INDIANAPOLIS, IN May 20, 2012—Both Mike Conway and Wade Cunningham qualified for the Indianapolis 500 with solid runs in their ABC Supply and ECat/ABC Supply Honda-powered cars Sunday afternoon at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Conway went out shortly after noon and despite one lap in the 221 mph bracket due to a slight boost issue, he averaged 222.3 mph and will line up 29th, in the middle of the 10th row in the AJ Foyt Racing No. 14. Conway’s run of 223.1 mph yesterday was disallowed after the car was measured to be two lbs. underweight. That run would have put him 20th on the grid in the middle of row seven.
This race will be Conway’s third Indy 500 in four years. He finished 18th as a rookie in 2010 after starting 27th. The following year he qualified 15th and was en route to a top-10 finish but had a horrific accident on the 199th lap, and the leg and back injuries he sustained sidelined him for the rest of the season. Last year he was bumped out of the race in the final minutes of qualifying.
Rookie Cunningham, a three-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race here, qualified for his first Indy 500 with a four-lap average speed of 223.2 mph. He will start 26th, in the middle of the ninth row of the 11 row, three abreast grid. Cunningham’s run was the second fastest of today’s nine qualifiers with only four-time Champ Car titleholder Sebastian Bourdais running a half mile an hour quicker in his Chevrolet-powered Dallara.
Conway, who is driving for Foyt this year in the IZOD IndyCar Series, said after his successful qualifying run, “I would have loved to have put it in the show yesterday. We would have been better off. We’re in the race. The car has been very similar all month in terms of handling, it’s been very good. We weren’t looking to blow the world away with speed today. It was a case of getting in (the race) comfortably and not doing anything stupid. Our second lap was slower. We had a slight boost issue, but it went away. We wanted to be sensible. We haven’t been working on race stuff much this month because we’ve been trying to find speed. We can go out and focus on getting the car in race trim and get it comfortable. I just want to thank A.J. Foyt Racing and ABC Supply for hanging in there all week.”
Cunningham waved off his first attempt yesterday as the car had too little downforce for the hot weather conditions. He did make another run later in the afternoon and was in the top 24 but was bumped in the final minute of qualifying.
“We ran quicker than we did this morning in practice so we found a little bit of speed,” Cunningham said. “If we ran that speed yesterday we would have been comfortably in the first day qualifiers. We I guess underestimated Indianapolis a little bit and we got ourselves caught out with circumstances- our own undoing but we did it in the end which is the most important thing. It’s not a reflection of our performance this month, we’ve been strong in the draft at times and strong by ourselves, so as long as we make good decisions, now through race day, there’s no reason we can’t be fighting for a top-10 in the race.”
Cunningham, an Auckland, New Zealand native, has made his home here in Indianapolis since 2004 and is a past champion of the Firestone Indy Lights Series. Although a rookie in Indy cars, this will be his fourth race having made his IndyCar debut at Texas Motor Speedway last year where he qualified eighth. Although he didn’t finish either race at Texas, he went on to finish seventh in his next race at Kentucky Speedway. He is a veteran of the Freedom 100 at Indy, not only winning the race three times, but also placing second and third in a total of six starts.
“It’s been a long road for me to Indianapolis,” Cunningham said. “I got to the states in 2004 -- eight years of hard work and commitment, a very proud day for me. I know my parents are proud as are all my sponsors and supporters who have helped me through the years to get here.”
After going through tech inspection, the team spent the next couple hours switching the car to race trim and the Honda engines were re-adjusted to settings that will be used in the race which means approximately 40-50 less horsepower. The teams will have one hour of final practice on “Carb Day” this Friday.
The 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC-TV Sunday, May 27th starting at 11 a.m. ET.