IRL: Day 9 - Indy 500 - May 11

IRL: Day 9 - Indy 500 - May 11
Mar 27, 1997, 5:47 AM

DAY 9 SUNDAY, MAY 11 SECOND QUALIFYING DAY=20 Veteran Dennis Vitolo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was assigned this morning to the ...


Veteran Dennis Vitolo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was assigned this morning to the #54 Beck Motorsports entry, now the SmithKline Beecham/Kroger/Beck Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti.

Chronological record of first day/original line qualifiers from present back to 1983, the track record year: 1997 21 1996 22 (one disallowed, one withdrawn) 1995 20 (11 on May 13, nine on May 14) 1994 25 (21 on May 14, four on May 15) 1993 15 1992 21 (18 on May 9, three on May 10) 1991 12 1990 23 (rain all day May 12, 15 on May 13, eight on May 19) 1989 21 (rain all day May 13, 21 on May 14, including one disallowed run) 1988 19 1987 11 (including one withdrawn run) 1986 25 (two disallowed runs) 1985 28 (includes one disqualified run) 1984 28 (includes two withdrawn runs) 1983 33 (first weekend rained out, 33 on May 21)

Of the 21 qualifiers Saturday, 12 were on Goodyear tires and nine were on Firestones. The combined average speed of the Goodyear qualifiers is 212.532. The combined average speed of the Firestone qualifiers is 213.900. The per-lap difference in time is an average of only .271 of a second.

Top speeds of not-yet-qualified cars in morning practice: #97 Greg Ray 212.580, #44 Steve Kinser 211.854, #30 Robbie Groff 207.646.

10 a.m. update from Dr. Henry Bock, Speedway medical director: Scott Sharp has a small brain hemorrhage as a result of his crash on Friday. His condition remains good and his status for driving is yet to be determined. He is no longer hospitalized. 11:30 a.m. update from Dr. Henry Bock, Speedway medical director: John Paul Jr. has been released from Methodist Hospital. He has casts on both legs and will be wheelchair-bound for about six to eight weeks.

Thomas Knapp Motorsports announced today the addition of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Major League Baseball's newest expansion team and a supporter of the Tobacco Free Kids, for Greg Ray and the #97 Ash Kicker entry.

12:02 p.m. - Robbie Groff took 1 warm up lap but did not take the green due to engine misfire.

12:11 p.m. #44 STEVE KINSER/Bloomington, IN One Call/Menards/Quaker State - D / A / G

QA - 30 1 -- 42.680 -- 210.872 Q - 22 2 -- 42.639 -- 211.074 3 -- 42.584 -- 211.347 4 -- 42.881 -- 209.883 T 2:50.784 -- 210.793

1:05 p.m. #30 ROBBIE GROFF/Atlanta, GA Alfa-Laval/Team Losi/McCormack Motorsports - G / A / G

QA - 31 1 -- 44.520 -- 202.156 UA - 2 2 -- 44.664 -- 201.505 3 -- waved off

This morning, USAC Chief Steward Keith Ward clarified the qualifying status of the cars qualified Saturday by Buddy Lazier and Roberto Guerrero, saying the #91T qualified by Lazier can be bumped but the #21T of Guerrero actually qualified as #21 and cannot be bumped. "John Barnes (Pagan Racing team manager) made a declaration to me that he wanted to make the #21T car in the qualifying line into the #21," Ward said. "That's what I agreed to do. In the hurry to get him out there (as the day's final qualifier), we didn't have time to take the 91T' off and I didn't get the required paperwork until this morning."

At 4:20 p.m., rookie Billy Boat went on the track in the #1T Conseco AJ Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile Aurora for practice.

5:47 p.m. #97 GREG RAY/Plano, TX Tobacco Free Kids - D / A / F

QA - 32 1 -- 41.897 -- 214.813 UA - 1 2 -- 41.796 -- 215.332 3 -- 41.745 -- 215.595 4 -- waved off, ran out of fuel

5:50 p.m. #30 ROBBIE GROFF/Atlanta, GA Alfa-Laval/Team Losi/McCormack Motorsports - G / A / G

QA - 33 1 -- 43.075 -- 208.938 Q - 23 2 -- 43.388 -- 207.431 Locked In 3 -- 43.382 -- 207.459 4 -- 43.405 -- 207.349 T 2:53.250 -- 207.792

The last pair of brothers to start in the Indianapolis 500 were Gary and Tony Bettenhausen in 1993. With exemption status, Mike and Robbie Groff are guaranteed starting positions in this year's race.

