DAY 17 -- THURSDAY, MAY 23
The $60,000 Coors Pit Stop Challenge will be held this afternoon on pit road with five teams competing for the $35,000 first prize (including $5,000 donated to Youthlinks Indiana in the name of the winning team). The match up for the quarterfinal round puts the #14 AJ Foyt Enterprises entry against the #21 Pagan Racing machine. The #20 Team Menard crew will meet the winner of the quarterfinal round in one semifinal and the #70 Galles Racing team will meet the #3 Team Menard unit in the other semifinal. Winners of the semifinals meet for the championship. The event pays $10,000 for second, $7,500 for third, $5,000 for fourth and $2,500 for fifth. Crews will change four tires and make a simulated fuel connection (no fuel will be used during the simulation). The record time is 11.742 seconds set by Danny Sullivan's crew led by Chuck Sprague for the Penske team in 1985. The record time in the championship round is 12.867 seconds by Jacques Villeneuve and the Kyle-Moyer led Forsythe-Green Racing team in 1994.
The Indianapolis Speedrome announced today that this year's Speedrome champions will be eligible for a renewed $10,000 award for the 1997 Indianapolis 500. The $10,000 goes to an Indianapolis 500 car owner when a 1996 Speedrome champion qualifies for the 1997 edition of the "500."
The track opened for practice at 12:52 p.m. after a delay because of wet conditions with 26 cars on pit road. Paul Durant in the #96 ABF Motorsports USA/Sunrise Rental Canada entry was first to leave pit road. Next were Stephan Gregoire in the #9 Hemelgarn Racing/Delta Faucet/Firestone entry and Michel Jourdain Jr. in the #22 Herdez Quaker State/Viva Mexico! Machine. Durant was the first to complete a lap.
12:56 p.m. -- #9 Stephan Gregoire to pits, leaking oil. 1:00 p.m. -- YELLOW, #14 Hamilton cut tire, returned to pits. 1:02 p.m. -- #10 Murphey coasted to pits, engine cowl removed, leaking fluid. "I pitched a belt and lost oil pressure on my warmup lap," Murphey said. "I'm going to listen as hard as I can to what the veterans have to say (for the race) and take it real easy at the beginning." 1:10 p.m. -- #16 Johnny Parsons, #99 Billy Boat are only cars not on pit road. #16 Parsons had transmission problem, #99 Boat not cleared to drive. 1:10 p.m. -- GREEN. 1:14 p.m. -- YELLOW, #96 Durant tow-in from Turn 1 after engine failure. 1:14 p.m. -- #3 Eddie Cheever turned fastest lap of session at 230.621 miles per hour. 1:16 p.m. -- #12 Buzz Calkins, pit fire, extinguished, water cleanup on pit road. 1:24 p.m. -- GREEN. 1:27 p.m. -- YELLOW, debris. 1:31 p.m. -- GREEN. 1:32 p.m. -- #20 Tony Stewart turned fastest lap of session at 231.273 miles per hour. 1:32 p.m. -- YELLOW, #64 Johnny Unser got low in Turn 4, did a half-spin 450 feet to hit the outside wall, slid along the wall for 390 feet, then slid 240 feet to the inside wall at the pit entrance. It was his second lap of the day and was traveling at 164 miles per hour in the Turn 4 time line. The car sustained left front suspension damage, a bent left rear wheel and nose-cone and front wing damage. Unser was examined at Hanna Medical Center, was found to have a bruised left foot and was cleared to drive. 1:43 p.m. -- GREEN. 1:49 p.m. -- YELLOW, rain.
A total of 23 minutes of green time were recorded during the session.
Team Menard's four cars in the field bore the inscription "For Scotty, we love ya!" on the left front corners.
The #7 Team Scandia machine of Eliseo Salazar replaced the #14 AJ Foyt Enterprises car of Davey Hamilton for the Coors Pit Stop Challenge. Crew members of Salazar's car are: Fueler -- Sam Summers, Vent/air jack -- Luke Wethington, right front -- Dane Harte, Bob Kernodle, right rear, left rear -- Jack Pegues, left front -- Richie Simon.
At 7 a.m. Friday, A.J. Foyt will appear on ABC's "Good Morning America."
