IRL: Indy 500: Chevy final qualifying report

26 Chevrolet engines qualify for fastest Indy 500 field. INDIANAPOLIS, May 19, 2002 -- Chevy Indy V8 engines powered eight of the nine Bump Day qualifiers today for the Indianapolis 500, increasing the ranks of the Bowtie brigade to 26 of the 33...

26 Chevrolet engines qualify for fastest Indy 500 field.

INDIANAPOLIS, May 19, 2002 -- Chevy Indy V8 engines powered eight of the nine Bump Day qualifiers today for the Indianapolis 500, increasing the ranks of the Bowtie brigade to 26 of the 33 drivers for next Sunday's Indianapolis 500. The field is the fastest in the history of the Indianapolis 500 with an average speed of 228.648 mph, a 5.345 mph increase over last year's field average. Chevrolet has become the overwhelming choice of Indy car drivers since the Division's return to open-wheel competition this season with the new Chevy Indy V8 engine.

For the second straight year, Billy Boat was the man on the bubble when qualifying concluded. Boat, the slowest qualifier last weekend at 226.589 mph, crashed his backup car in morning practice, then had to wait while his Curb-Agajanian crew rebuilt the damaged Chevrolet Dallara in preparation for another run. Eleven drivers completed qualifying runs today, but Boat was still afloat when rain ended qualifications one hour and nine minutes before the scheduled 6 p.m. conclusion.

"We got lucky today," said Boat, whose qualifying speed was faster than Scott Sharp's pole-winning speed last year. "Mother Nature and the good Lord played into our hands. We took a gamble on Pole Day to take that speed. It was tight, but we held out."

With storm clouds gathering, teams were under pressure to secure a starting spot as quickly as possible. Two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk was the first driver to qualify today, and his Treadway Racing Chevrolet G-Force set the pace with a 228.848 mph average speed for four laps around the 2.5-mile speedway. Michael Andretti withdrew the car he qualified last weekend, then requalified with Team Green's backup Chevy-powered Motorola Dallara at 228.713 mph. Indy 500 rookie Alex Barron was third on today's time sheet in Blair Racing's Rayovac Chevy Dallara at 228.580 mph.

"I was nervous, but after this morning's practice I felt a lot better," said Luyendyk, who won the Indy 500 in 1990 and 1997 with General Motors engines. "The car can go quicker but we didn't tune it to win the pole. We just wanted to put it in the show."

Luyendyk's qualifying speed would have put him in the middle of the fifth row if he had qualified on Pole Day. Instead, under the race's unique qualifying format, he will start on the eighth row.

Andretti was the fastest of the three Team Green drivers who qualified today in Chevrolet Dallaras, and he credited his teammates Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti for his increased speed this weekend.

"We worked on the car and setup all week," said Andretti, third-place finisher in last year's Indy 500. "Paul, Dario and I all contributed to the speed of the three cars.

"I had confidence in the team that they were going to give me the car to run four fast laps, and they did," he continued. "We had to requalify with the backup car; we were too vulnerable with the last week's time. I thought it was the right thing to do, and it turned out to be."

"We knew qualifying would be a bit of a struggle, but not this much," Franchitti said with a laugh after qualifying for his first Indy 500. "This is a great feeling -- definitely a better feeling than two days ago. It's been a frustrating time but we're quite happy with our qualifying run. We decided to go what we know; my guys are experienced engineers and we're experienced drivers. The guys at Speedway Engines certainly helped us with the Chevy engines."

Alex Barron brought a historic name back to the speedway when he qualified Blair Racing's Chevrolet Dallara using a Chevy Indy V8 prepared by McLaren Engines.

"The McLaren guys have been working hard, and it showed today that their hard work has paid off," said Barron, who rebounded from a crash in practice. "I ran faster on Bump Day than we have all month. We owe a lot to McLaren."

Four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt put a pair of Chevrolet Dallaras in the show, with drivers Airton Dare (227.760 mph) and Greg Ray (227.155 mph).

"I really didn't have doubts," declared Ray, who will start on the last row this year after four consecutive front-row starts. "I actually thought I'd be a little quicker. I was flat-out right from the pits and that was all it had. We had some big exit speeds at 228, 229 mph, but we weren't making speed down the straights. I think we taped off the radiators too much and got the motor really hot. We were going to change to a qualifying engine, but we weren't running for the front row so we used a practice motor. We just wanted to be in the show."

Dare explained that he had taken a similar approach: "We were very conservative with the car. We ran a bit more downforce than we should have, and probably could have run faster if we had trimmed the car out more. We weren't going to gain ten positions. We're in and that's what's important. The car will be really good in the race."

George Mack became the second African-American to qualify for the Indy 500. His 310 Racing G-Force turned a four-lap average 227.150 mph to claim the 32nd starting spot with a Menard-prepared Chevy Indy V8.

"Considering all the problems we've had, I'm happy with that," said Mack. "The engine did its job."

Chevrolet returned in strength to the famed Speedway where Chevy engines scored six consecutive victories in 1988-93.

"The Bowtie is definitely back in open-wheel racing," said Glenn Tayler, GM Racing IRL marketing manager. "Our goal was to make the new Chevy Indy V8 the engine of choice at the Indy 500, and with 26 of the 33 drivers using Chevrolet engines we have achieved that objective. Chevrolet has a great tradition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that began with company co-founder Louis Chevrolet and continued with the first-generation Chevy Indy V8. We look forward to writing the next chapter in Chevrolet's motorsports history next weekend when the 50th Anniversary Corvette Pace Car leads the field to the green flag."

The 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 12 noon EDT (11 a.m. local time) on Sunday, May 26. The 200-lap, 500-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network.

-chevy-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Airton Daré , Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Barron , George Mack , A.J. Foyt