5:57 p.m. #11 Billy Boat took warmup laps but did not take the green. The #11 car practiced as the #1T and changed numbers prior to warming up for the qualifying attempt.

At 10:18 a.m., the temperature was 65 degrees with winds from the southwest at 18 mph.

At 6:06 p.m., the temperature was 70 degrees with winds from the southwest at 24 mph, gusting to 33 mph.

Field average for 23 cars: 212.777. The 1996 23 car field average: 229.388 (-16.611 difference).

Qualifying order for Saturday, May 17:

#97 Greg Ray #11 Billy Boat

A total of 43 cars are now at the Speedway, 38 have passed technical inspection and 0 are in the process. 31 drivers have been on the track to date. There were 14 yellows for 1 hour, 21 minutes.

There were reports of a possible new track record achieved on Pole Day, in terms of the number of birds interfering with the day's qualifying attempts. A bird was reported on the warmup lane at 9:35 a.m. but flew away. At 11:13 a.m., when Mike Groff was on the track during his qualifying attempt, ducks were reported in the lane, but moved off the track before a yellow had to be thrown. In the span of 41 minutes late in the afternoon, three birds met their demise to qualifying race cars. At 4:48 p.m., the #7 car of Eliseo Salazar hit a bird in Turn 4. "I thought I missed it," Salazar said. "I missed the big family (of ducks in the warmup lane) last year. This year, it was only one." At 5:03 p.m., the #12 car of Buzz Calkins hit a bird in the middle of the north chute, and at 5:29 p.m., a dead bird was reported near the pit exit when the #42 car of Robby Gordon was on the track. USAC Chief Steward Keith Ward said, "I've only seen one or at the most two birds causing problems in the case of qualifying. This was certainly an unusual number for one day. I'd definitely say it's a new track record."

Post Qualifying Quotes - Sunday, May 11

STEVE KINSER (#44 One Call/Menards/Quaker State): (On working with Al Unser) "Al started working with me yesterday. He really smoothed me out a lot. I got more relaxed in the car. (Fourth lap slower) "I think that was my fault. I looked at the times, saw laps of 211, and said to myself Don't do anything stupid.' On the last lap I relaxed a little too much. . . . The run felt really good. I might have gotten a little aggressive. (Sprint cars vs Indy) "My first warmup lap was 112 -- I mean 212 I'm used to hundreds. (Comparing dirt to pavement) "A lot of it is for me, you make sprint cars get out of the throttle harder. (With these cars) if you jump on and off the throttle you get false readings. It's hard to set up the car until you get comfortable with the car. (Comparing 1981 and 1997) "It's been so long since =9181. In =9181 Gary Stanton came here with a car that he had no intention running unless it was a second weekend ride, if it opened up. I don't remember much more. I got through the rookie test and left here with a spin and contacted the wall. (On qualifying) "This is the most relaxed since I've been here, knowing I could get the car over 210. . . . We weren't expecting to qualify today. We went out this morning, saw the speeds we were running, and decided to get this thing in the race and keep the miles down. We decided we better do it. . . . We planned to get sprint car stuff all done, concentrate on qualifying in the second weekend. In fact, I'm going to be in trouble with my father tonight. I told him I had no intention to qualify today and he's not here, and he's bigger than me. . . .My father has been a great inspiration to me my whole life. (Sprint car racing) "We have a race the night after the 500 at Hagerstown, MD. (Asked if running at Granite City in St Louis last night presented any problems qualifying today) "Not a problem now. Next week we don't have to race until Sunday. I'm going to go get a haircut on Monday...enough cut to put tape on to hold the (radio) plugs in. (How much time have you spent in Indy) "Limited time as a non-driver at this track. I've probably spent more time coming up here getting fuel for my sprint car. " (Pavement experience includes Winston Cup racing and International Race of Champions competition, including a win in IRO at Talladega.)

AL UNSER (IRL Driver Coach): (about the rookies:) "The new crop of rookies they're all good. Until the race starts, though, you just don't know. But, right now, they're listening to the officials they're doing everything they're supposed to. I think they're going to do a great job." (About Steve Kinser's run today versus the last time he tried to qualify for the Indy 500:) "There's a lot of difference between 16 years ago and today. He's probably a lot smarter. But things are so different the cars are so different, there's no way for me to compare. He has a lot of driving experience. It's just a matter of time for him to get time in the car here before he really gets the hang of it. . . . (On different types of racing) "We all used to run dirt cars, stock cars, rear-engine cars, and you just learned to run all kinds of cars. I think with his (Kinser's) miles and experience, he's just that good of a driver."

