Field of 33 Set for 500; Stewart Adds To Bump Day drama INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 23, 2004 -- In 65 minutes, Greg Ray went from making his on-track debut to qualifying 27th for the 88th Indianapolis 500. "It wasn't the optimal situation to...
Field of 33 Set for 500; Stewart Adds To Bump Day drama
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 23, 2004 -- In 65 minutes, Greg Ray went from making his on-track debut to qualifying 27th for the 88th Indianapolis 500.
"It wasn't the optimal situation to just jump in the car," said Ray, owner-driver of the No. 13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone who had 20 practice laps before rolling away from the qualification line at 2:41 p.m. (EDT).
He posted a four-lap average speed of 216.641 mph and was the final qualifier to set the traditional 33-car field for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
Others to put their cars in the May 30 race were Buddy Lazier (215.110 mph, 28th starter), Jeff Simmons (214.783, 29th), Richie Hearn (213.715, 30th), PJ Jones (213.355, 31st), Marty Roth (211.974, 32nd) and Robby McGehee (211.631, 33rd).
But the drama was far from over once Ray became the 33rd qualifier for the race.
Tony Stewart, the 1996 pole sitter who has started in five 500-Mile Races, came close to quenching his thirst for another start a year early.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regular had a seat poured, was wearing a fire suit on pit road and was prepared to make a qualifying attempt in the final 30 minutes of "Bump Day" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But contractual obligations prevented him from getting in the No. 14T Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.
"I love this place and got the fever again," said Stewart, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing. "Trust me, yeah, I want to be in it more than you can imagine right now. I wanted to run, but contracts got in the way. I'm going to talk to Joe and (sponsor) Home Depot and see if I can start working on something. I pretty much made the commitment to those guys that I wasn't going do anything until I decided I was done with the (NEXTEL) Cup Series, but you know, they've always been supportive. They've always said if I wanted to come back and run Indy, that they're behind me 100 percent.
"I firmly believe their heart is where my heart is, and they want me to be happy and be able to come back here and run Indy."