Six Chevys qualify for Indy 500 on rescheduled Pole Day. INDIANAPOLIS, May 11, 2003 - After severe weather washed out Saturday's scheduled Pole Day qualifications, six Chevrolet drivers completed qualifying runs today in the first day of ...
Six Chevys qualify for Indy 500 on rescheduled Pole Day.
INDIANAPOLIS, May 11, 2003 - After severe weather washed out Saturday's scheduled Pole Day qualifications, six Chevrolet drivers completed qualifying runs today in the first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. Sam Hornish Jr. was the top Chevy qualifier, 18th on the provisional grid with a four-lap average of 226.225 mph in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. Hornish led a six-car Chevy contingent that included Buddy Rice, Jaques Lazier, Buddy Lazier, Robbie Buhl and Sarah Fisher. Helio Castroneves won the pole for the 500-mile classic with Penske Racing's Dallara/Toyota at 231.725 mph.
"With six Chevrolet-powered entries successfully completing their qualifying runs today, we are now concentrating our efforts on delivering a reliable, durable and fuel efficient Chevy Indy V8 engine package for the race," said GM Racing Group Manager Joe Negri. "We will be running 500-mile durability tests on engine dynos and on the track next week to develop an improved engine specification for the race."
Chilly 50-degree temperatures and gusty winds added another degree of difficulty to driving the daunting 2.5-mile speedway. Robbie Buhl was the first driver on the track today when qualifying began at noon under cloudy skies. Buhl put his Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara on the timing pylon with a 224.369 mph average speed over his 10-mile run.
"I liked being first out today because I knew the weather wasn't going to change," Buhl reported. "The wind was a factor today - it was gusty and hit me as I came off of Turn 2. It's another element that everyone has to deal with.
"It's always a relief to make this race, no matter how your month has gone," he reflected. "That was as strong a run as we had. We were shooting for 224s and we did that. Now let's just focus on the race car. We've already talked with the Chevy guys about improving this motor to make it a better race motor, and that's where we're focusing our attention."
Two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. also has his sights set on raceday.
"We're just going to keep working on our race setup and find something that works for us," Hornish asserted. "We can run with these guys in the draft, and it's going to be a game of patience in the race. We ran 227 by ourselves in the morning practice, so the qualifying run was a tick slower than we expected, but the wind changed direction and that didn't help us. I don't think we're in any danger of missing the race."
Buddy Rice was the second fastest Chevy qualifier today, putting his Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara in the field at 226.213 mph.
"I had a little wiggle in Turn 1 on the second lap, but otherwise the car was good," Rice said. "We went faster every lap after that. Our car was trimmed out and as fast as we can get it right now, so we're happy with that. We just wanted to put four perfect laps in and see where that put us. Now the plan is to put qualifying out of our mind and go to race setups."
Jaques Lazier echoed Rice's words after completing his four-lap run at 225.975 mph in the Team Menard Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara.
"Now we're going to get ready for the big day," he declared. "Seldom does the fastest car win the race. We have a good program at Team Menard. We'll make sure that we get the Chevrolet engine and Dallara chassis up front.
Lazier turned a lap at 226.723 mph on the third circuit of his four-lap run, the fastest lap of the day among the Chevy-powered entries.
"All things considered, it was a good qualifying run," Lazier noted. "The only problem we had was on the first lap when I went into Turn 1, the car jumped sideways on me. It was so sideways through the corner that I thought I was in a sprint car. Then the tire temperatures came up to where they needed to be and I went flat through Turn 2, and from there out we were running in the mid-226 range. That first lap hurt us, but a 225.9 is a decent four-lap average."
Sarah Fisher was the picture of consistency with her AOL Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara, turning four laps between 224.086 and 224.216 mph with an average speed of 224.170 mph. The team waved off her first qualifying attempt and then made a series of test runs before her second official attempt.
"We were having a lot of push, we kept working on the car and working on it, and it was as free as a car could possibly be," said Fisher. "I would have been a little faster, but the wind caught me off of Turn 4 so I had to give the throttle a little blip. Other than that, we were running flat and the car was running perfect. My teammate and I ran almost the exact same speed, and that shows what this team can do.
"Every time we've hit the track, the GM engineers have done something to improve the engine package. We're focused on a good race car, and as long as we're there at the end, that's what matters to us now. We are a Chevy team, we have a partnership with Chevy, and we're all working to make it a faster package."
Buddy Lazier was the final Chevy driver on the track today, qualifying Hemelgarn Racing's Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Chevrolet Dallara alongside his younger brother, Jaques, at 224.910 mph. Lazier's team waved off his first qualifying attempt and the 1996 Indy 500 winner completed his 10-mile qualifying sprint in the last hour of the session.
"We were flat out during the earlier run and only running 224s, and we knew our car was capable of running 225 on its own," Lazier noted. "I'm never satisfied unless I get everything out of what I have, and that was all that car had today. It looks like we needed to pull a taller gear, so we shifted twice during the run, and that slowed us down a bit. Nevertheless, we ran two laps at 225 and that was all we could ask for."
Billy Boat, driver of the Pedigo Chevrolet Dallara, sat out today's qualifications after an accident in Saturday's morning practice session damaged his race car. Boat was examined and released after the incident, and the Panther team plans to make a qualifying run with Boat at the wheel in next Sunday's final qualifying session.
Qualifying for the Indy 500 will continue on "Bump Day," the final day of qualifying for the Indy 500, on Sunday, May 18. The 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at noon EDT (11:00 a.m. local time) on Sunday, May 25. The 200-lap, 500-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.