BILLY BOAT (#11 AJ Foyt Enterprises): "We did not take the green flag. We didn't plan on taking it. We made some changes to the car late in the day and we just wanted to see how the car felt."

ROBBIE GROFF (#30 Alfa-Laval/Team Losi/McCormack Motorsports): (On making the field on the third attempt) "We didn't want to get it down that far but I had to get a Mother's Day gift for my mom. . . . It's a terrible thing when you're down to your last attempt. Dennis (McCormack) did a great job of encouraging me and pumped me up and got me determined. I just put my head down and bit my teeth together. (On run) "It was one of the best 4 laps all month, or pretty close. (On attempt earlier today) When we went out at 12:00 for an attempt we had a misfire. It took an hour and a half, and when we went back out, the track went away from us. The track was hotter and took away the setup and got some understeer. (Next on agenda) "Tonight we're going to have a nice dinner, a couple of beers, and sleep in tomorrow. . . .This week we'll get comfortable with traffic and get the car ready for the race. (On attempt yesterday and brush with wall) "Yesterday it was a combination of factors. We lost the setup, the track conditions were not as good as we were accustomed to, and there was inexperience and overenthusiasm. We learned a valuable lesson. It took an attempt away from us. We got the car back together due to an excellent job by the crew. (Has your brother Mike given you any advice?) "He told me that if you have big understeer you should have the left foot on the brake to control the understeer. I wish he'd said that sooner. (First time at the Speedway?) My first time at the Speedway was in 1983 when Tom Sneva won, and pretty much every year from 1988 onwards and since my brother's been racing here. . . . This is the most incredible place. . .I've seen extreme highs and extreme lows I know it's like no other place in the world. Bottom line is you just can't lose respect for this place." The Groffs become the first set of brothers to qualify for the same Indianapolis 500 since Tony and Gary Bettenhausen in 1993. =20

S P CAR DRIVER CAR NAME C/E/T Time Speed Row 1 1 5 Arie Luyendyk Wavephore/Sprint PCS/Miller Lite G/A/F 2:44.939 218.263 2 2 Tony Stewart Glidden/Menards/Special G/A/F 2:45.122 218.021 3 8 Vincenzo Sospiri (R) Scandia Royal Purple Alta Xcel D/A/G 2:46.035 216.822

Row 2 4 3 Robbie Buhl Quaker State/Special G/A/F 2:46.588 216.102 5 6 Scott Goodyear Nortel/Sprint PCS/Quebecor Printing G/A/F 2:46.813 215.811 6 27 Jim Guthrie Jacuzzi/Blueprint Racing Dallara D/A/F 2:47.281 215.207

Row 3 7 52 Jeff Ward (R) FirstPlus Team Cheever G/A/G 2:47.819 214.517 8 14 Davey Hamilton AJ Foyt PowerTeam Racing G/A/G 2:47.845 214.484 9 7 Eliseo Salazar Copec/Cristal/Scandia D/A/G 2:47.973 214.320

Row 4 10 91T Buddy Lazier Delta Faucet-Montana-Hemelgarn Racing D/A/F 2:48.000 214.286 11 51 Eddie Cheever, Jr. FirstPlus Team Cheever G/A/G 2:48.167 214.073 12 42 Robby Gordon Coors Light G/A/G 2:48.847 213.211

Row 5 13 77 Stephan Gregoire Chastain Motorsports G/A/G 2:48.914 213.126 14 17 Affonso Giaffone (R) General Motors of Brazil Chitwood Dallara D/A/G 2:49.035 212.974 15 4 Kenny Brack (R) Monsoon Galles Racing G/A/G 2:50.438 211.221

Row 6 16 90 Lyn St. James Lifetime-TV-Cinergy D/I/F 2:51.310 210.145 17 12 Buzz Calkins Bradley Food Marts G/A/G 2:51.785 209.564 18 40 Dr. Jack Miller (R) AMS/Crest Racing D/I/F 2:52.043 209.250

Row 7 19 34 Alessandro Zampedri Mi-Jack Scandia Royal Purple D/A/G 2:52.171 209.094 20 10 Mike Groff Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria/Visionaire/Bryant G/I/F 2:52.631 208.537 21 21T Roberto Guerrero Pennzoil-Pagan Racing Dallara Infiniti D/I/G 2:53.602 207.371

Row 8 22 34 Steve Kinser (R) One Call/Menards/Quaker State D/A/G 2:50.784 210.793 23 30 Robbie Groff (R) Alfa-Laval/Team Losi/McCormack Motorsports G/A/G 2:53.250 207.792=20

1997 23 Car Field Average 212.777 1996 23 Car Field Average 229.388 Difference: -16.611

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