RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING AND ORIOL SERVIA SNARE NINTH-ROW SPOT FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS - Oriol Servia waited all day Saturday to take his fastest four laps of 2009, so he figured he had better make them count. After morning-long rains...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING AND ORIOL SERVIA SNARE NINTH-ROW SPOT FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS - Oriol Servia waited all day Saturday to take his fastest four laps of 2009, so he figured he had better make them count. After morning-long rains kept cars off of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway surface, Servia rolled out in the #17 Rahal Letterman Racing DAFCA Special with just an hour left in the day's qualifying session, which provisionally set the final 11 positions in the 33-car field for next Sunday's Indianapolis 500.
Just 10 high-speed miles later, Servia and the #17 Rahal Letterman Racing DAFCA Special had punched its ticket for the May 24 Memorial Day classic, making four trips around the Brickyard at an average speed of 220.984 mph. The effort earned the Rahal Letterman Racing machine the 25th spot in the field and established Servia as the third-quickest qualifier of the day.
Servia will make the second Indianapolis 500 start of his career, and will again take the green flag from the 25th spot as he did as a rookie one year ago. He had a good day in the 2008 Indy 500, coming from the ninth row to finish 11th while completing all 200 laps.
"I jumped in the car Thursday, and it felt great and we're in the race. The car, it felt great right away. I'm very hopeful that we can bring the car to the front on Sunday," Servia said. "The (RLR) won it in '04. They have many years of experience, so they know what they are doing. It's no secret. It's been a great week. I've been working for many months to A, get the car going for the season and B, be here. Finally, with Rahal Letterman we were able to put it together, and I'm very pleased. When I jumped in the car Thursday, it felt great right away. It really helps to be with good people."
Servia had to wait all day to take his qualifying laps, so he didn't waste time getting up to speed, running his quickest lap of 221.532 mph on the first of his four qualifying passes. He slotted in to the 25th spot and felt safely in the field, but pulses quickened when Sunday weather yielded higher speeds than Saturday, leaving many drivers vulnerable.
The improved weather conditions saw Saturday's last row swept aside quickly by Sunday runs, which sparked many other the drivers solidly in the tenth row to withdraw their Saturday times in favor of quicker runs. The #17 Rahal Letterman Racing DAFCA Special held fast to its Saturday speed and was rewarded by clinching the 25th spot, but the final run of the day saw the car qualified 26th, just behind Servia, get bumped out of the field.
"The team was ready to go back on track if it would have been necessary, but thankfully the team's performance on Saturday was good enough to make it hold up," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "The Indianapolis 500 is a long, long race. Anything can happen. We have a great package with Oriol in our DAFCA-sponsored car and we'll keep our nose clean, keep in touch with the field and put ourselves in position to have a shot at the end."
Teams will have an hour of practice from 11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. Friday morning to make any final adjustments to the car, as Friday's Carb Day is the last on-track action until the green flag falls over the 2009 Indianapolis 500 at 1:00 p.m.