POWER QUALIFIES 23RD FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500 DEBUT
Will Power has qualified in 23rd position for his Indianapolis 500 debut after Third Day qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana today.
Full credit goes to the Aussie Vineyards crew, who worked into the night until 1:30am to repair Power's car after a heavy crash in final practice yesterday, when the 27-year-old spun and made contact with the Turn One SAFER Barrier.
The field will be confirmed after Bump Day qualifying tomorrow, with four cars on the outside of the fastest 33 cars trying to 'bump' their way into the field tomorrow. Three of those cars had heavy crashes today and as a result are not confirmed participants tomorrow on Bump Day.
With the top 11 positions already set on Pole Day qualifying back on May 10, Power was the 12th fastest driver today, taking a relatively conservative approach to ensure the #8 Aussie Vineyards -- Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone entry qualified without further drama or damage after yesterday's accident.
Power is set to become the fifth Australian to race in the Indianapolis 500, following in the footsteps of three-time F1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, Le Mans 24 Hour winners Vern Schuppan and Geoff Brabham and Power's contemporary Ryan Briscoe.
Schuppan is the only Australian to win the prestigious Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year title, a feat he achieved in 1976 and something Power is pushing to match this year on May 25.
This will not only be Power's Indy 500 debut, but also the first start for Aussie Vineyards and Team Australia in the race known as 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing'. Led by successful Australian businessman Craig Gore, Team Australia has three victories in Champ Car competition, all with Power as driver, and is embarking on its first season in the IndyCar Series in 2008 with KV Racing Technology.
27-year-old Power will not only be embarking on his first race at the fabled 2.5-mile 'Brickyard' on May 25, but also his first race on a superspeedway oval and just his fourth ever race on an oval.
Townsend Bell, Graham Rahal and Darren Manning were the fastest qualifiers on Third Day qualifying today, with Bump Day qualifying tomorrow and Carb Day on Friday before the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday May 25.
Will Power - #8 Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone
"Indianapolis Motor Speedway is so unpredictable and today it was really inconsistent, so I had to be very careful," said Power.
"Our Aussie Vineyards team just wanted to do a qualifying run, keep it off the wall, and get into the show, so I am a little relieved to have this behind us.
"We ran conservative, with more downforce to make sure we got through the run and give me some more confidence after yesterday's incident, but I had understeer in turn two, was loose in turn three and had to back-off during the run."
"I'm really proud of the crew. They worked all night. I can't thank them enough to actually have the car out there for practice. But it was once again the same as yesterday. The wind makes it really difficult.
"The last lap there, I started pushing in (Turn) 2 toward the wall; turned into (Turn) 3 and suddenly have a massive moment. You've got to run the car conservatively. That's what we were doing today. We were going out there just to get in."
On experiencing the changing conditions at the Speedway:
"The first three days were pretty wind-free, to be honest. But then yesterday just out on an out lap, bam, it catches you out, and you don't know what you did wrong.
"You think 'what did I do wrong?' which makes it really bad for your confidence. You're thinking: 'OK, the guys just fixed the car. Well, I could go out tomorrow and do exactly the same thing' because the conditions are changing from lap to lap and it's so easy to end up in the wall."
On putting the accident Friday behind him and going back out today:
"It's funny, actually. I ran into Jaime Camara, and he said he still hasn't come back (in confidence from his accident). I can understand. You go out, and you just can't trust the rear of the car.
"It's an instant where it just happens, and you have no chance to catch it and no warning. That's what makes you really nervous. I guess these other guys that run here that have been doing it for five years must really understand, you know, the feeling and how the car should be."
On the repair to mental confidence a driver has to go through after an accident:
"Mentally, it's the toughest because of the fact that the speeds are so high and also the fact that you have to watch your team work all night to rebuild the car, and the thought of going out and doing it again tomorrow. We've been thrown into this in the deep end; absolutely. The circumstances have nothing to do with the team. It's just the whole circumstance with the way everything's come together. You know, you find yourself having to learn very quickly."
Craig Gore - Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia
"It's fantastic feeling to have the Aussie Vineyards car qualified for Team Australia's first Indy 500," said Power.
"This effort really comes down to the Aussie Vineyards crew, who worked into the early hours of the morning to have the car back on track for Will to qualify today.
"Will did a solid job of putting yesterday's crash behind him and getting the qualifying run done today.
"It was a conservative set-up and not our best run of the month, but it was the right approach to take and it got us a decent spot.
"Again, today the Aussie Vineyards crew deserve all the credit. They are simply amazing and I'm very proud of every single one of them."