JOHN ANDRETTI, RYAN HUNTER-REAY FINALIZE INDIANAPOLIS 500 STARTING LINEUP WITH LAST-MINUTE QUALIFYING ATTEMPTS
INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, May 17, 2009) - John Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay drove their way into the 2009 Indianapolis 500 with last-gasp attempts on Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Taking advantage of improved conditions over Third-Day Qualifying on May 16, several drivers withdrew their times to avoid the bubble. Tomas Scheckter, Mike Conway, E.J. Viso, Nelson Philippe and Milka Duno all pulled this gamble off successfully and managed to move to safer times, while Bruno Junqueira had little trouble making the cut on his first run of the month.
Andretti, who began the day in the field, got bumped midway through the day by Junqueira, who was making his first qualifying attempt with Conquest Racing, then struggled to find speed on two qualifying attempts.
With just 15 minutes of the session remaining, Andretti, Barrett and Lazier were all outside the field, and Hunter-Reay had been pushed back onto the bubble again.
Andretti was first to try to snatch Hunter-Reay's grid spot, but his four-lap average was too slow to bump the Vision Racing car from the field. Barrett and Lazier then made last-ditch efforts to qualify, before both waved off their runs after poor first laps.
Their quick decisions to abandon their attempts allowed Andretti to go back out again with eight minutes to go - and on his final attempt, he earned a spot in his 10th Indianapolis 500, posting a four-lap average speed of 221.316 to bump Hunter-Reay. Andretti has qualified every time he has participated in month of May activities.
Hunter-Reay was able to rebound, too, posting a speed of 220.597 to edge Alex Tagliani by a few hundredths of a second. That put Tagliani alongside Stanton Barrett and former "500" winner Buddy Lazier as non-qualifiers for this year's race.
For the day, nine drivers combined to make 12 qualifying attempts, resulting in seven bumps.
The 33-driver field is the closest-matched by time in the history of the Indianapolis 500. Just 3.0967 seconds separate the cumulative four-lap qualifying times of polesitter Helio Castroneves and Hunter-Reay.
Monday will be a busy day for the 33 starters of the Indianapolis 500, as well as League and Speedway executives. Front Row qualifiers Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, as well as driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, will fly to New York tonight for Monday morning media appearances. The Front Row drivers will appear on FOX's "Morning Show with Mike & Juliet" and on XM Sirius' Mad Dog Radio. Hunter-Reay will appear on Bloomberg News and will be joined by Indy Racing League President, Commercial Division, Terry Angstadt on Fox Business' "Money for Breakfast."
The rest of the 33 starters will depart Indianapolis at 7 a.m. Monday. The entire field will pose for photographs in the traditional 11 rows of three at Herald Square, home of the flagship Macy's department store. All drivers will participate in a media luncheon with more than 100 national and international correspondents.
Other Monday media appearances include an appearance by Tony George, CEO of the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on CNBC's "Power Lunch," Sarah Fisher on Comedy Central's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and the Front Row drivers on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway's highly recognizable "Winged-Wheel" logo was introduced in 1909. The wheel represented the founders' vision of an automobile testing ground, and the wings alluded to the role aviation played in the early years at the Speedway.
Through the years, the logo has had hundreds of variations, usually custom-made for the application, be it program cover, credential, ticket or poster. The seven racing flags became a primary element by the mid-1950s.
At 11:20 a.m., new enlistees were inducted into the Armed Forces in a ceremony held in front of the Pagoda as part of Armed Forces Day activities. The new enlistees were sworn in by Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR:
(On the IMS Centennial Era and the swearing-in ceremony): "The history of the Speedway is such an important part of our history in Indiana. We all reassure memories of how it began and all the development over the years. I've had a special privilege the last 29 years swearing into the armed forces young men and women from Indiana. With all the background of the Speedway, the people come here to see the race cars but also treasure ideals of patriotism, and are very thoughtful about our troops. We look forward to breakfast each year with Mari Hulman George and Tony George. I remember vividly my initial experience with Tony Hulman, which made it possible for us to swear in these troops. Each year is filled with memories, and we think of the history of the Speedway and we think of the history of the Armed Forces Day and the way the history has been celebrated here." (About his enjoyment of racing at IMS): "I came out annually as mayor of Indianapolis. For eight years (when mayor), we watched it with our family and took part in the celebrations. This Armed Service Day has offered me an opportunity as a senator to continue those ties."
Military presence, tradition and recognition are time-honored staples of the Indianapolis 500, especially today on IMS Armed Forces Day. This year, there is an added military presence in the paddock as two cars are sponsored by branches of the U.S. military, the No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon car driven by Brazilian Rafael Matos and the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car driven by Englishman Dan Wheldon. Despite being non-U.S. citizens, both drivers have strong senses of honor, pride and responsibility being associated with the U.S. military.
