OLDSMOBILE WINS THIRD STRAIGHT INDY 500 POLE
IRL Aurora V8 Sweeps First Five Rows, Powers 30 of 33 Qualifiers in First-Day Qualifying for Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS - For the third consecutive year, Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 powered the polewinner for the Indianapolis 500, the crown jewel of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League series. Arie Luyendyk will start his "Final 500" from the pole position after qualifying Treadway Racing's Oldsmobile G-Force at the head of the pack with a four-lap average speed of 225.179 mph. Luyendyk, 45, of Scottsdale, Ariz., extended the IRL Aurora V8's perfect qualifying record to 22 consecutive poles since the IRL introduced its 4.0-liter engine formula in January 1997. Thirty of the 33 first-day qualifiers - including the 15 fastest drivers - used Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 racing engine, which is based on the design of the production 32-valve DOHC Aurora V8 that powers Oldsmobile's flagship sedan. Greg Ray will start from the middle of the front row for the second straight year after qualifying Team Menard's Oldsmobile Dallara at 225.073 mph. Billy Boat, polesitter in last year's Indy 500, captured the outside front row starting spot with a 223.469 mph run in A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile Dallara after rebounding from a crash on his first qualifying attempt. "When I had completed the run, I was really moved by the enthusiastic crowd all around the track," said Luyendyk, who will retire from open-wheel racing after the Indy 500. "Coming into the pits, all of the crews were waving and clapping. I will always remember this day. It could only be topped by coming into Victory Lane." Luyendyk set the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one-lap record for naturally aspirated IRL cars at 225.643 mph en route to his third career Indy 500 pole. In 1997, Arie put Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 on the pole in the engine's first race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, and then went on to win his second Indy 500 title with Oldsmobile power. He notched his first Indy 500 win in 1990 with a Chevy Indy V8. Arie's record-setting IRL Aurora V8 was prepared by Comptech Machine of Eldorado Hills, Calif. "So far this year, we've had good luck with our engines," reported car owner Fred Treadway. "We're not doing anything fancy with them - they're just standard Oldsmobile engines. "I do think we had a qualifying engine in today, though," Treadway added with a wink. "It's a lot of pressure to build an engine for Arie in his last race, but it's been fun because he's great to work with," noted Doug Peterson, co-owner of Comptech Machine. "Building an engine for the Indy 500 is a real challenge because the race is like a 3 1/2 hour full-throttle dyno run. Fortunately, we've run six Oldsmobile engines in practice this week with 570 to 590 miles on them. We sent a couple of them back to the shop and pulled them apart because they're being rebuilt as race spares. They all looked good - knock on wood!" After earning a front-row starting spot in last year's Indy 500 on a shoestring budget, this time Greg Ray enjoyed the perks that come with driving for the Team Menard powerhouse. After running fast times throughout practice with three different cars, Ray had to make a last-minute mental adjustment before his qualifying run. "I was prepared to drive one of the other cars, but it didn't go through tech," Ray reported. "All of our cars are set up differently. We've been fast with all of them, but they take a different driving style. When we had to switch, cars, I was a little concerned. You have half a lap to get a taste for the car before you have to stand on it. That's a little nerve-wracking. "I drove all four laps exactly the same - flat out," Ray asserted. "Going into the last lap, my crew chief Tom Knapp told me on the radio that we needed a little more. I said, 'That's all there is.'" Ray also eclipsed the previous new-formula IRL qualifying record using an Oldsmobile motor from Team Menard's well-stocked engine arsenal. "It would mean everything to have one of my motors win this race," said Butch Meyer, head of Menard's in-house engine department. "My Dad built engines that won this race 15 times, and my grandfather won the Indy 500 three times. If a driver stays off the rev limiter, he should be there at the finish, because these motors are very reliable." 1998 polesitter Billy Boat risked the wrath of car owner A.J. Foyt when he made contact with the wall for the third time this week before he secured a starting spot on the outside of the front row. "I hate to crash," Boat declared. "It costs the car owner money and you take a chance of busting your own behind. After three incidents, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, 'What's going on here?' The team said, 'Don't worry about it. We'll just put the car back together and go get 'em.' Never once did A.J. say anything negative to me. "Roush did a great job with our engines," Boat noted. "We just stuck with it and Oldsmobile carried me to the front row." A record 49 cars made qualifying attempts after the start of qualifying was delayed one hour due to wet track conditions. The average speed for the 33 first-day qualifiers was 221.422 mph - a 3.117 mph increase over last year's starting field. "With our continuing engine development program, we've seen an increase of approximately 20 horsepower over last year's engine specification," commented GM Motorsports engineer Ed Keating. "A one mph improvement in lap speed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway requires about nine more horsepower, so the increase in speed is consistent with that power gain, along with advances in tires and chassis." Qualifying for the 33-car field will be completed on "Bubble Day," Sunday, May 23. The 83rd Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. local time (12:00 noon EDT) on Sunday, May 30. The race will be televised live by ABC Sports and broadcast on the IRL Radio Network.
INDIANAPOLIS 500 FIRST-DAY QUALIFIERS Driver Entrant Engine Speed Row 1 Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing Oldsmobile 225.179 mph* Greg Ray Team Menard Oldsmobile 225.073 Billy Boat A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile 223.469 Row 2 Robby Gordon Team Menard Oldsmobile 223.066 Mark Dismore Kelley Racing Oldsmobile 222.963 Scott Sharp Kelley Racing Oldsmobile 222.771 Row 3 Sam Schmidt Treadway Racing Oldsmobile 222.734 Kenny Brack A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile 222.659 Scott Goodyear Panther Racing Oldsmobile 222.387 Row 4 Hideshi Matsuda Beck Motorsports Oldsmobile 222.065 Davey Hamilton Galles Racing Oldsmobile 221.866 John Hollansworth Team Xtreme Oldsmobile 221.698 Row 5 Steve Knapp ISM Racing Oldsmobile 221.502 Jeff Ward Pagan Racing Oldsmobile 221.363 Tyce Carlson Blueprint-Immke Oldsmobile 221.322 Row 6 Eddie Cheever Team Cheever Infiniti 221.315 Robby Unser Team Pelfrey Oldsmobile 221.304 Eliseo Salazar Neinhouse Motorsports Oldsmobile 221.265 Row 7 Donnie Beechler Cahill Racing Oldsmobile 221.228 Stan Wattles Metro Racing Systems Oldsmobile 220.833 Jeret Schroeder Cobb Racing Infiniti 220.747 Row 8 Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Oldsmobile 220.721 Roberto Moreno Team Truscelli Oldsmobile 220.705 Tony Stewart Tri Star Motorsports Oldsmobile 220.653 Row 9 Roberto Guerrero Cobb Racing Infiniti 220.479 Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports Oldsmobile 220.297 Robby McGehee Conti Racing Oldsmobile 220.139 Row 10 Jimmy Kite McCormack Motorsports Oldsmobile 220.097 Wim Eyckmans Team Cheever Oldsmobile 220.092 Scott Harrington Harrington Motrspts Oldsmobile 219.702 Row 11 Stephan Gregoire Dick Simon Racing Oldsmobile 219.423 Jacques Lazier DR/Lazier Racing Oldsmobile 219.165 Lyn St. James Team Pelfrey Oldsmobile 218.970
*Four-lap track record for new-formula IRL cars