IRL: Indy500: Schroeder pre-race notes

* Making the field was a major accomplishment for the team because Schroeder (SHRAY-der) was one of the 11 drivers caught up in the big crash at Atlanta on April 28, only seven days before the first day of practice at Indy on May 6. Two...

* Making the field was a major accomplishment for the team because Schroeder (SHRAY-der) was one of the 11 drivers caught up in the big crash at Atlanta on April 28, only seven days before the first day of practice at Indy on May 6.

Two cars on fire flew over Schroeder's head in that accident. He escaped injury but his trademark, his colorful helmet, was black from soot and burned oil.

He said that in the middle of that crash all he saw was fire, and when the cars were flying over him all he could do was duck.

The car was too damaged to bring to Indy, so PDM had to use their insurance, pay the deductible and get a new car for Indy. When it arrived the team worked night and day to prep it.

Schroeder finally got some practice in early in the month, but then he crashed hard in turn two here on Thursday afternoon, May 10. The cause of that crash will probably never been known. Schroeder said it just snapped into the wall with no warning; everything had been fine before that, and that lap was going to be a "flyer" lap.

He suffered a bruised back in that accident. Even worst was the new car was now badly damaged, and the team couldn't really afford it in the first place.

Somehow they obtained another car, which is the 9T that Schroeder qualified in and will run in the 500 tomorrow. The PDM crew had to work night and day to get IT ready, right after they had worked night and day to get the now-wrecked car ready.

The car he qualified was dubbed the "Duct Tape Special' because of the way it looked when it made the show. It was primer white in the qualifying photo. Since then it's been painted blue and silver. All that happened so late that even the starting line-up photos in the program will show the white car, not the blue and silver paint job.

* Schroeder only got a few laps in during Carb Day on Thursday because the car developed gearbox problems. He was philosophical about that, noting that he'd rather have that happen on Carb Day than on race day.

* Schroeder is making his third start at Indy with his third different team. He is the perfect type of driver to do well in this race because he's steady and he's patient. All he needs is more sponsors and better luck!

In his two previous Indy 500s he was poised for a top-10 finish late in the race until something happened to the car.

In 1999 he ran with Cobb Racing. He qualified 21st. Even as a rookie he showed his great consistency, as he was the fastest rookie in ROP that year and he was the rookie who posted the most consistent laps in qualifying. He was eighth in his first 500 with only 25 laps to go, ready to make his charge, when his Infiniti engine blew and he finished 15th.

In 2000 he ran with Tri Star Motorsports. He started 29th. He ran most of race with a bent suspension piece but still finished 14th.

This year he's running with PDM Racing. The car just wasn't running fast enough on Pole Day to qualify then (Schroeder said something was out of balance in the rear of the car), but on Sunday morning the crew had that problem solved and he was running in the 220s again.

He qualified 23rd at 222.786 mph on the second day of time trials. If he had qualified on Pole Day, he would be starting nine places higher, in 14th spot, between point leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Robby McGehee.

* Last year Schroeder led the IRL Rookie of the Year standings almost all season long. He lost the rookie award to Airton Dare at the season finale in Texas by only six points when his car developed alternator problems.

* He only had two DNFs all year in 2000. His best finish last year was fourth at Vegas.

* Prior to becoming an IRL driver Schroeder was a star of the Toyota Atlantic series. In 1996 his teammate was Patrick Carpentier, and in 1997 he was the lead driver for PPI's new Formula Atlantic team.

* He was the national champion of the ultra-competitive U.S. Formula 2000 series in 1995.

* He is the only resident of New Jersey to compete in the Indy 500 in almost 20 years. (He became the first resident of New Jersey to make the field for the Indy 500 in 16 years when he qualified for the 1999 Indy 500. The Jersey driver before that was Steve Krisiloff.)

He is the only regular Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver from the Northeast. (Scott Sharp hasn't lived in Connecticut for years; Schroeder really does live in New Jersey. Michael Andretti from Pennsylvania is not an IRL regular.)

* Schroeder competes in selected Grand-American Road Racing Association events with an independent (non-factory) team, Tom Volk's Supreme Exhaust System Products/Racer Parts Wholesale #95. That car, a Riley & Scott Chevy, runs in the top class, Sports Racing Prototype. Schroeder posted that team's best qualifying run at the Rolex 24 in February when he put the car ninth on the grid. Jeret says that running in endurance sports car events has helped teach him patience, which is what the Indy 500 is really all about.

* Local pronunciation of Schroeder's hometown, Vineland, N.J, is VINE-lan, not Vine Land. A famous track, the now-defunct Vineland Speedway, used to be located there. Today Schroeder off-roads around the abandoned track for fun and to keep his skills sharp using his truck or his new Honda Odyessy.

-LM

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