IRL: Indy 500: Chevy race report

Barron Top Chevy Finisher in Rain-Shortened Indy 500 INDIANAPOLIS, May 30, 2004 - Alex Barron was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver in the rain-delayed and rain-shortened Indianapolis 500, placing 12th in Red Bull Cheever Racing's ...

Barron Top Chevy Finisher in Rain-Shortened Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, May 30, 2004 - Alex Barron was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver in the rain-delayed and rain-shortened Indianapolis 500, placing 12th in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara when the race ended under caution after 180 of a scheduled 200 laps. Buddy Rice won the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 in a Honda-powered G Force.

As heavy rain fell on Indianapolis Motor Speedway shortly after 6 p.m., Felipe Giaffone crossed the famous yard of bricks at the finish line 15th in the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara. Al Unser Jr. started and finished 17th in his first race with Patrick Racing's Chevrolet Dallara, and Tomas Scheckter was 18th in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. Ed Carpenter and Mark Taylor tangled in a Turn 3 accident at 62 laps, taking the two rookies out of contention.

"We're pretty pleased with our result, especially since we had an up and down month," Barron said. "My car was good all day, but I only had one good restart. I just didn't have the timing down, but when we were running we had no problem overtaking.

"The Chevy engine was good to me and I was really pleased with its performance," Barron added. "The Red Bull Cheever Racing crew performed solid pit stops all day and really toughed it out through the entire month. They've been great and I'm glad I could give them a good finish."

Felipe Giaffone finished 15th in his first race with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team. The team's pit stop strategy could have paid off if the weather had cooperated.

"Felipe didn't need to pit again with the great fuel mileage we got, so the stops were key for us," explained co-owner Dennis Reinbold. "Maybe the chance of it staying green for the last 30 laps was remote, but we would have made it to the end without another stop and most of the other teams would have had to pit."

"We had a better pace in traffic, and the car was OK toward the end," said Giaffone. "I missed our pit box on the next-to-last stop and had to go around another lap, which probably cost us three or four spots. The team did a great job, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."

In his 17th appearance in the Indy 500, Al Unser Jr. started 17th and finished 17th.

"I didn't loose any ground and, unfortunately, I didn't gain any ground," said the two-time Indy 500 winner. "The Patrick Racing crew did a fantastic job. The car didn't stutter one bit the whole month, and Chevrolet gave me great power. I just wish the car would have handled a little better. Every time I got in traffic I just couldn't do anything with anybody, so I ended up losing ground."

Tomas Scheckter ran consistently in the top 10 in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara until a series of problems slowed the South African's pace.

"We made some aerodynamic changes, but the car just got really bad halfway through the run so we came in for almost an emergency pit stop because I was going to crash it sometime," Scheckter explained. "We came out, and the car was much better. So a tough day overall, but we'll carry on working for the rest of the races."

Driving Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's second Chevrolet Dallara, 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier lost radio communication with his pit at the start of the race. Co-owner Robbie Buhl called on his years of racing experience to adjust the car without input from Lazier.

"Robbie did a great job of calling the changes and tuning the car even though we weren't able to talk about it," Lazier said. "I'm not sure if we ran out of gas or if we had an electronics issue to end our day. We had a strong top 10 car here. I didn't have any trouble passing anywhere."

Robby Gordon's bid to win the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 was sidetracked by rain that delayed the start of the race for two hours and 11 minutes, and then interrupted the race for 1 hour and 47 minutes after 27 laps. While Gordon flew to North Carolina, relief driver Jaques Lazier took over the Meijer/Coca-Cola Chevrolet Dallara and was credited with 29th place. Lazier got as high as 23rd until he pitted with an electrical problem. After repairs, Lazier continued until a broken halfshaft ended his day.

Lazier replaced Gordon in a car that he had never driven. "That's pretty tough," he noted. "Of all the difficult things I've done in my career, that's right up there. The Meijer car was great, however. I think you can go out and drive a good car like this at about 95 percent, but it's that last five percent that takes work. I was starting to learn the car and understand what it liked and didn't like."

Robby McGehee advanced 11 positions from his 33rd starting spot to finish 22nd in PDM Racing's Chevrolet Dallara.

"We just needed more track time," said McGehee, who had only a few hours of practice before the start of the race. "The first couple of stints the car was loose in traffic, but the PDM crew worked hard to dial it in, and towards the end the car was awesome. We weren't as fast as the leaders, but we were running well with the cars we were racing."

The next event on the IRL IndyCar Series schedule is the Bombardier 500 on Texas Motor Speedway's high-banked 1.5-mile on Saturday night, June 12. -gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Robby Gordon , Robby McGehee , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Alex Barron , Al Unser Sr. , Buddy Rice , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing