IRL: INDY 500 Practice Report 2001 May 19

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Indianapolis, IN (May 19, 2001) - Raul Boesel and Billy Boat, two drivers yet to qualify for the race, were atop the speed charts today, with Boesel's average of 222.547 mph leading the way. Boat, just a tick...

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Indianapolis, IN (May 19, 2001) - Raul Boesel and Billy Boat, two drivers yet to qualify for the race, were atop the speed charts today, with Boesel's average of 222.547 mph leading the way. Boat, just a tick slower at 222.177 mph, expects to be one of the first cars to make a qualifying attempt tomorrow afternoon.

"Right now, we're planning to go right away before the track and temperatures start to heat up," said Boat. "The key for us and our strategy is to put it in early because once you get to that 4:30, 5 o'clock hour there are so many things that can happen."

Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish were third and fourth fastest on the day. Sharp's best lap was three one-hundredths of a second faster than Hornish's best. Both drivers worked on a race day setup.

"We just went out and worked on race setup, then did some pit-stop practice," said Hornish, who completed 103 laps today. "We won't go out on Carb Day much. I think we're in good shape."

A pair of A.J. Foyt No. 14 cars were fifth and sixth fastest today, with Donnie Beechler setting the pace over teammate Eliseo Salazar. Beechler best lap, 221.032 mph, was just slightly faster than Salazar's 220.410 mph.

Beechler won't get an opportunity to qualify until Salazar, currently second in Indy Racing Northern Light Series points, is safely in the race.

"We're playing the waiting game right now," said Beechler. "Eliseo will have to have four good laps and make the race and then I will get a shot at it. I just hope to get the opportunity."

Salazar is confident that he'll make the show. "We tried to run in the heat of the day and were able to do 220s (mph) in the Harrah's No. 14 car," said Salazar. "With new tires, a better engine and qualifying trim, we should pick up a couple of miles an hour. It's very nerve-wracking until we get in the show. I am confident, but we're not out of the woods yet."

Scott Goodyear was seventh today, followed by Davey Hamilton and Buddy Lazier in ninth. Mark Dismore rounded out the top-ten.

Stan Wattles withdrew from the event today. Wattles was entered in the No. 94 Hemelgarn entry and had attained a top speed 222.683 mph on May 13. A practice crash on May 11 and another crash during the second day of qualifying made Wattles reconsider his participation in the race.

"After two accidents during the month, I've decided not to compete at Indy," said Wattles. "The car just didn't feel right. It was extremely unstable even with a lot of downforce and new tires. The front end felt strange through the corners and down the straightaway, and that's something that doesn't need to be explored the day before 'Bubble Day'.

"This is the most difficult decision that I've had to make in my racing career. After all, this is the Indy 500."

Jim Guthrie is another driver who won't be making the field for this year's 500. Guthrie's hopes and dreams of making the race ended when his No. 27 Blueprint G Force crashed in turn four today.

"Done," said Guthrie, when asked about his prospects for making the race. "The sponsorship potential is gone. We had to be in the show. We're only about $100,000 upside down and a totaled car."

Tomorrow is the last day of qualifying for the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500. While Boat and Salazar are expected to make qualifying attempts early in the day, there are still several drivers walking the garage area in search of a ride.

Richie Hearn, P.J. Jones, and Alex Barron, all ex-CART drivers, have been in and out of garages for the past two weeks. Ron Hemelgarn has a car awaiting a driver, as does Derrick Walker. Kelley Racing has a third car available, but it's for sale.

Stay tuned for the drama of Bump Day at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Billy Boat summed it up, saying, "I don't think there's any way you are going to avoid the drama, you just don't want to be part of it."

Notes:

Susan Wagener of Bloomington, Ind. won Oldsmobile's "Pace the Race" contest. Wagener will drive a 2002 Bravada Official Pace Vehicle before the start of race on Sunday, May 27. She will drive a ceremonial pace lap, leading a parade of historic Oldsmobile pace cars as Oldsmobile celebrates 11th appearance as the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500.

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A total of 71 cars are now at the Speedway. Sixty-nine cars have passed technical inspection. Forty-seven drivers have been on track to date.

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Ronnie Mund, also known as "Ronnie the Limo Driver" on Howard Stern's radio and television show, waved the green flag for today's practice session. Mund will spend time at the Speedway interviewing drivers for a segment on Stern's show.

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Stephan Gregoire has left Dick Simon Racing, joining Heritage Motorsports as teammate to Jeff Ward. Gregoire turned 12 laps in the No. 35 car today with his best lap at 217.796 mph.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Raul Boesel , Donnie Beechler , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , P.J. Jones , Stan Wattles , Dick Simon , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornis