Boat Takes Final Spot as 30 Oldsmobiles Qualify for Indy 500 Field INDIANAPOLIS, May 20, 2001 - One year ago, Billy Boat was the shooter; this year he was the target. Boat made last year's Indianapolis 500 field on a last-second qualifying run.
Boat Takes Final Spot as 30 Oldsmobiles Qualify for Indy 500 Field
INDIANAPOLIS, May 20, 2001 - One year ago, Billy Boat was the shooter; this year he was the target. Boat made last year's Indianapolis 500 field on a last-second qualifying run. This time he was the first driver out on the final day of qualifying in his Curb-Agajanian/Beck Motorsports Oldsmobile Dallara. He claimed the 33rd spot on the Indy 500 starting grid with a four-lap average of 221.528 mph - and then had to spend nearly six agonizing hours waiting to see if his time would withstand the repeated assaults of other drivers.
"Last year I was one of the guys taking shots, and we were able to get in," said Boat, who sat on the Indy 500 pole in 1998. "It's a lot harder when you're sitting here watching one guy after another take a shot at you. I've spent a week here in the last few hours."
The final day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 featured high drama and fast-paced deal-making. Cars, drivers and engines were in perpetual motion in Gasoline Alley as alliances formed and dissolved. When a gunshot signaled the end of qualifying at 6:00 p.m., Boat and five other drivers had earned starting spots for Sunday's 500-mile race: Donnie Beechler, (224.449 mph), Eliseo Salazar (223.740 mph), Stephan Gregoire (222.888 mph), Raul Boesel (221.879), and Cory Witherill (221.621 mph). Airton Dare was bumped from the field and then clawed his way back in with a 222.236 mph run. Drivers Roberto Guerrero, Tyce Carlson, Didier Andre, Shigeaki Hattori and Felipe Giaffone were bumped from the field.
All of the drivers who qualified on "Bump Day" used IRL Aurora V8 engines as Oldsmobile again dominated qualifying for the world's most famous auto race, powering 30 of the 33 qualifiers. Donnie Beechler posted the fifth fastest overall qualifying speed in A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile Dallara; his 224.449 mph ten-lap average would have put him on the second row on Pole Day.
"It was a combination of A.J.'s setup and Roush Oldsmobile horsepower," said Beechler. "The engine, the car, it all has to work together. If we were running for the pole, I would have kept my foot down and run as hard as I could. We were good enough to get in the show and put it in the garage safely."
The 30 Oldsmobile engines that qualified for the Indy 500 were prepared by eight independent engine builders. Comptech Machine was the power source for nine qualifiers, while Ilmor and Speedway Engine Development qualified five cars each. Team Menard Oldsmobiles powered four qualifiers and Roush Technologies put three cars in the Indy 500 field. RPM has two cars, while NAC Engines and VDS are represented by one car each.
"One of the fundamental strengths of GM's IRL program is the cooperation between the independent engine builders," noted Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "While they compete fiercely on the race track, but they work with GM Racing and each other to continuously improve the quality and reliability of the Oldsmobile engine package. This has certainly contributed to Oldsmobile's overwhelming success in the Indy 500."
The following is a list of independent builders and the IRL teams and drivers that qualified for the Indianapolis 500 with Oldsmobile engines: <pre> Comptech Machine, Eldorado Hills, Calif. Tony Stewart, Jimmy Vasser, Bruno Junqueira, and Nicolas Minassian, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Arie Luyendyk and Raul Boesel, Treadway-Hubbard Racing Buzz Calkins, Bradley Motorsports Robby McGehee, Cahill Racing Sarah Fisher, Walker Racing
Ilmor Engineering, Plymouth, Mich. Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore, Kelley Racing Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves, Marlboro Team Penske Davey Hamilton, Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Speedway Engine Development, Indianapolis Buddy Lazier, Hemelgarn Racing Sam Hornish Jr., Panther Racing Michael Andretti, Team Green Jeret Schroeder, PDM Racing Billy Boat, Curb-Agajanian/Beck Motorsports
Team Menard, Indianapolis Greg Ray, Team Menard Jeff Ward and Stephan Gregoire, Heritage Motorsports Cory Witherill, Indy Regency Racing
Roush Technologies, Livonia, Mich. Robby Gordon, Eliseo Salazar and Donnie Beechler, A.J. Foyt Ent.
