INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2004 - Tomas Scheckter was the top Chevy-powered driver in the first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. After a week of practice in warm, windy and humid conditions, today's rain-delayed MBNA Pole Day...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 15, 2004 - Tomas Scheckter was the top Chevy-powered driver in the first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. After a week of practice in warm, windy and humid conditions, today's rain-delayed MBNA Pole Day qualification runs took place on an overcast, calm and chilly afternoon. Scheckter completed his four-lap, 10-mile qualifying attempt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at an average speed of 220.417 mph, putting his Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara 10th on the starting grid.
Mark Taylor, Scheckter's rookie teammate, was the second fastest Chevrolet driver, qualifying the Menards/Johns Manville Racing Chevrolet Dallara 14th at 219.282 mph. A trio of Chevrolet-powered entries occupy the sixth row: rookie Ed Carpenter, 16th in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Dallara at 218.590 mph, two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. 17th at 217.966 mph in Patrick Racing's Dallara, and NASCAR driver Robby Gordon 18th in his Meijer/Coca-Cola Dallara at 216.522 mph.
Two Chevrolet drivers encountered the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1 today and both walked away: Felipe Giaffone in the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara and Alex Barron in the Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara.
"To be honest it was a fairly easy run; we could have trimmed it out a bit more," said Scheckter. "My team and Chevy have done a great job so I have to be happy. I've never had great qualifying here, but I've always managed to do a good job at this track
"I feel that maybe we didn't show all of the power today because we could have taken some downforce out," Scheckter reported. "We're in the race and I think we'll see some Chevy power in two weeks' time."
Englishman Mark Taylor, an IRL rookie, showed the consistency of a seasoned veteran during his four-lap run despite the loss of a full day of practice on Friday due to rain.
"I wish we'd had a bit more time; we'd have trimmed out a bit more," said Taylor. "The Chevy power was really strong so we felt we could have done a better run than that, but for a rookie in the first 500 you can't be too trimmed out.
"I'm relieved; I was a bit nervous before to be honest," he conceded. "You're never really sure what it's going to be like until you're in it. We ended up missing yesterday, and that was a big loss for us. If we'd had a full day of practice we could have worked on it a bit harder, but that's the way the weather goes."
Rookie Ed Carpenter also turned in a solid performance to qualify for his first Indy 500.
"The car was great, the best it's been all week," he declared. "I'm thrilled with the guys and we have good power from Chevrolet. We're solidly in the field, and for my rookie year I'm happy.
"Eddie Cheever (team owner) gave me an opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill the first part of my dream in getting into the Indy 500," he continued. "Now we just have to figure out how to win it. We have the rest of the week to work on our race car and that's the important part."
Al Unser Jr. returned to the IRL IndyCar Series with the new Patrick Racing Chevrolet Dallara after sitting out the first three races of the season.
"I'm relieved," Unser admitted. "The Indy 500 comes once a year and we've been here when everything has gone really well and when everything didn't go well. We're in the show and Chevrolet gave me a great engine. You can't come in and get a late start and expect to be in the front row. It's going to take some work, but I have a great group of guys who are up for the challenge."
Robby Gordon, the third driver to complete his qualifying run today, had the additional pressure of a tight deadline. Immediately after completing his four laps in Indy, Gordon departed for Richmond, Va., where he was to drive Richard Childress Racing's Cingular Monte Carlo in the Chevy American Revolution 400 NASCAR Nextel Cup race.
"The car got tighter and tighter every lap," said Gordon. "It started out decent, but got tighter and tighter and scrubbed the speed off. If we didn't have to leave (for Richmond), we would have waved it off, for sure. We couldn't do that because of the circumstances.
"I'm disappointed," he admitted. "That's going to be our worst qualifying effort in many years here at Indianapolis. Normally (team manager) Thomas Knapp and I are pretty good here, we just missed it this time. We'll work real hard on the race setup and get ourselves in the position to have a good race car."
Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 will continue on Sunday, May 16, with Bump Day, the third and final day of qualifying, on May 23. The Indianapolis 500 will start at noon Eastern time (11 a.m. local time) on Sunday, May 30. The 200-lap, 500-mile race will be televised live on ABC.