SHARP QUALIFIES IN LAST MINUTE FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500 TO LOCK IN 22 STARTERS INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, May 10, 2009) - The third time was the charm for Scott Sharp. The 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion qualified for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 on his...
SHARP QUALIFIES IN LAST MINUTE FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500 TO LOCK IN 22 STARTERS
INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, May 10, 2009) - The third time was the charm for Scott Sharp.
The 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion qualified for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 on his final attempt of the day with a dramatic last-minute run that bumped E.J. Viso out of the provisional grid of 22 cars.
Sharp, who withdrew his first run and was bumped out of the field by A.J. Foyt IV with roughly 10 minutes to go, qualified 20th with a four-lap average of 222.162 mph in his No. 16 Tequila Patrón Panther Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Positions 11-22 were filled Sunday after starting spots 1-11 were filled Saturday.
2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos led the day's 11 qualifiers with a four-lap average of 223.429 mph in the No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon car to become the first Chase Rookie of the Year candidate to qualify for the May 24 race.
Paul Tracy (223.111 mph), Vitor Meira (223.054) and Justin Wilson (222.903 mph) make up Row 5, while Hideki Mutoh (222.805 mph), Ed Carpenter (222.780) and Dan Wheldon (222.777) make up the sixth row.
Foyt (222.805 mph), Sharp, Sarah Fisher (222.082 mph) and Davey Hamilton (221.956 mph) round out the day's qualifiers.
The final 11 spots of the 33-car field will be set on May 16 with Bump Day following on May 17.
Three drivers were involved in incidents during the day. Mike Conway, Alex Tagliani and John Andretti all encountered trouble in Turn 1. Tagliani and Andretti were uninjured while Conway was admitted to Methodist Hospital in good condition with bruised lungs.
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: In 1938, a pit wall was constructed to separate crews' work area from the pit area, thus providing a safer working environment for crews during track activity. In 1957, a second wall was added, separating pit lane from the racing surface.
Pole winner Helio Castroneves is celebrating his 34th birthday today. Other drivers celebrating birthdays this month are: A.J. Foyt IV (25 on May 25) and Dario Franchitti (36 on May 19).
Panther Racing has faced a busier-than-expected past two days in Gasoline Alley and at its shop in Indianapolis due to a crash Friday by Scott Sharp and a crash Saturday by Dan Wheldon. Panther team manager Chris Mower described Sunday morning the work the team needed to complete to repair both cars.
CHRIS MOWER: (On repairs to Scott Sharp's car): "The guys did an all-nighter the night before last (Friday night). Last night, we left here around 10 o'clock. The tub had to go to a local carbon shop, Aerodine, to be repaired. More or less the whole right-hand-side of the car has been replaced; the gearbox. The engine actually survived."
(On Dan Wheldon's car): "His damage (to his car) wasn't anywhere near as severe as the Scott Sharp crash, but it was heavy enough to where we had to change the engine, the gearbox and the left-hand rear corner. As a precaution, we also changed the right rear; more or less from the cockpit back on that car is all new parts."
(On whether the performance the cars will be hindered due to the accidents): "For sure, both cars should be able to perform to the level they were. Dan's car; we were maybe 15 minutes late (for a qualifying attempt on Pole Day). We got out before qualifying, but by that time, the line was just too long. We're hoping to be at the top of the (speed) sheets today."
(Was using a spare car considered for Scott Sharp?): "We have three cars between the two drivers. None of the crashes were severe enough to where we wanted to use the spare car. Once you start running a car, it has to be quite severe in order for you to go to a backup, in our opinion. You know what your comfort level is with the car you've got."
Indianapolis 500 Chase Rookies of the Year Jerry Sneva, Josele Garza and Steve Knapp met the media this morning in the Economaki Press Conference Room.
Sneva was Chase Rookie of the Year in 1977 after finishing 10th, Garza in 1981 after starting sixth and finishing 23rd and Knapp in 1998 after finishing third.