RPM Engine Development, Tempe, Ariz. Airton Dare and Jaques Lazier, Team Xtreme
VDS Racing, Midland, Texas Al Unser Jr., Galles Racing
NAC Engines, Chicago Ridge, Ill. Jon Herb, Tri Star Motorsports
Oldsmobile Qualifying Quotes: </pre> Billy Boat, Curb-Agajanian/Beck Motorsports Oldsmobile Dallara, qualified 33rd at 221.528 mph: "That's pretty much all we had, so we're happy with the run. We would have liked to run faster obviously, but it was four good, consistent laps. I was flat-out all four laps, going 110 percent. My car was flawless and it stayed underneath me the whole time. I have to take my hat off to Speedway Engines, who builds our Oldsmobiles. They've done a fantastic job all month long and really supported us well."
Eliseo Salazar, A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile Dallara, qualified 28th at 223.740 mph: "Last year we did the single fastest qualifying lap and this year we had to sweat. This was the 21st century version of Chinese water torture. We knew we had the speed, it was just a matter of being patient. I won't lie; I was really worried because you never know what's going to happen here. I'm really relieved. Last week on the very last corner of the run we had a problem, so today I was counting the corners to the finish line. When I went through turn four I knew I had it. A.J. told me to slow down because he just wanted to run 222. I could have run 224s on every lap, but I was a bit spooked."
A.J. Foyt: "We got in trouble so I had to have a back-up on top of a back-up, and that's why we have three cars in the field. We had the cars slowed down; they could have run a lot faster. I've qualified four cars here before, but we came here to put two cars in the race. Now I've got one on the front row and one on the back row."
Donnie Beechler, A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile Dallara, qualified 27th at 224.449 mph: "I didn't even think I was going to have a ride here. I was looking around, seeing if I could find something. A.J. was kind enough to give me the opportunity. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be driving for him and have a car perform like my car did today. I just did my job out there. A.J. makes the cars so nice to drive; he gets you comfortable with the car. He's a bit gruff, but deep down he has a heart as big as Texas."
Raul Boesel, Treadway-Hubbard Racing Oldsmobile G-Force, qualified 31st at 221.879 mph: "I played it safe on my qualifying run because that was all we needed. I didn't even think I would be here a week ago. I was back in Brazil when I got a call from Treadway. To be a part of the Indianapolis 500 is very special. We had no problems, no close calls."
Cory Witherill, Indy Regency Racing Oldsmobile G-Force, qualified 32nd at 221.621 mph: "I'm new to the IRL series, so I had to learn the car and learn the track. Each day I went out we progressed. Today was the deadline. We had a new Menard Oldsmobile for qualifying; the power was just awesome. I noticed the difference the first time I ran with it. That helped a lot today. We made one minor setup change before the qualifying attempt and the speed jumped up to 222."
Stephan Gregoire, Heritage Motorsports Oldsmobile G-Force, qualified 29th at 222.888 mph: "I have been worried all month; was it the car, was it me? I'm back alive again because I was losing confidence in myself. I was not completely comfortable with the car on my first two attempts. We made a final adjustment on my third attempt, and that was it. (Crew chief) Mitch Davis has a lot of magic. When I saw 222 on my dashboard on the first lap, I said to myself, 'Keep doing it,' and that' s what I did. The Menard Oldsmobile is a good engine. The biggest difference I felt is the torque. If you lose rpm for any reason, if you lose your momentum or the car pushes, the Menard motor picks it back up. They do a great job for sure." <pre> Bump Day Qualifiers
Pos./Driver/Engine/Speed 27. Donnie Beechler, Oldsmobile, 224.449 mph 28. Eliseo Salazar, Oldsmobile, 223.740 29. Stephan Gregoire, Oldsmobile, 222.888 30. Airton Dare, Oldsmobile, 222.236 31. Raul Boesel, Oldsmobile, 221.879 32. Cory Witherill, Oldsmobile, 221.621 33. Billy Boat, Oldsmobile, 221.528
The track will be quiet for the next three days, and will reopen for two hours of final practice on Thursday, May 24. The 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 12:00 noon EDT (11:00 a.m. Indianapolis time) on Sunday, May 27. The 200-lap, 500-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.