Indy 500: Series Pole Day report, part 1

DIXON, WHELDON HIT THE TARGET IN INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING INDIANAPOLIS - Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon survived the drama of Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and qualified 1-2, respectively, for...

DIXON, WHELDON HIT THE TARGET IN INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING

INDIANAPOLIS - Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon survived the drama of Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and qualified 1-2, respectively, for the 92nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Dixon, who was fifth on the starting grid mid-afternoon, pulled his qualified time from his first attempt and put in another four-lap effort around the historic 2.5-mile oval. Minutes later, he had taken the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone from the grasp of Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe with a 226.366 mph average.

The speed held up as eight other drivers made qualifying attempts in the final two hours, including Wheldon, who was .256 mph off of Dixon's pace.

The pole is Dixon's 11th in his IndyCar Series career, but his first at the Indianapolis 500 in six starts. The honor comes with a $100,000 check from PEAK Motor Oil.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Dixon, who has two poles and one victory in 2008. "It means a lot. "It's not just for me, though. I think a lot of it, and I think (team owner) Chip (Ganassi) and probably (team managing director) Mike (Hull) and (chief mechanic) Ricky (Davis) have touched on it already, but it's the hard work that goes into it. Indy, for our team, I think our development and working toward this race started well early in the winter. I think Chip and Mike and all the guys in the team are adamant on putting up a strong fight for this year's '500.' "

Wheldon had earned the third starting position on the grid, but at 5:38 p.m., he waved it off to challenge Dixon for the pole. Although he fell short of the pole, Wheldon took second, knocking Briscoe to the outside of Row 1.

Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, will start fourth, while Andretti Green Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan qualified fifth and sixth, respectively.

Row Three will be occupied by Marco Andretti, Vitor Meira and Hideki Mutoh, who is the highest-qualifying rookie.

Ed Carpenter will start 10th and Tomas Scheckter 11th.

Qualifying for positions 12-22 is scheduled for May 11. Positions 23-33 will be filled on May 17, with Bump Day on May 18. The 500-Mile Race is May 25.

***

The ninth annual Racing to Recovery Gala will take place from 6-10 p.m., Monday, May 12 at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Ind. Proceeds benefit the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.

Auction items include autographed helmets of Ayrton Senna, Mario Andretti, Marco Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Danica Patrick will auction an autographed fire suit. You and a friend can "Become a Fighter Pilot for a Day" in Las Vegas or you can bid on many exotic trips including France and Hawaii, jewelry, artwork and much more.

Mario Andretti will receive the 2008 Legendary Driver Award. In a career that lasted five decades, he took the checkered flag 111 times and was named Driver of the Year in three decades - the '60s, '70s and '80s. The 2008 Partner for a Cure Award will be presented to the Hulman-George family for its tireless efforts, resources and encouragement provided to the foundation since its inception in 2000. Shortly after Schmidt's accident, Mari Hulman George established endowment professorships at both Purdue University and Indiana University for their paralysis research efforts. Both programs resulted in clinical trials that strive to improve the quality of life for patients with paralysis. The Mari Hulman George Lecture Series in Neurobiology unites world-renowned researchers to further research throughout the world. The Hulman-George family, along with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, has supported SSPF by helping fund research, grants and the "Day at the Races" program.

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Select quotes from Vision Racing drivers regarding Mother's Day:

DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 22 Hewlett-Packard/KR Vision Racing):

"My mom, Judy, has traded me in for my son, DJ, now. She used to come to all of my races, and she'll of course be here for the Indianapolis 500 again, but she's now hanging with her grandson at his races, and that's OK. She does a good job of taking care of him like she does for me. She has just been such a big supporter throughout my life and career. She's been through all the good days and the bad days, and I couldn't have done it without her. She was so supportive of my decision last year to make a comeback, and that was good because it's hard to get those things by your mother. I love her for that and so much more. It'll be nice to have her here at Indy with me again."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing):

"My mom (Laura) is what holds my family together. We're a close family because of her. She's just such a big part of everyday and everything I do. She tried, when I was 15 or 16, to get me out of racing by buying me whatever passenger car I wanted instead of running in a midget sprint car, but eventually she realized that this is what I wanted to do, and she supported me 100 percent. I once gave Mom a two-seater ride in Fontana. We actually put a heart rate monitor on her, and it was pretty much 180 the whole time. I know she was nervous, and there was a panic button in the cockpit for her to press just in case. I did warn her not to bother pushing it because I wasn't going to stop, because I really wanted her to experience it. I don't think she really liked it. She might be gl ad she did it to experience it at least once, and in the end it wasn't the speed that bothered her as much as the helmet that made her feel claustrophobic."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing):

"The thing I appreciate the most about my mom is all the time she's spent with me. When I first started racing, she was the one always taking me to the track, and it was always just me and her going racing all the time because my Dad so busy. Looking back on that and all the things she's done for me, it's a big part of why I'm here today."

***

One thing that makes the Indy 500 so special is the number of people who have dedicated much of their lives to it; people like Tom Bose from nearby Brownsburg, Ind. Bose has worked for owner Greg Beck for 12 years, but his experience in racing goes well beyond that.

As with many people who grow up in the Indianapolis area, Bose became acquainted with the Speedway at a very early age. After spending some years building his mechanical resume, Bose went to work for Patrick Racing. One of Bose's proudest accomplishments was winning the 2001 Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award while working on a car driven by Billy Boat.

TOM BOSE (Chief Mechanic, No. 98 CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports):

"With a big team, they've got everything set in stone; this is the way you do it. With this, I can either do gearbox (work), uprights, floor cleaning; whatever. I can do anything on the car. It helps him (Beck) out, because he doesn't have to pay the big money for other people."

(About his history at Indianapolis): "The first time I was here, I was 9 months old. It's just something I enjoyed so much. From there, I built transmissions for probably 15 years. Then, I got involved with Greg (Beck) and did just about everything; engines, transmissions, uprights, everything. I've been with him ever since. That was a wonderful thing. At that time, we had three full-time mechanics work on this car, and we finished that year fourth in the championship against the Pe nskes and the Kelleys. Everybody else had a hundred guys in their shop. We had three guys who worked on the car. I think that's a wonderful accomplishment. I had great people around me."

***

Entry update: John Andretti will drive the No. 24 Roth Racing entry, replacing Jay Howard.

MARGARET ROTH (President, Roth Racing):

"As a result of the days lost due to weather, and losing our chief engineer (David Cripps) days before the start of this month, we found ourselves behind the 8-ball. John brings with him a wealth of experience, which can help us build two competitive cars for the '500.' Jay will be back at Milwaukee. He has our full support. He's a great driver."

JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 24 Roth Racing):

"I want to feel it out a little bit, and see what we can do."

***

NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. Capps, a Carlsbad, Calif., resident, is in Indianapolis for the wedding of his assistant crew chief, Ronnie Thompson. Capps compares NHRA Funny Car qualifying to qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

RON CAPPS:

"Each NHRA race weekend, the final qualifying session is like trying to get into the Indy 500 on 'Bump Day.' We don't have a 'Pole Day.' The fields are so tight and so close, sometimes you don't know if you're in until that last pair goes down the quarter-mile. I give the IndyCar Series drivers a lot of credit for enduring all those challenges this month. It should be a terrific Indy 500 on May 25. I'll be watching."

***

MARIO ANDRETTI:

(About the speed grandson Marco has shown so far): "He's shown that right from the beginning of practice this month, so the fact that he was able to keep it up day to day is a good sign. I think he's definitely a legitimate contender for pole, so we'll see how it plays out."

(About the entire Andretti Green Team): "Well, the team is fantastic. There's a lot of talent within the team, engineering and driving, and they all work together. And that's what bears fruit."

(About nephew John being named driver of the No. 24 Roth Racing car): "Well, I'm just happy to see him in there. Right now, he has a bit of a daunting job ahead of him, but there's always next week for him to get more familiarized and up to speed properly. I just wish him well, bec ause he deserves to be here."

ALDO ANDRETTI:

(About son John being named driver of the No. 24 Roth Racing car): "Well, right now I am really, really excited about some of the news I heard this morning. I'm very excited about John getting into the car and in three laps being competitive. I'm hoping for the best."

***

Jason Priestley, co-owner of the No. 44 Rubicon Race Team/Lifelock car, has chosen an interesting way to wish a friend happy birthday. The side of the car's mirror sports the words "Happy Birthday K.C."

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The Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced today that they have designated the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps as a "Charitable Partner" of both organizations.

Hole in the Wall Camps (HITWC) is the world's largest family of camps, serving children's camps as well as camps in development around the world. The first camp was started in 1988 by actor Paul Newman, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. Each camp is a separate entity, expanding Newman's dream of providing a recreational and therapeutic camping experience for children facing serious illnesses and life-threatening conditions.

Children with cancer, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS, and many other conditions go to various HITWC camps to experience the simple joys of childhood, without compromising any of their medical needs thanks to the association's high-quality medical care. All children attend the camps free of charge as a result of generous contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and other organizations. In 2007, more than 11,100 children with serious medical conditions enjoyed a HITWC experience.

