Buddy Lazier Wins Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award Tire Maker Rewards Last Driver to Make It into Field of 33 SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 18, 2008) - The drama of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is always intense on the final day of qualifying.
Buddy Lazier Wins Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award
Tire Maker Rewards Last Driver to Make It into Field of 33
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 18, 2008) - The drama of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is always intense on the final day of qualifying. "Bump Day" is a ball of raw emotions as drivers push their equipment and themselves to the limits in order to make the [qual.jpg] field for the Indianapolis 500.
In a gesture to reward the determined teams vying for those final prized positions on the grid, Firestone Racing unveiled this year the "Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award." The $50,000 prize and etched glass trophy go to the last driver to qualify his or her way into the field. Not necessarily the driver who qualifies for the 33rd position, but the driver who posts the last successful qualifying attempt of the final day - no matter what the eventual grid position.
The winner of the first Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award is Buddy Lazier, driver of Hemelgarn/Johnson Racing entry #91. The 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner on Firestone tires put together his four fastest laps this month to qualify at 219.015 mph and secure the 32nd spot on the grid.
"This is fantastic," Lazier said of the award. "We certainly didn't do it on purpose, I'll tell you that. It's really the crew that won it. They're the ones who ripped all the downforce off and were able to counter balance the car (for the qualifying run) in about five minutes. That's pretty hard to do. The Firestone tires were awesome, just awesome, on the run. They were the only things holding me to the track, I'll guarantee you. It was so slippery, it was a wicked racetrack. I was very sideways at least two or three times a lap and the tires stuck for me."
Lazier and the Hemelgarn team are close friends of the Firestone family. They won Firestone's 49th Indianapo lis 500 in 1996 and teamed four years later to win the IndyCar Series championship with Firestone.
"The month of May is really three competitions wrapped into one," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing. "There was the competition for the pole last weekend and the race itself next weekend, but there is also the competition just to make it into the field. As is usual with bump day, today was loaded with drama, hard work and execution under extreme pressure. Instead of giving up when he was bumped out, Buddy and the Hemelgarn/Johnson crew went to work and made the improvements necessary to get back into the field for this great spectacle. Buddy won Firestone's first Indy 500 of our modern era and is a very fitting recipient of the $50,000 for the Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award."