If at First You Don't Succeed...
INDIANAPOLIS May 11, 2009--After two tries and several major changes to the ABC Supply Indy cars, Vitor Meira and A.J. Foyt IV put their race cars solidly in the field for the Indianapolis 500 yesterday.
Both drivers qualified early Sunday afternoon in the second round of qualifying, but Meira's run of 221.934mph was disqualified after a technical infraction with the car's rear track width and Foyt IV was bumped from the field--by Meira when he requalified the No. 14 Honda-powered Dallara later in the afternoon. Foyt IV knew his initial speed average of 220.3mph wasn't going to stand so his Foyt-Greer team was already prepping the No. 41 ABC Supply car for a second qualifying attempt.
In his second try, Meira posted a four-lap average of 223.054 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply car which was third quickest of the day and earned him the 14th position on the grid--in the middle of row five. It is the second straight year that the No. 14 has started in the 14th slot. Foyt IV posted a speed of 222.586 to start 19th, inside row seven.
Meira opined that the disqualification may have worked in their favor.
"Being forced to go back out there was sort of good," said the two-time runner-up in the 500 in his second post-qualifying interview yesterday. "We were going to rethink our strategy and try some things anyway but what happened [the DQ] forced us to. There was only one option, and when you only have one option it's easy. The problem is when you have many options, you don't know what to do. It forced us to do some things, the car went back to basics and it worked. I really wanted to qualify yesterday, I really did, but I wanted to, today I needed to. So it's going to give us the whole week to think about the race and that's what's really important."
As the day wore on, so did the stress level on young Foyt who was struggling for speed in mid-afternoon. The team made some substantive changes to the car on the pit lane and A.J. Foyt told his grandson to see if he could run 222s. He ran solid 222 mph laps and even clocked a lap at 223.4 mph. They put the car in line to qualify.
"I was so nervous and so stressed out," said Foyt IV in his post-qualifying interview. "I haven't eaten anything all day and it feels like I just got out of the Golden Corral eating a big buffet. My stomach is such in a knot. I'm just thrilled to be in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt car here in the Indy 500.
"This kind of felt just like last year on Bump Day," he said, referring to bumping his way back into the field to start 31st in a Vision Racing entry. "This is supposed to be a one week [engine] program and we're supposed to be saving this motor for the race so we really needed to get in today to keep on our regular schedule. I know A.J. wasn't gonna be happy if he had to cough up more money so we could run some more miles on the Honda engine. There was a lot of stress on me too so I'm glad we got that done and got it in there."
When asked what they did to the car to gain the extra speed, Foyt IV said candidly, "I have no idea. We were running 221s and then we were running 223s so you'd have to ask AJ what he did. He already told me to shut up and drive the car so I don't really ask anymore.
"We were looking for less than that but I knew the track was really good right now," Foyt continued. "I knew it was going to take a solid run to get me solidly in the field and I didn't want to be out there still shaking and worrying about getting back in the thing. So I just wanted to take it easy and if there was any way to hold it down all four laps, that was what was going to happen."
The ABC Supply team will be focusing on race set-ups this week when the track opens for practice on Thursday, May 14th. The final practice for the race takes place on Friday, May 22nd traditionally known as Carb Day, short for Carburetion Day, recalling the days when the cars used carburetors, which they no longer do. However, the name stuck and in addition to the final practice, there is a pit stop competition and a concert at the track.