PAUL NEWMAN:

"There's a couple of things I have great affection for. One of those, as you all know, is automobile racing. The other is to care in some ways for kids who have been less fortunate than I have. And to be able to have this coming together of two organizations working together to that purpose is a home run for me. An absolute home run. That Tony (George) has chosen to bring his organization is just stunning to me. Couldn't get better. It's an amalgamation on two fronts now."

TONY GEORGE (Founder & CEO, Indy Racing League):

"I have admired Paul Newman's commitment to charities for years, especially his dedication to the Hole in the Wall Camps. We are pleased to partner with the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps and hope to help more children with serious illnesses get the chance to just be kids."

***

Scott Dixon recorded the most consistent four-lap qualifying effort in Indianapolis 500 history. Dixon's four laps were separated by .0049 of a second. His quickest lap was 39.9656 seconds, while his slowest lap was 39.9705 seconds. The previous record was .006 of a second by Bobby Rahal in 1992.

***

Medical update from Dr. Mike Olinger, senior medical director for the Indy Racing League: #16 Lloyd has been released from Methodist Hospital. He has not been cleared to drive. He will be re-evaluated by Indy Racing League medical staff next week. Lloyd was transported to Methodist for precautionary X-rays May 9 after his car made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1. A CT scan showed no fractures.

***

JASON PRIESTLEY (Co-owner Rubicon Race Team):

(On missing two days of practice due to rain): "Missing those two days this week leading into qualifying was tough. We're a new team and still trying to set a lot of baselines and figure out where we are at. It set us back a long way. We missed out on two days of testing, but it's a 500-mile race and the big thing is to qualify and get into the show. Whether we qualify today or on day two, or even on Bump Day, you can win this race from anywhere. The key is to get in the show."

(On team's partnership with Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "It's been phenomenal. Sam (Schmidt) is an incredibly knowledgeable guy, and all of his guys have been fantastic with us. They know this place, they know these cars, and they know what it takes to go fast here. And Max Papis, too, he's got so much experience, not only here, but in all types of motorsports. His experience has been invaluable, as well."

(On qualifying): "I'm not concerned about getting in the field. It's just a matter of where we are going to end up in the field. Obviously you'd like to be as far forward as you can, but it's just a question of where we are going to end up."

(On being back at Indianapolis): "I got here on Wednesday just in time for the rain, but it's great to back here at Indianapolis. This is the first time I have been back in five years, but you never forget how amazing this place is. We've had our setbacks because of the rain, but we are thrilled to be here and looking forward to qualifying."

***

Tero Palmroth, the only Finnish driver to start the Indianapolis 500, made a rare appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday on a shoe-selling visit.

Palmroth, whose 12th-place finish in 1990 was his best in four starts from 1988-91, has a shoe business in Helsinki, continuing a family tradition started in 1928. Palmroth's specialty is high-fashion women's shoes made in Italy.

Palmroth, who turns 55 on May 28, left his family business in the 1980s to become a race driver. He married in 1995 and is the father of a son, Remy, 8, and a daughter, Raphaela, 4.

TERO PALMROTH: "I came here to live my dream. I told Tony (George) this place has great dream memories. It feels like home here." (About his shoe sales' efforts today): "I'm interested in talking to the lady drivers."

***

NHRA Top Fuel driver Antron Brown visited IMS today for Pole Day. Brown is second in the NHRA Top Fuel standings this season, with two victories. Brown moved to Top Fuel this season after a 10-year career in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competition.

ANTRON BROWN:

(About his day today at IMS): "It's been fantastic. So far the weather is great. We have seen a lot of fast, productive numbers out there. I have always been a big fan of open-wheel motorsports, for sure. It is a pleasure to be out here among all these great drivers and seeing them race and drive, and relaxing for a weekend."

***

A sticker that reads "In Memory of Buddy McAtee and Tony Renna" is affixed to the inside of the rear-wing endplate on the No. 44 Rubicon Race Team/Lifelock Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven by Max Papis.

Longtime Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive McAtee died in February 2007, while IndyCar Series veteran Renna died in a testing crash in October 2003 at IMS.

***

Medical update from Dr. Mike Olinger, senior medical director for the Indy Racing League: Dale Coyne Racing crew member Charles Buckman will be transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit and into a standard care room at Methodist Hospital today. Buckman suffered a traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage and a skull fracture in an incident on pit lane May 9. His repeat CT scan today was unchanged.

***

Last year, there were 22 successful qualifying attempts on Pole Day, plus an additional five attempts that were not successful.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Tomas Scheckter , Antron Brown , Ron Capps , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Ayrton Senna , Ryan Briscoe , Tony Renna , Jason Priestley , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Jay Howard , Dale Coyne , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Dale Coyne Racing