Wheldon is involved with the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program,a preventative at-risk program that helps 16 to 18-year-old dropouts get their GED, return to school or enter into secondary education courses. One recent Youth ChalleNGe graduate, Cadet Clarence Jones, is of particular interest to Wheldon. The two met earlier this year at the National Guard's Youth ChalleNGe Gala. Emotionally moved by Cadet Jones' story of going from a Georgia gang member to a future commercial pilot, Cadet Jones will be a special guest of Panther Racing for the 2009 Indianapolis 500.
RAPHAEL MATOS: "It means a lot. I'm very proud and very honored to be carrying the Air Force logo on my car. It's a lot of responsibility for me and for the whole team. The team is very motivated to have the Air Force with us. We have pretty much the same philosophy has the Air Force boys: They fight for our freedom, and we're fighting here for performance and to get good results. Hopefully, we'll make them proud of us."
DAN WHELDON: "It's an absolute honor. To think that I can be part of the program and represent a group of truly courageous, honorable and very persevering individuals; it's incredible to represent them. To carry the camouflage colors is incredibly appropriate for this particular race, and nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to be in Victory Lane with some soldiers drinking milk."
(About ChalleNGe program): "As far as the Youth ChalleNGe program, I was announced as the national spokesperson for that particular program in Long Beach. Having met a lot of the cadets who have enrolled in the program, it's very humbling to be part of that. There are some fantastic individuals I've met, and I find it very humbling and inspirational. For me, I don't feel like it's me that's giving; it's the different cadets that are giving. Some of the stories that you hear make you realize truly how special they are."
John Montgomery Jr., 40, of Columbus, Ohio, has done about everything there is to do in working on an Indy car. His main expertise is carbon fiber work, but he's been a fabricator, tire changer, an air jack man, a general mechanic and other things with several teams.
The last two years, he worked for Rahal Letterman's IndyCar Series program but was part of the winter layoff group from that team. But he still came to Indy. He was staying with a friend and mentioned Thursday morning, May 14 that he was going to the track to look for a job, then go home to Columbus to see his family and come back that night. But he didn't make it back to Columbus. The Rahal Letterman team asked when he could start for the weekend. He said "now." He returned to his friend's place that night wearing a DAFCA team shirt, and two days later, Oriol Servia was third fastest in Third Day Qualifying at 220.984 mph in the Rahal Letterman entry.
JOHN MONTGOMERY JR: "I've just been tearing up the concrete all month trying for an opportunity to work for a team. I think I've talked to every team manager, and Scott Roembke and Steve Dickson were very gracious, and they gave me an opportunity to be a part of it. God and my family are most important to me, but this is the pinnacle of racing, the most important race in the world, the history itself, the passion itself. Since I was a kid, I wanted to compete in some sense. I wanted to drive, but I was very good mechanically and driving was not my calling. There weren't a lot of opportunities, but I wasn't going to miss one. It raised my spirits. It's exciting. I want to just be a part of it. There's nothing like being here and seeing everyone again. It's just awesome. Eventually, I hope to come 'back home again in Indiana.'"
The Fisher House organization, a charity supported by the Indianapolis 500, has a booth on the Pagoda Plaza today to raise funds to equip "homes away from home" for families of service members receiving medical care. Fisher House has 38 comfort homes at military and VA medical centers, providing support to families of patients receiving care. Families of service men and women wounded or injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom do not pay for their stay at a Fisher House.
EARNEST WINSTON (Volunteer): "This organization is for soldiers who have an illness or physical condition and their families to be together and help support them. Fisher House homes have kitchens and laundry rooms, and the families can stay with their soldiers who have been, unfortunately, hurt."
(On the plaza this month): "We're selling T-shirts for $10 and dog tags for $5. All of the proceeds go the Fisher House organization."
Fans this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have enjoyed seeing the four founding fathers of IMS, played by local actors in period attire, walking the stands, taking photographs and talking to fans.
Tom Harrison is playing Carl Fisher, Hal Hefner is playing James Allison, Jeff Angel is playing Frank Wheeler, and Matthew Allen is playing Arthur Newby. The actors will participate in the IPL 500 Festival Parade on Saturday, May 23 and have appeared at various IMS functions since the Centennial Era was announced in May 2008.
All four actors said the fans have been very enthusiastic about seeing the group and that each character is easily recognized. Some fans also have purchased a picture of the actual founding fathers in IMS Gift Shops and showed it to the actors.
HAL HEFNER (Actor playing James Allison): "Allison gets a lot of 'I work for you!' from fans. He founded Allison transmissions, of course. We had a guy who has been to 62 straight races who came up and talked to us yesterday. We've had about three or four people who have said, 'I went in and bought your picture.'"
Today was IRL Family Day at the track, sponsored by IRL Ministries and the Indy Family Foundation.