EDDIE CHEEVER (#3 Quaker State Menards Special): "We didn't need to run many laps today. The car setup is fine. Every lap you do here today is one less than you do in the race."
TONY STEWART (#20 Menards/Glidden/Quaker State Special): "Everything is right on schedule. Let's do it. Let's get it going."
ANDREAS LEBERLE (car owner, #64 Unser): "At moment, only minor damage was done to the left side of the car, the suspension and the bodywork. The important thing is that Johnny is okay and the spirits are still high for a good finish for the race."
BUZZ CALKINS (#12 Bradley Food Marts/Hoosier Lottery): "I think what has happened this month, when everyone was thinking the rookies will wreak havoc has not happened. This month, the rookies have shown just the opposite. To be true, there have been a few incidents, but nothing out of the ordinary." (About today's pit fire): "We just had a little methanol runoff that ignited. We did that today so it won't happen on Race Day." (About race strategy): "We'll follow the approach at Disney World. We wanted to do everything within making a mistake and it's the same here. It's important to not make mistakes on pit stops. This is the longest race I've ever run, but a lot of guys on my team have run 500 miles before, so I don't think that'll be a problem. As far as stamina goes, this race is mentally, rather than physically, challenging. For the first couple of laps, I'll just try to stay out of trouble."
RICHIE HEARN (#4 Della Penna Motorsports Ralph's Food 4 Less Fuji Film): "I'll be very cautious in the race...at least for the first couple of laps. I want to win and to be there at the end of the race, not the beginning." (About the drivers meeting): "We need to be aware of turbulence in Turn 1, give yourself options out, keeping your distance from the car in front of you. It's 500 miles. Take the race one segment at a time. Get your car set so you can sprint the last 50 miles." (About his experience at distance): "If you took Orlando and Phoenix and put them together, you would not have 500 miles. The whole race will be a steep learning curve for me. Phoenix was the longest race I ever ran. Physically, I can handle this one, but mentally, I've never dealt with that distance before. That will be a concern not only for myself, but other rookies as well. Once I get in the car on Race Day, I'll be okay. But the time from when I get up till the time I get in the car will be the toughest. I've been told that Race Day is totally different than everything you've experienced before. You have to throw all your other practice out the window on Race Day." (About the crowd): "Today, it was neat to be able to walk down pit lane with all the people calling your name. They were there, even though they knew it was going to rain."
RICK NEUHEISEL (University of Colorado football coach who will work in Buzz Calkins' pit, about pit fire today): "I was convinced it was my fault, and said, 'what have I done?' Two minutes before this incident occurred, a crew guy asked me, 'do you know what to do when there's a methanol fire?' He said, 'throw water on it.' So when they started yelling fire, I thought they were testing me. I picked up a bucket to douse the fire and the two guys in front of me took it and threw it on Buzz."
JOE GOSEK (#43 Scandia/Fanatics Only/Xcel): "I'm counting on my 15 years of experience to help me here. The situations I've experienced in racing before are very similar. You just have to listen to the people on the team to tell you what you should or shouldn't be doing and try to bring the race home. The longest race I've run has been a supermodified, 200 laps on a 5/8ths mile oval with no pit stops. As far as physical shape, I'm not 19 like Michel but I work out four times a week and enjoy the longer races. A year ago, I never anticipated this opportunity. IRL created it for all of us. With the whole scheme of the CART series, I had no hope of running here before. I'm just thankful to the IRL for making this possible for all of us."
MICHELE ALBORETO (#33 Rio Hotel & Casino/Perry Ellis/Royal Purple): (About difference between F-1 and here): "In Indy the drivers are closer to the public. There is much more contact with the people. The atmosphere has been building up all month. It's exciting. In F-1, you spent your time in the garage and then left the race in a helicopter. Here, it's very different." (About getting information on running here): "At the beginning of the month, the exchange of information is very important, especially on our team. We are like family. We share everything with each other. There are no secrets. In motor racing, in general, the more information you get, the better. There are a lot of legends about the turbulence on Race Day. The experience of veteran drivers is very helpful. We need to listen to them and be ready in the race to encounter any problems we face."
