Sharp Beats the Gun, Makes the Show; Wheldon Qualifies 18th at Indy; Sharp Gets Bumped From Field Late, Makes Dramatic Last-Gasp Run to Make Indy Field INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 10, 2009) -- After crashes put a damper on the qualification efforts...
Sharp Beats the Gun, Makes the Show; Wheldon Qualifies 18th at Indy; Sharp Gets Bumped From Field Late, Makes Dramatic Last-Gasp Run to Make Indy Field
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 10, 2009) -- After crashes put a damper on the qualification efforts of both Panther Racing drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Sharp, the team's Indianapolis 500 duo bounced back during qualifications on Sunday to make the show for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Wheldon qualified early in the afternoon and will start in the 18th position, and Sharp will be just two spots behind in 20th, but his path to making the field for the race was much more dramatic.
With the clock winding down on the day, Sharp was without a spot in the field and sitting in the IndyCar Series tech line with a line of cars in front of him.
Earlier, he had made one qualification run -- which the team withdrew -- then made a second attempt and qualified with a four-lap average of 221.333 mph, but was bumped out of the field by A.J. Foyt IV with only 10 minutes left in the day. His No. 16 Tequila Patron car was pushed into the tech line, but there was a line of cars between Sharp and his final chance to become one of the 22 cars that would be locked into the field. But, with limited time remaining, several cars pulled out of line and Sharp was able to begin his run as the gun sounded to conclude the day.
His four laps of 222.165, 222.245, 222.127 and 222.111 mph were his quickest of the day and enough to bump E.J. Viso from the field and secure a spot for Sharp's No. 16 car in the Indianapolis 500 field.
The National Guard team secured a spot in the field much earlier in the day, when Wheldon qualified with a combined four-lap average of 222.777 mph, which consisted of laps of 223.253, 222.851, 222.694 and 222.311 mph.
There will be no track activity until next Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda
"We've got to just focus and work on our race setup now in the National Guard Panther Racing car. If you're going to win this race, you have to make sure you've got a really good balance in the racecar and we're going to work to make sure we get that. That's what this month is all about, it's very challenging and you're going to have your highs and lows, and this team is certainly good enough to figure it out. It just hasn't gone our way so far, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to go our way by any stretch."
Scott Sharp, No. 16 Tequila Patron Dallara Honda:
"I honestly never thought I'd be so happy to qualify 20th in my life. At the last bit I really thought we were done. Today we were chasing speed and we kept pulling wing out of the car but still couldn't find the time we needed. At the end of the day we laid the wing down some more and pulled up in the tech line. Then I was sitting in the tech line thinking, 'Wow -- this isn't going to happen. I've got to rent a plane, run in Utah on Friday, come back and qualify here on Saturday, back to Salt Lake to race on Sunday.' It was all going through my head then the two guys in front pulled out and it was 'let's go' and I held it down and got in the show. Once I pulled onto the track my mind was probably the clearest it's ever been. I just had to hold it down, hit my marks and see what we ended up with. I can't say enough about the Panther guys who did an amazing job in turning the car around and getting us back on track. A couple guys pulled all-nighters to make it happen on Thursday and I really can't thank them enough."