The Indy Racing League wanted drama in qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and that's what they got this evening. With only one spot left to fill in the field of 33, it looked like "Bump Day" might be a bore, but cynics didn't...
The Indy Racing League wanted drama in qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and that's what they got this evening.
With only one spot left to fill in the field of 33, it looked like "Bump Day" might be a bore, but cynics didn't count on one Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr., a man who provides fireworks, it seems, every time he comes to the Brickyard circuit.
Foyt already had two cars in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for grandson A.J. Foyt IV and son Larry Foyt but, faced with the prospect of having archrival Arie Luyendyk's son Arie Jr. in the field, Foyt stepped up the action.
Shopping at the Babies 'R Us store on the far northside of Indianapolis, Giaffone sped back to the Speedway, located his old DRR fire suit and jumped into the #48 Foyt Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone racer and secured the 33rd spot in the Memorial Day Classic with four solid laps at 217.645mph.
Bumping Luyendyk Jr. from the field must have been payback for Foyt, whose driver Billy Boat was stripped of a win at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 by the senior Luyendyk, a two-time Indy winner. Foyt rammed a haymaker at Luyendyk that night and, apparently never forgot.
As for Giaffone, the Brazilian who is currently racing big trucks in Brazil had pretty much given up hope of racing in this year's Indy 500 and was prepared to return home tomorrow. Instead, he'll be going to New York City with the balance of the field.
"Two hours ago I had no hard card, nothing!" he exclaimed. "I kept showing my 2004 card to the guards when I came in and suddenly here I was. Everything happened in half an hour: I went through my physical exam, got fitted into the Panoz and went out to practice."
Giaffone turned a total of 49 practice laps before qualifying, with a top, 46th lap of 217.815mph, a portent of things to come. It was good for eighth on the speed charts on a day where a scant 15 drivers practiced on the 2.5-mile oval for 730 total laps, mostly scrubbing tires and practicing pit stops.
"I was very nervous to see if the car was drivable," Giaffone confided. "I just was pushing harder, harder and when the wind came up I tried to change my line a bit [to get consistency]. I had to forget about lap times and the first time I was flat was in qualifying," he grinned. "I'm nervous but this feels really good!
"I was surprised how right the car was when I got on it. You know you have to see how a car reacts and get to know it," Giaffone continued. "I told A.J. I didn't want to rush this because that's how bad things happen. I had no pressure here and yeah, starting on the last row is hard but it's a long race."
Luyendyk, who completed his Rookie program late yesterday afternoon, came to the qualifying line at 3:10PM this afternoon and posted four laps at 215.039mph after the Beck Motorsports team used much of the afternoon to change the roll bars on his #98 Fat Wallet.com/CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet.
After his run, he expressed dismay that Giaffone was "in a car right now, but it has been an exciting day. It has been a stressful day. I went to sixth gear in the middle of the run and that really slowed our momentum because we had so much downforce. I at least wanted to get a feel for the car and that was the quickest we ran."
Following Giaffone's run, Luyendyk Jr. made another stab at bumping the Brazilian but it went to naught with his four-lap average 210.351mph set just as the gun went off to signal the end of qualifying. "I was flat out, but it was in the high 214s and I just knew that would not be enough to cut it. I wasn't going to risk putting the car into the wall to run a 216 but that was just not enough," the dismayed second generation driver said.
Luyendyk Jr. became the first driver bumped from the field since 2002 when Billy Roe was twice bumped on May 19th.
And so now the field is set for the 89th Indianapolis 500, which takes the green flags in just one week from now at the crack of noon, an hour later than tradition dictates. There are three former winners in the field, Helio Castroneves, Buddy Lazier and Kenny Brack.
The fast field of 33 drivers includes five six Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champions, including reigning titleholder and MBNA polesitter Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr. (starting second), Scott Sharp in third, Buddy Lazier (9th), Scott Dixon (13th) and Brack (23rd and fastest of all qualifiers).
Of six rookies, Danica Patrick has the best starting position, fourth, while Tomas Enge holds 10th on the grid, 2004 Champ Car World Series titleholder Sebastien Bourdais is 15th, Jeff Bucknum is 21st, Ryan Briscoe (24th) and Patrick Carpentier starts 25th.
The average speed for this field is 223.895mph and the difference between fastest and slowest drivers is just over six miles per hour. There are five Chevrolets, 14 Hondas and now, with Giaffone on the grid there are 14 Toyota-powered cars. Chassis maker Dallara has 19 cars on the grid while 2003-2004 Indy winner Panoz has 14 cars using its chassis.
With depth of this field, the 89th Indy 500 looks like it'll be an exciting race. ABC will televise the Greatest Spectacle in Racing live everywhere except in Indianapolis.