INDIANAPOLIS, May 13 - Saying the difference in his car between Saturday and Sunday was "like night and day," Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., posted a solid qualifying run early Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to earn a...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 13 - Saying the difference in his car between Saturday and Sunday was "like night and day," Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., posted a solid qualifying run early Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to earn a starting position in the 85th annual Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
Behind the wheel of PDM Racing's Purity Products/Summit Packaging/Graph to Graphics Dallara Oldsmobile #9T, Schroeder clicked off four laps at an average of 223.224 mph, 223.503 mph, 222.667 mph and 221.756 mph to qualify 28th on the provisional grid at a combined average speed of 222.786 mph. His actual qualifying position won't be determined until the final gun sounds at the end of "Bump Day" next Sunday, but all indications are that performance should easily hold up for one of the 33 starting positions in the world's largest single-day sporting event. (The fastest 33 qualifiers start the race, regardless of which day they qualify.)
Had Schroeder been able to qualify on Saturday instead of Sunday, his run would have earned him the 14th starting spot in the middle of row five with point leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Robby McGehee.
Schroeder did not attempt to qualify on Saturday because his best speed that day was only a 219.434-mph lap. Both he and his team were convinced they could run faster on Sunday.
The team has overcome huge challenges in the last two weeks.
On April 27 Schroeder was one of 11 drivers involved in a fiery crash during the Indy Racing event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Schroeder wasn't injured but his car was damaged extensively.
A new Dallara was delivered to PDM Racing's shops early last week and the team worked around the clock to get it ready for competition.
If that wasn't enough of a challenge, Schroeder crashed hard in turn two during practice here at Indy on Thursday. He bruised his back in that accident, but did not require medical treatment.
His car wasn't so lucky. Once again another Dallara was delivered and the PDM Racing crew went to work.
"We couldn't really afford the second car, so having to get a third car [the second in a week] was a real set-back," Schroeder said. "We need additional sponsorship very badly."
"We went from being one of Dallara's worst customers to out-spending Penske in one week," quipped car owner Paul Diatlovich.
In an incredible performance, the team had that car on the track for a shake-down run late Friday afternoon. On Saturday, MBNA Pole Day, they were still chasing a good set-up, but the changes they made for the Sunday morning practice session worked. Schroeder was sixth-fastest in the morning practice session with an average speed of 222.327 mph, and a few hours later he was able to go even faster during his qualifying run.
"It's been very frustrating as a driver," Schroeder said during his post-qualifications press conference. "We missed some days of practice while we were getting the new car ready. I started at 219 and I thought we were off to a great start, but then we made some changes and went backwards. Then we had the big accident and had to get a second car in a week. In addition to the financial set-back, it made it difficult to focus and concentrate. But the PDM Racing crew never gave up, and today they gave me a car that was capable of 222. I finally had a car with good balance and that felt comfortable so that I could attack the corners and stand on it.
"I knew it was a solid, safe car," Schroeder added. "When I saw the 223 on the dash at the end of the first lap I knew it was accurate. There was a little bit of push but nothing significant. I knew we would be OK, so I just thought of Mom sitting on pit lane, enjoying her Mothers' Day present.
"This will be my fourth race with PDM, and every time they said they'd give me a good car, they have," Schroeder added. "I want to thank our sponsors, Purity Products, Summit Packaging and Graph to Graphics, and hopefully all of the other ones we're going to pick up after this.
"This is Indy and anything could happen," Schroeder concluded. "I don't know if our spot is guaranteed, but 222.7 should be a strong, good speed that will hold up fine."
"Jeret is no stranger to PDM Racing; we were excited to get him in the car this year," Diatlovich said. "We know that if we can put a car under him, he will get the job done. Our crew worked around the clock several times because this is Indy and we have faith in Jeret. There are higher-budgeted teams out there, but there is not a better team out there than PDM Racing.
"Coming into his press conference, I told Jeret he was just a sand-bagger," Diatlovich added with a grin.
"We're very proud of Jeret," he added. "He's a super talent. We had a solid qualifying run but just wait until the race. We want to see this out."
Schroeder said the conditions on Sunday were ideal.
"The conditions today were the best I've seen all week and really that I've seen in past years here," he said. "There is no wind and the temperatures are optimal."