Six of seven rookies make Indy 500 field

Six of seven rookies make Indy 500 field

The seven member freshman class of the 94th Indianapolis 500 represents six nations and wide variety of motorsport disciplines. Six of the seven rookies made successful four lap qualifying runs at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway,...

The seven member freshman class of the 94th Indianapolis 500 represents six nations and wide variety of motorsport disciplines. Six of the seven rookies made successful four lap qualifying runs at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, joining the field of 33 for the historic race.

Ana Beatriz, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing waits to qualify.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

Ana Beatriz, one of five female drivers competing in this year's Indianapolis 500, was the fastest rookie qualifier on Pole Day (224.243 mph) and will start 21st in the Dreyer and Reinbold Ipiranga No. 25. Beatriz comes to the IndyCar Series from the Indy Lights Series where she won two races driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Known as "Bia" in the garage area, Ana Beatriz Caselato Gomes de Figueiredo started in karting, progressing to the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2008 where she won at Nashville in her rookie season to become the first woman to win an Indy Lights event. She earned her second series victory at Iowa last year.

After qualifying on Saturday, Beatriz said, "I wouldn't imagine being the fast female, but what really catches me here is being the fastest rookie. I didn't really have much time to practice at all, but it paid off."

Beatriz has competed in one IndyCar Series race, starting 22nd and finishing 13th at the 2010 season opener in her native Brazil.

Mario Romancini holds the distinction of being the fastest rookie in the field after making three qualifying runs, two on Pole Day and one on Bump Day. Sitting on the bubble with 30 minutes left in the day, Romancini withdrew his speed from Saturday and made a second run which put him safely in the field with an outside ninth row starting position.

Romancini also graduated from the Indy Lights Series where he won two races in his 2009 rookie season. Romancini earned his first Indy Lights victory at Milwaukee in his first visit to the track. He also won at Homestead, finishing sixth in the championship standings.

Romancini, who is competing fulltime in the 2010 IndyCar Series driving the No. 34 Conquest Racing entry, will start 27th next Sunday.

Mario Romancini, Conquest Racing.
Photo by Indy Racing League.

Simona de Silvestro spent three years in the Atlantic Series before moving to the IndyCar Series fulltime in 2010. She became the first woman to win an Atlantic race when she won at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 2008. In 2009 she earned four Atlantic series victories and nearly won the series championship. De Silvestro was the second fastest rookie on Pole Day and will start her first Indy 500 from the inside of Row 8.

After seeing Mario Moraes crash, de Silvestro said she was a bit nervous about making her qualifying run but afterwards the young Swiss driver said, "We did pretty well.

I never thought in my dreams I would be a part of this. Being here right now is really special to me, and I'm really excited about it."

Hailing from Verviers, Belgium, Bertrand Baguette has been racing for 10 years. He started at age 14 in karting before progressing through several stages of Formula Renault. He joined Conquest Racing at Barber Motorsports Park this season where he finished 24th. The Indianapolis 500 will be his fourth IndyCar Series start.

Baguette said the track was slick on Saturday and was not happy with his run. "I was thinking we could go a lot quicker."

Baguette thought his speed would not hold up but his single run on Pole Day put him on the outside of the 8th row.

Takuma Sato is one of the most successful Japanese Formula One drivers in history, competing in over 90 grands prix starting with the Jordan team in 2002.

Takuma Sato, KV Racing Technology.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

After showing good speed through the first week of practice, Sato crashed during the morning practice session on Pole Day. He was taken to Methodist Hospital where x-rays were negative and he was cleared to drive when he returned the Speedway on Sunday.

His first qualifying run netted a four lap average of 221.622 mph and he was bumped by Jay Howard four runs later. Sato returned to the Speedway in the last 20 minutes of qualifying, bumping Howard out of the field with a speed of 224.178. Sato will start his first Indy 500 from the inside of the last row.

Columbian driver Sebastian Saavedra will start last in the field of 33 after a roller coaster ride of emotions saw the 19 year old bumped from the field three times. Saavedra, who spent three years in Formula BMW before earning the Rookie of the Year in the Indy Lights Series in 2009, is making his first IndyCar Series start driving for Bryan Herta Autosport.

Saavedra made one run on Pole Day, recording a qualifying speed of 222.452 mph. He made a second run on Bump Day, improving his speed to 223.634 mph.

With just over an hour left in qualifying, Saavedra was on track searching for more speed when he did a half-spin in Turn one and backed into the SAFER Barrier. He was taken to Methodist Hospital where x-rays were negative and he was later cleared to drive.

Although Saavedra would prove to be fine, his car was heavily damaged.

With 40 minutes remaining, Saavedra was bumped from the field by veteran driver Tony Kanaan.

Sebastian Saavedra, Bryan Herta Autosport.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

Saavedra was reinstated to the field when Romancini withdrew his speed only to be bumped again when Romancini improved his time.

Jay Howard withdrew his speed in an attempt to improve his position and failed, ultimately putting Saavedra, who was in hospital at the time, back in the field with a wrecked car.

Saavedra's team owner Bryan Herta said, "I can't say I've ever experienced the range of emotions in one week, let alone one day, that we have through this whole process."

Jay Howard, the seventh rookie in the 2010 freshman class, gambled and lost. It was a huge gamble for the Englishman and Sarah Fisher Racing but Howard will have another opportunity to earn Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year in the future.

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Series INDYCAR