IRL: Indy 500: Bump Day preview

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 17, 2003 -- Drivers still looking for a spot in the 87th Indianapolis 500 encountered a small hitch in their preparation for Bump Day qualifying when rain washed out practice May 17 after just 15 minutes on the ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 17, 2003 -- Drivers still looking for a spot in the 87th Indianapolis 500 encountered a small hitch in their preparation for Bump Day qualifying when rain washed out practice May 17 after just 15 minutes on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Bump Day qualifying, the final chance to earn a spot in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," starts at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. A 45-minute practice for non-qualified drivers is scheduled for 12:45-1 p.m.

Nine spots in the 33-car field are still available. That kind of Bump Day drama is nothing new to the event, as the field has been filled on the final qualifying day 32 of the last 51 years.

"It was a little frustrating not getting out today," said 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser, who will attempt to qualify Sunday. "We wanted to get a little bit of qualifying setups ready for Sunday. But I think we can do that on Sunday morning. I think we have a good race car right now. And the qualifying setup should be pretty fast, too."

While Vasser wasn't able to finish his Bump Day preparation, at least he and Team Rahal teammate Kenny Brack had some fun during the rain. Both drivers spent time with Billy Gibbons, lead singer of rock band ZZ Top, who was the honorary starter of the Freedom 100 IRL Infiniti Pro Series race Saturday at the Speedway.

"We didn't get to do anything today, but meeting Billy Gibbons was a great thrill," 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Brack said. "I have been a fan of his music for a long time, and my band plays a ZZ Top song, too.

"He was even talking music and guitars with me, and I was talking racing with him. It was great."

Veterans Richie Hearn and Robby McGehee were added Saturday to the list of drivers who will make Bump Day qualifying attempts.

Hearn will drive the No. 99 Contour Hardening Special Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. The car was entered by Penske Racing, the winningest team in Indianapolis 500 history, as the No. 66T before team owner Sam Schmidt leased it and fielded it as a Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry.

"There's no concern on the car and the engine," Hearn said. "Everything should be great. I just have to get up to speed myself, which I'm not going to worry about. I just have to keep my nose clean and I know the car will be there in the end."

1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year McGehee, from St. Louis, will drive the No. 44 Pedigo Chevrolet Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone as a teammate to two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. and 1998 Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole winner Billy Boat. The car originally was entered by Panther as the No. 98T.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Billy Boat , Jimmy Vasser , Kenny Brack , Richie Hearn , Sam Schmidt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske