Billy Boat has gotten a lot of attention over the past week for once again being in the precarious "on-edge" position during the qualifying process for the Indianapolis 500. However, it's been a little bit unfair to call him the "Bubble Boy." No...
Billy Boat has gotten a lot of attention over the past week for once again being in the precarious "on-edge" position during the qualifying process for the Indianapolis 500. However, it's been a little bit unfair to call him the "Bubble Boy." No matter how you look at it, Billy Boat is not on the bubble. Perhaps he has the slowest qualifying speed from the first qualification day, but he is firmly in the starting grid for the famed oval race, and it will take ten cars going faster than his average qualifying lap speed of 226.589 mph to knock him off. When asked about the situation, Boat has patiently explained, "These [the 4 lap series during Pole Day] were the fastest laps we had turned all week. It was basically, the fastest we could get that car to go. In addition, we'd seen what the weather had been doing all week, watching the future weather reports, doing our research and decided it was worth the gamble to take the time. At least we knew we had a car in the show, should the unpredictable weather stay rainy."
Boat won't know if the gamble paid off, and if his fans' "rain dances" have worked until the morning, but he, his engineer Darrell Soppe and his crew are using the time until then wisely. "At least we're not in the position of a lot of these guys that were waving off faster times. We have the backup car ready, if necessary, but we were able to use the limited time during this final practice week to concentrate on our race setup, fuel economy, tire wear and race car consistency."
In the days since Pole Day, practice time has been sporadic at best. The yellow flag has dropped frequently because of rain and delays have been extensive. In addition, the gusting winds have contributed to slower than usual speeds. So far, only seven cars have had even one lap faster than Boat's average qualifying speed and of those, only a couple has run the speed steadily. All of these seem to be good omens, but Boat knows that at the historically tricky race track, nothing is certain until the final moment.
"I won't really feel good until that gun goes off at 6:00 [local time] tomorrow, but the CURB Records team feel like we've done everything we can to ensure our position in this year's Indy 500. We've been working on different spring and shock settings, different combinations to try and find more speed, but also in an effort to have a good race car over a long run. We've made big gains in our tire wear and in the consistency of our race car. We feel that when the green flag drops we're going to be prepared to be very competitive in this field. Obviously, we have to get there first, so tomorrow will be a stressful, hectic day. I'm going to be hoping that we see some of these teams start taking speeds that are slower than us so that we get off the bubble & to take a little bit of that pressure off. You know, the unexpected is what you fear here & you never know what can happen, but right now all we can do is wait. In 24 hrs we'll have our answers."
Practice resumes at 11:00am EST tomorrow. Qualifying begins at 1:00pm EST and the gun goes off, signifying the end at 7:00pm EST. The closely watched weather reports are predicting scattered showers - should the day be completely washed out, the 24 cars now on the grid would be "locked in" and the unqualified cars would all compete on the next clear day for the remaining nine spots in the race.