FELICIA McCORMACK (Volunteer): "We invited the families of the crew members, IRL officials and IMS/Brickyard employees out for a day at the track. Hundreds of people enjoyed lunch and had garage passes. We had gifts for the children, racing simulators, little go-kart race cars and a vision screening by Prevent Blindness Indiana. It was fabulous. Indy Family Foundation promotes camaraderie among the participants in the racing community. And we have a benevolent fund that aids racers in times of financial need due to injury or illness."
QUALIFYING LINE CHRONOLOGY, 5:35-6 P.M.
#19 Scheckter Made successful qualifying attempt at 5:36 p.m.
#43 J. Andretti Made unsuccessful qualifying attempt at 5:40 p.m.
#34T Tagliani Pulled out of line at 5:41 p.m., pulled back in line behind #21T Hunter-Reay.
#21T Hunter-Reay Pulled out of line at 5:45 p.m.
#91 Lazier Waved off after Lap 1 of qualifying attempt.
#34T Tagliani Pulled out of line at 5:46 p.m.
#98 Barrett Waved off after Lap 1 of qualifying attempt.
#00 Philippe Pulled out of line at 5:49 p.m., pulled back in line behind Hunter-Reay, Tagliani, Servia and Andretti.
#21T Hunter-Reay Pulled out of line at 5:51 p.m.
#34T Tagliani Pulled out of line at 5:51 p.m.
#17 Servia Pulled out of line at 5:51 p.m.
#43 Andretti Made successful qualifying attempt at 5:52 p.m. after pulling in line at 5:50 p.m. behind Hunter-Reay, Tagliani and Servia.
#00 Philippe Pulled out of line at 5:57 p.m.
#21T Hunter-Reay Made successful qualifying attempt at 5:57 p.m.
#34T Tagliani Only car in line when gun fired at 6 p.m.
#91 Lazier, #17 Servia were in line behind #34T Tagliani after Hunter-Reay started attempt. #17 Servia pulled out of line at 5:58 p.m.
#91 Lazier pulled out of line at 5:59 p.m.
INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:
- Ryan Hunter-Reay wins the $50,000 Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award as the last driver to qualify on Bump Day. He will start 33rd.
- Tomas Scheckter wins the $10,000 Red Gold Red Zone Award for turning the fastest single qualifying lap on Bump Day. Lap 1 of his attempt was 221.845 mph. He will start 26th.
- John Andretti qualified 28th for his 10th Indianapolis 500, his lowest career starting position. His previous low was 27th in his first "500" in 1988.
- Nine drivers combined to make 12 qualifying attempts on Bump Day. There were seven "bumps."
- This is the closest matched field by time in Indianapolis 500 history. 3.0967 seconds separate fastest qualifier Helio Castroneves and slowest qualifier Ryan Hunter-Reay. The previous record was 3.2422 seconds set in 2001.
- This is the sixth-closest matched field by speed in Indianapolis 500 history. 4.267 miles per hour separate fastest qualifier Helio Castroneves and slowest qualifier Ryan Hunter-Reay. The record is 3.130 miles per hour set in 1953.
- There are four former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Scott Dixon (2008). Between them they have six victories. The record for most former winners in the field is 10 in 1992. The fewest, other than the inaugural race in 1911, is zero in 1912.
- There is a combined 125 previous Indianapolis 500 starts among the 33 drivers in this year's field. The record is 260 years of experience set in 1987 and 1992. There were 104 years of combined experience in last year's field.
- Scott Sharp is the most experienced driver in the field with 13 previous Indianapolis 500 starts. The record is 35 set in consecutive years from 1958-1992 by A.J. Foyt.
- The oldest driver in the starting field is Davey Hamilton, 45. The youngest qualifier is Graham Rahal, 20.
- There are four rookies in the field. They are Mike Conway, Robert Doornbos, Raphael Matos and Nelson Phillipe. Last year's field had 11 rookies.
- In addition to the four rookies in the race, there are three other drivers (Dario Franchitti, Scott Sharp and Paul Tracy) who did not start in last year's race.
- Dan Wheldon has led 234 career laps in the Indianapolis 500, more than any other driver in this year's field. Tony Kanaan is the only other driver in the field who has led more than 200 career laps in the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan has led 214 laps.
- There are seven graduates of Firestone Indy Lights in the field. The graduates are Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV, Alex Lloyd, Hideki Mutoh, Raphael Matos and Graham Rahal.
- Buddy Lazier failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The 16-time race starter is the only driver who has started every Indianapolis 500 under IndyCar Series banner (1996-2008).
A total of 48 cars are currently at the Speedway and have passed technical inspection. Thirty-six drivers have been on the track to date and turned 1,841 laps today and 12,184 laps this month. Marco Andretti turned 114 laps, the most laps today. There were four cautions today for a total of 35 minutes.
The next on-track activity is Thursday, May 21.
THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Garages open
9-9:45 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights practice
11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights practice
3 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights Qualifying
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).