INDIANAPOLIS (May 10, 2002) -- American Le Mans Series driver Johnny Herbert, attempting to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, faces a tough task when pole position qualifying gets underway on Saturday. Unlike the rest of the drivers...
INDIANAPOLIS (May 10, 2002) -- American Le Mans Series driver Johnny Herbert, attempting to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, faces a tough task when pole position qualifying gets underway on Saturday.
Unlike the rest of the drivers entered in the 86th edition of the famous race, Herbert will have only this weekend to try and place his Western Union/Duesenberg Brothers Dallara-Chevrolet into the field of 33. Because of his commitment to the American Le Mans Series, he will not be able to be at the Speedway for the final day of qualifying, the notorious "Bump Day," on May 19.
Instead, Herbert will be thousands of miles away, driving the Champion Audi R8 Prototype in the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The event will be Round Two of the 10-race American Le Mans Series championship for 2002.
If Herbert posts a respectable speed this weekend, he still could be bumped next weekend under Indy's unique qualifying system. If so, unlike the other drivers, he wouldn't be able to put his car back into the qualifying line and try again because he will be at Sears Point. When the two-hour, 45-minute race at Sears Point ends at 3:45 p.m. in California, there will only be 15 minutes remaining in Indy qualifying, which ends at 6 p.m. Central time.
Herbert turned a lap of 226.562 mph on "Fast Friday" today, the final day of practice before Pole Day at Indianapolis on Saturday. While fast by any measure, the lap around the 2.5-mile Brickyard was only fast enough to be 32nd among the 47 cars that posted speeds Friday. Penske driver and defending 500 champion Helio Castroneves set the standard with a lap of 232.087 mph.
"I see the list of speeds that have been going on with other drivers this week," said Herbert, a former winner in Formula One competition and a veteran of more than 200 F1 races. "And I'm sure that they are partly due to drafting. Come Saturday, unfortunately for those guys, you don't actually get that."
Adding another potential difficulty to Herbert's bid to race in the Indy 500 is the weekend weather forecast, which calls for rain both days.
"I want to qualify Saturday and get it over with," he said. "I don't want to be involved in this Bump Day scenario anyway. I'll let everybody else bite their nails and have heart attacks."