JOHNNY UNSER (#64 Ruger-Titanium/Project Indy/Reynard): "I saw some guys coming from behind me and I guess I got too low and pinched it."
ELISEO SALAZAR (#7 Cristal/Copec Mobil): (about the amount of practice time) "I would have liked to do a few more laps today, but we feel pretty comfortable at this time, regardless whether the rain stops or not." (about his chances in the pit stop competition) "I came here to win everything. We just won the best looking transporter. We'll win the pit stop and we want
to win the race. We want to win it all." (Compare IRL with Formula One) "If you're not in one of the top two or three teams, you have absolutely no chance. The best thing about Indy is that you're all on the same level. IRL is trying to make it more even." (About what the veterans on Team Scandia shared with the rookies on Team Scandia) "We told them not to beat us. We're the veterans." (About traffic on race day) "It's like the new movie 'Twister' -- and that's what it's like -- a small tornado when you're in the middle of the pack." (Coming back from the accident and being on the front row) "It was really emotional. Three months ago, I couldn't even get out of bed. I'm really proud, very sincerely, with what we've accomplished with all that's happened. I'm in the best place on the front row. Tony's (Stewart) position is a little tight. If I had my choice, I would choose to be where I am. There's a lot of pressure. It's difficult. But I feel I really have a chance. I feel it will be the fastest race ever." (About concerns about the rookies) "There are 11 drivers from last year. Others, like Michele Alboreto, have experienced in other fields, like Formula One. So you do have people with a lot of experience. I think it will be okay."
MICHEL JOURDAIN, Jr. (#22 Herdez Quaker State/Viva Mexico!): (about practice today) "We are just stopping now because it is starting to rain, but we feel very good about the race, and are ready to run now."
DAVY JONES (#70 Delco Electronics High Tech Team Galles): ( about practice today) "Trying to get everything settled down. We had a little smoke. It was just a little bit of a water leak. We went back out and everything is ok. Didn't want to put too many laps on it (car), but you want to get a feel for what race day is going to be like."
ARIE LUYENDYK (#5 Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria/Bryant Heating & Cooling): (about practice today): "Never got a hot lap in. I didn't get a clean lap with all the yellows. We never got to run the car the way we wanted to. Car feels good. We did what we wanted to do and parked it. Everything checked out fine. We weren't looking for speed today." (re: competition) "It is a different year with the other guys in Michigan. We have lot of quality people from sprints, midgets and other forms of racing just not a lot of Indy experience. We talked to the rookies - maybe too much. It might come back and bite us on race day". (being the favorites race day) "It's a nice place to be, and not to get complacent like we did on pole day. It's good to be in this position. We want to win Indianapolis. That is our goal." (re: competitive and winning Sunday) "It will mean the same to me. You will see a good race on Sunday. A lot will be here to witness it - some won't. I have been competitive since I got good equipment. If you can win it (Indy 500) once you should be blessed. Team Menard is going to be a factor. There is a lot of experience in that team. I think Buzz Calkins is going to be a dark horse. There's Richie Hearn, Roberto Guerrero, Davy Jones has a lot of experience. Scandia team and Mike Groff all have been around. There is going to be a lot of competition. It's going to surprise people how competitive and interesting it's (race) is going to be."
ALESSANDRO ZAMPEDRI (#8 Mi-Jack/AGIP/Xcel): (About the concerns that have been raised regarding the danger of less-experienced drivers) "We have some pretty good equipment and some very experienced drivers and some drivers without as much experience. The USAC people went over a lot with them. I don't see a lot of very huge problems and I think it's going to be a very good race."
ANDY EVANS (Team Scandia owner): (How rough is it to field this many cars?) "This is the same pace we've run since Team Scandia got into racing...Everybody was running one car when we were in Camel Lights and we were running two cars, with two back-ups, so we were running four cars then, when everyone else was running only one." (About the IRL/CART break) "I look at the paradigm shift that's occurring between IRL and CART as an opportunity. It allows us to field all the cars we've acquired over the past few years. We went through 19 engines in May and thank God it rained so much this month because that's all I own is 19 engines. That allowed us to field seven cars. A paradigm shift is when there's a major change in society or a community or the world at large. When we had radio, everybody was glued to the radio. When we experienced the evolution of television, there were a lot of doubters. And now, how can anybody not see how important television is? People have said, 'How can we live without CART, without the 'real' racers and the 'real' stars? That's nonsensical. Everybody here -- they are the real racers. These people are taking advantage of the changes. Both series will do their best to make a better product. The competition will improve the product. The fans will get a better product." (About the concern some have voiced about dangers of non-experienced drivers) "I'd say 85-90 percent of the drivers are very good race drivers. It's a discipline and these guys are very disciplined." (About Salazar's return after the crash in Orlando) "Eliseo is very much the comeback kid for this race. Every step of the way, Eliseo has been a champion."
MICHEL JOURDAIN, Jr. (#22 Herdez Quaker State/Viva Mexico!): (About Team Scandia rookies): "One thing we have in common is that racing is our lives. It doesn't matter where you come from. You all want to win. We are all rookies, but we all want to have a safe race and all want to finish the race." (About being at Indy): "This was the biggest dream of my life, to be here. I came here in 1991 to watch my uncle (Bernard) and hoped I could be here, but I didn't think it would be so soon."
RACIN GARDNER (#90 Team Scandia/Slick Gardner Enterprises): (About drivers meeting): "To watch mirrors and ahead of you through the corners. To race at your own pace and don't try to win in the first couple laps." (About speeds at Indy): "It seems like I'm going faster here. Bonneville doesn't have anything to judge by. Here, you have other cars to judge by." (About his thoughts of running Indy a year ago): "A year ago, no. But the IRL got started, then we tried to get a ride in Orlando but didn't get a chance. We had a motor problem in Phoenix. As soon as we signed with Team Scandia, I knew I had a pretty good chance." (About where he was Race Day last year): "I watched it from my house."
At 3:50 p.m., Robert L. Ward, chief deputy coroner for the Marion County Coroner's office issued a statement saying race driver Scott Brayton died of a basal skull fracture. The statement was released at the Speedway by Dr. Henry Bock, Speedway medical director.
Truckers Toy Store "Race Transporter" Awards were announced today in the Trackside Conference Room. Team Scandia's Cristal transporter won the $2,500 most attractive tractor/trailer combination award. AJ Foyt Enterprises won the $1,250 most attractive tractor award. Team Menard took the $1,250 most attractive trailer award.
FERMIN VELEZ (#34 Scandia/Xcel/Royal Purple): "You must find a proper race pace, perhaps 90 percent. You must carefully pick your opportunities. If you are not 100 percent sure, you should wait. This race is won in the last half-hour." (Advice from drivers meeting): "They told us that because of the crowd, the track will look narrower. The first two laps will be bad. The air will be very turbulent."
DAVEY HAMILTON (#14 AJ Foyt Copenhagen Racing): "I've had a lot of advice, especially this morning during the drivers meeting from Arie (Luyendyk) and Eddie (Cheever). They talked us through some starts but I listen to A.J. over anyone. He's had the most experience here. Anytime there's 17 rookies in the Indianapolis 500, there's cause for concern. But these drivers have been champions in other forms of racing. As opposed to the past, when you had rookies without other race experience. They showed us a film from 1990 of a race start, where the drivers were so close you couldn't see any distance between them. That asn't good. You need to be patient. This race is not won on the first lap."
MARCO GRECO (#41 AJ Foyt Enterprises): "I feel really great to be working with A.J. and his guys. The team has been very helpful. No one has ever given me this opportunity before. I'm very happy with the way it's been going. A.J. has proved he is a real champion here and whatever he says, he has a reason for it."
SCOTT SHARP (#11 Conseco AJ Foyt Racing): "Overall, we're really pleased with how this month has gone. We were here for testing before the month started and when we rolled off the trailer for May, we were fast from the start. On the Friday prior to qualifying, we ran 235 and felt confident we could be a fast first-day qualifier. But unfortunately, we blew the engine so we had to qualify on the second day. I said earlier this week that if you have A.J. in your pit, you don't need anyone else."
The track went green again at 5:51 pm and closed at 6:15. Eight drivers complete another 66 laps.