Tomas Scheckter Re-Qualifies as Fastest Bump Day Position for the Indy 500
Indianapolis, Indiana (May 17, 2009) - What dawned as a casual day for the 27th qualified Tomas Scheckter turned into high drama as surprising speed was found by several drivers.
The Sunday before the Indianapolis 500 is traditionally known as "bump day," a day when anyone not qualified for the famed May Classic can try to qualify by posting a faster four-lap average than the slowest car in the full field of 33 cars. The day provided excellent speed conditions. With cool temperatures in the 60s, light humidity and winds in the 10-15 MPH range versus the 20-25 MPH winds yesterday, several surprises started early.
As the track opened for qualifying at 12 p.m. today, Milka Duno and Nelson Philippe qualified solidly in the field. Like Nelson, several cars realized how good the conditions were and withdrew their already qualified times to post a faster speed, thus keeping them at bay from the infamous "on the bubble" position.
At the beginning of the day the Dale Coyne Racing #19 Mona Vie car had only planned to do full tank runs and stand on its qualifying time of 220.212 MPH of yesterday. But virtually all of those cars that withdrew their time and re-qualfied were posting faster speeds than the #19 Mona Vie entry.
With the track closing for any other qualifying attempts at 6:00 p.m., the team started to work on qualifying times at 4:45 p.m. in the afternoon. Just before those initial runs, Tomas had gone from seven positions safe from his yesterday time to being the man "on the bubble."
The talented South African wasted no time getting back up to speed posting a practice average of 221.7 MPH. "We were concerned that either former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier, or the experienced John Andretti, who were both on the outside looking in, might be able to bump our time," commented team owner Dale Coyne. "Tomas was up for it and the team had put the car back in stellar qualifying trim, so we made the decision to withdraw our car from the field and re-qualify to post a stronger and safer speed."
In the closing minutes before 6:00 p.m., Scheckter took to the track in his MonaVie sponsored Dallara. Much to the delight of fans, Tomas Scheckter performed brilliantly not only protecting his position, but posting the fastest speed of the day with a four-lap average of 221.496. As a crowning jewel, Tomas also won the Red Gold Zone Award for turning the fastest single qualifying lap on Bump Day at 221.845 MPH.
"Wow, I never thought this would be a day like this," gleamed Scheckter. "I can't say enough about the team and its decision to switch the car back to qualifying mode. This made it perfect our first time out. This is a very special accomplishment."
With all of the speed and bumping going on today, and by virtue of Tomas running much faster than his speed of yesterday, Tomas actually moved up one spot to start the race in 26th. "The field has never been this competitive," said Coyne. "With a 500 winner missing the show and an Andretti the last one to qualify, it is no wonder that this is the closest field in Indy 500 history."
Qualifying for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 is now complete and the teams and drivers will prepare for carburetion day next Friday, May 22. The Indy 500 will be broadcast live on May 24, 2009 on ABC Network. Coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. EST