Sneva is retired and helps his son T.J. race Legends, Thunder Cars and Late Models at O'Reilly Raceway Park in nearby Clermont, Ind. He was in the tire business after racing.
Knapp currently works for his company, Elite Engines, which builds road-racing engines.
JERRY SNEVA: "We had seven rookies in 1977. The Rookie of the Year was something I didn't expect because Danny Ongais and Janet Guthrie were in the race. We finished 10th. It's something that my brother (1983 Indy 500 winner) Tom Sneva didn't win, so I went one-up on him for the only time."
(About racing at Indy in that era): "We didn't have engineers like they do now. You told the crew chief what the car was doing, and he would make some changes. It was easier to go slower, but going faster was real difficult. The real jump was getting the car to go from 184 mph to 186."
(Memorable incident): "Mike Mosley was my crew chief, and he told me to go flat out one day. I wanted him to change the tires, but he sent me out. I went through Turn 1 and Turn 2 and down the backstretch and thought that I'd better do what he told me. So I went into Turn 3 flat out, and spun into the infield grass and then back across the track. I got back to the pits, and he asked me, 'What did you do?' I told him, 'I did what you told me to do - I went flat out.' He (Mosley) changed the tires then."
JOSELE GARZA: "The Rookie of the Year award was something very meaningful for me. It was a great feather in my cap back then, and it opened up a lot of opportunities, even in Formula One. I went to Monaco that year and was even offered a Formula 3 ride because of it. Even today in some areas, it's still meaningful."
(About his life since racing): "I've gotten away from racing in the last several years, but before I retired from racing, I had Formula 2 and Formula 3 teams in Mexico. But then NASCAR Mexico had taken over, and I retired. I still go to the tracks once in a while. This is my second time back here (since his last race in 1987). I was here for only a couple qualifying days in 1996, I think."
(About his age when he was a rookie): "I think there was a mistake made on my age when I came here (in 1981). They had me listed as 21 or 22, and I was only 19. I'm not sure who made the mistake, but just in case, I still have my old ID."
(About the changes in racing since his driving career): "I think the biggest change in racing here is in the technology. With the telemetry, you can't lie to the engineers anymore. You tell them you're flat-out all the way around, and they tell you, 'No, you aren't.'"
STEVE KNAPP: (About winning the Chase Rookie of the Year Award): "To me, it was a goal that I had. The team that I ran with was ISM, and they had Jeff Ward, who had won the Rookie of the Year the year before, so I was hoping that we could do the same thing and, you know, we had a pretty big rookie class that year. It was nine or 11 rookies or something, and Robby Unser was a strong runner the whole month. You didn't learn that you were Rookie of the Year until at the banquet that night, and once you get that, it's something that nobody can take away from you. Coming back here now, coming and seeing the cars on the track, it's something special, and you'll always have that with you."
(About practice during May 1998): "I went out there and ran with about as many people as I could find, and come to think of it, my owner called me in a few times and I stayed out to keep learning some more, and he got kind of mad at me. But I knew what to expect."
(About the 1998 race): "The thing that kind of caught me up was I had heard all these stories about how at the start you get sucked into the vacuum and it's hard to breathe because of the fumes and everything, so I was prepared for that, and my whole goal was to kind of fall into line. When we got the green flag and came out of Turn 2, it was like, 'Oh, the race has started,' because everybody was rocketing away from me. A couple of guys passed me, and I was like, 'This is not an endurance race; this is a 500-mile race.' I came through US Ford 2000 series, and we ran IRP and New Hampshire and a couple of other ovals. We had a practice day the Thursday before, and we would pretty much run all day long, so I got a lot of oval experience just in one season of racing there, and that helped a lot."
Sarah Fisher's mother, Reba, waved the green flag at the north end of pit lane to start Fisher's first qualifying attempt this afternoon. Ed Carpenter's wife, Heather, who is expecting the couple's second child later this summer, waved the green flag to begin Carpenter's attempt.
The Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team has been working overtime to repair the primary and backup cars of Robert Doornbos. He crashed the primary car Friday and the backup car Saturday.
MITCH DAVIS (Chief mechanic, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "Well, we sent one car back to Chicago for our guys to work on. The car we crashed yesterday is out in Brownsburg (Ind.) at a (carbon) shop getting some work done. We'll have it back Tuesday morning. We ought to be out there running on Thursday and qualifying on Saturday."
(Do you anticipate any changes to the cars with the repairs that are made, or should they be back to where they were?): "Yeah, that's why we didn't run today. Our goal is to win the race, not to just go out there and qualify. We've got to spend a little more time getting a car back to 100 percent instead of just piecing it together. Basically, we're going to put all of our effort into building one car that can win the race."
(On the specific repairs being made): "Well, on one car we crashed the left side and the other we crashed the right side, so it was a blessing in the end. We only lost one car full of parts. Both tubs got damaged a little bit, but nothing major. So, we'll have the car from Brownsburg back here this week."
Indianapolis 500 veteran Darren Manning was in Gasoline Alley today, looking for opportunities for a ride in the 2009 Indianapolis 500.
DARREN MANNING: "I'm kind of always looking for a ride. But whether one comes available that suits my situation is another matter. It's not like it's going to be my first speedway or anything, so what I'm looking for is different than a rookie, for example. There's no point in me going out in something just bumping into the field and pounding around in the back of the field. Mid- to mid-front pack cars are all full, so I'm just trying to work on my relationship with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing seeing as I've done a couple of races with them this year. There may be an opportunity to do some more this year. It was a bit of unfortunate situation this morning with Mike (Conway). I got the call to kind of be on stand-by, and I'm fortunate that they've got all my seats and everything and I'm available for it, but I don't think that's going to be needed. I think Mike's going to be absolutely fine. I think we'll see him back out next week, so I'll just concentrate on my deal. I've got Grand-Am racing that I'm doing and hopefully a few more races with these guys, and work on something for next year, as well."
SECOND DAY QUALIFYING NOTES:
* Raphael Matos qualified 12th, the highest qualifying rookie in the field. Last year's field featured 11 rookies, and Hideki Mutoh was the highest qualifier at ninth.
* Paul Tracy qualified 13th, his second-best Indianapolis 500 qualifying effort in six races. His best is seventh in 1993.
* Vitor Meira qualified 14th for his seventh Indianapolis 500.
* Justin Wilson qualified 15th, bettering his rookie effort of 16th a year ago.
* Hideki Mutoh qualified 16th for his second Indianapolis 500.
* Ed Carpenter qualified 17th for his sixth Indianapolis 500.
* Dan Wheldon qualified 18th, his worst starting position in seven Indianapolis 500s. He started 16th in 2005 and won the race.
* A.J. Foyt IV qualified 19th for his sixth Indianapolis 500.
* Scott Sharp qualified 20th for his 12th Indianapolis 500.
* Sarah Fisher qualified 21st for her eighth Indianapolis 500. She has started 21st or 22nd in three consecutive Indianapolis 500s.
* Davey Hamilton qualified 22nd for his ninth Indianapolis 500
With four minutes remaining in qualifying today, #13 E.J. Viso, #44 Davey Hamilton and #67 Sarah Fisher were in the qualifying line in front of #16 Scott Sharp.
Those drivers could have stayed in line until time expired at 6 p.m., but the Indy Racing League reserved the right to request those drivers to move out of line if they were not planning an attempt.
Brian Barnhart, IRL president of competition and racing operations, reminded the teams of Viso, Hamilton and Fisher about this, and all three teams agreed to pull out of line to let Sharp make an attempt that started less than one minute before the gun was fired to end qualifying.
BRIAN BARNHART: "The sportsmanship out there was incredible today."
Scott Sharp's 10-year-old son, Jackson, asked Sharp what the team had changed between qualifying attempts during the post-qualifying press conference. Sharp replied, "Why did you ask me that?" Jackson answered, "Because you never tell me these things."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).