, and then it was a big baby 10 pounds, 6 ounces. So it couldn't come naturally, you know, we had to do a C-section in the middle of the night. Obviously during those hours you're not thinking of anything else, but now that they are both fine and healthy, Kari and Eliseo, we have to concentrate on this. We came back last night, and we had to. This is our life. It is her life, too. We live for this. It's an important part of our life, too. We need to qualify on Sunday and make the race and keep collecting points toward our big goal -- that is to win the championship. As you said before, we are second in the championship, and we need to get as many points here as possible. We've always done well. Out of five participations, we have a third, a fourth and a sixth place and a couple of front rows. This is quite unusual and disappointing, but that is what motor racing is all about and especially at Indy. You can never expect everything to be normal. It happens. Things like this happen, and we just expect to correct them on Sunday. The weather is very hot and muggy. I don't think it was a day conducive to really find the setup for speed. So we're just shaking down a brand-new car and getting some minor problems, we had a fuel pickup problem and stuff like that, you know, getting ready for the weekend. If The Weather Channel is right, it should be much cooler, and then we should be back to the mid 20s laps that we can do." (About Beechler in a third car): "We're going to try to put this brand-new car in the field, and then we have this 14 car, which is actually the car that has put us second in the championship so far and is the car that I tried to qualify on Sunday that blew in the last corner. That car was up to mid-223. We're going to wait and hopefully put this brand-new car early on Sunday then concentrate on getting Donnie in the field, too. So that is not a problem." (About how engine failure while attempting to qualify ranks among frustrations in his career): "It was one of those deals that I say all the time that if some Hollywood screenwriter writes that, we would all say it is too much fantasy. How can it happen, you know, on the last corner of the last lap after everything that has happened the previous two, three days? So I just couldn't believe it. I was astounded. I just couldn't believe it. I knew the engine was getting tight going into (Turn) 3, and they said one more corner and we could coast. We had like a 223 average. Even a 218 lap would have given us a very good average, good enough to qualify. So I just couldn't believe it when it happened. I tried to steer toward the wall not to pinch the car, and thankfully it worked. At the time you don't have much time to think. Afterward, it was unreal. It was like I was looking from above, and I just couldn't believe what was going on." (About Race Day speeds): "I think 218 or 217 will be more realistic. I feel it is about 6 mile an hour difference (from qualifying to race). So if Scott Sharp did 226, that was quite out of the ordinary, really. I would expect the quickest lap of the race being (2)19.5 maybe a (2)20. If it is like today, I don't see it being quicker than 218." (About A.J.'s last-minute qualifying experience): "I think he is at his best when he is down. He's really trying every single thing as I said before, buying a new car and getting the best engine. When a guy like him is in a difficult situation, that is when they thrive. Definitely, he is thriving. He is full of confidence. We are not even taking it into consideration that we won't qualify." (About bruised right eye): "First, fortunately, the eye is OK. I had it checked in Miami, and I could see 20/20. Starting from the back is not our plan. People say always, 'It is a long race, you have time.' I agree with that, but the IRL is so competitive, so evenly matched, it is hard to pass cars. We've been in the top five every race so far. And when you get to about March or sometime, it is not that easy to pass. We will try to do it patiently. Hopefully we will be top 10 by the middle of the race. Coming back last night, my flight was Miami/Charlotte, and I came with Robby Gordon, and we were talking. In '95, he started from the pits. He still made it to fifth place in the end. It all depends how the race goes that day. It's not as easy as in the past to get to the front." (About winning 500 vs. winning the championship): "I don't know the answer. I put it like that one day to A.J., and he wisely said we are looking to get in, and then we are going to talk strategy. Even though you don't want to think about it, obviously you do at some point of the day. I've been leaning toward let's try to get in a top-five finish and keep collecting points toward the championship, but then you say this race is not just another race, so should we try to win it anyhow? I'd like to answer that on the 23rd." (About when to attempt to qualify on Sunday): "I want to be there at 6 o'clock in the morning. We are going to try immediately. That was the only, I wouldn't say mistake, but hindsight is real easy, but on Sunday we had 223 and a half at 2 o'clock, but we waited until 5. We didn't really have time to change then. Maybe we shouldn't have gone straight to qualify. We would have blown the engine and had time to replace it. We want to be ready at 12.".
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