ELEVEN MORE DRIVERS JOIN FIELD FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 13, 2007 -- Davey Hamilton says he has given more than 4,000 passengers a thrill in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater. The veteran IndyCar Series driver received...
ELEVEN MORE DRIVERS JOIN FIELD FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 13, 2007 -- Davey Hamilton says he has given more than 4,000 passengers a thrill in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater. The veteran IndyCar Series driver received one himself on Second Day Qualifying for the 91st Indianapolis 500.
Hamilton, returning to competitive driving for the first time since suffering multiple injuries in a crash during a 2001 race, put the No. 02 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone solidly in the 33-car field at 222.327 mph as positions 12-22 were filled for the May 27 race.
Fourteen cars made qualifying attempts, including five that were unsuccessful in securing a spot on Pole Day. Five were quicker than Michael Andretti's 222.789 mph four-lap qualifying average that stood up for 11th on the first day.
Scott Sharp, driving the No. 8 Patron Sharp Rahal Letterman Racing car, topped the list at 223.875 mph (which would have been good for ninth on Pole Day). He will be on Row 4 with Andretti and Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter. Sharp's teammate, Jeff Simmons (223.693) in the No. 17 Team Ethanol car, Ed Carpenter (223.495) in the No. 20 Vision Racing car and Darren Manning (223.471) in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car will share Row 5.
Row 6 will be occupied by 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice (222.826), Kosuke Matsuura (222.595) in the No. 55 Panasonic car and A.J. Foyt IV (222.413). Delphi Panther Racing's Vitor Meira (222.333), Hamilton and Sarah Fisher (221.960) will be on Row 7. Buddy Lazier, the 1996 race winner, bumped Jon Herb from the final available spot on the day with a second attempt of 221.380 mph.
Today is Mother's Day and several driver's mothers are at the Speedway today. Among drivers whose mothers are here today are: Sarah Fisher (Reba Fisher), Ed Carpenter (Laura George), A.J. Foyt IV (Nancy Foyt), Jeff Simmons (Judy Simmons, whose other son Chris is an engineer for Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Helio Castroneves (Sandra), Sam Hornish Jr. (Jo Ellen Hornish) and Danica Patrick (Bev Patrick).
Sarah Fisher's mother, Reba, is a former go-kart racer, whose karts carried the No. 5, the same number on the AAMCO Transmissions/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda-powered Dallara that her daughter is driving in the IndyCar Series.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Ben Utecht sang the national anthem during pre-qualifying ceremonies today.
(What's it like to be here and to be singing the national anthem at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?): "This is great. It's my first time here. The last three years, I've actually been at my home in Minnesota and never really had a chance to get out here. People kept telling me how exciting it is. When I had the chance to come today, I was just thrilled. This is just incredible. The magnitude of this race and the magnitude of this place is just incredible."
(As a professional athlete, what are the similarities you think about as you watch these drivers and what they go through?): "Obviously, this is a very competitive industry, and that's something I can really relate to. The competition level out here is so high. That causes you to be that much more focused and determined in your training regimens, and I know that these guys are doing whatever they can do in the offseason to prepare for days to come. That's what it's all about. We're very similar in the fact that this is our job, and we need to do it to the best of our abilities. It takes focus and determination."
A total of 40 cars are at the Speedway. Thirty-four have passed technical inspection. Twenty-nine drivers have been on the track to date, turning 687 practice laps today and 6,090 laps this month. Buddy Lazier turned 85 laps today, most of any driver. Marty Roth has turned 331 laps this month, most of any driver. A total of 97 IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers have passed physical examinations at the Clarian Medical Center. There were five cautions today for a total of 43 minutes.
Milka Duno was at the Speedway today, but did not make a qualifying attempt after an accident on Fast Friday.
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(About the team's plan next week): "The plan is that I will be in the car on Wednesday. The guys are working very hard. We hope to have the car ready for Wednesday."
(Regarding her accident): "It's something that can happen here. Everyone says, 'Welcome to Indianapolis.'"
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"We were playing to our strengths today. Tony (Kanaan) is really good at finding the limit of a qualifying car, and I have a good feel for a race car. I got delegated to do that today and give us maybe a head start of where we need to be to start on Wednesday. I think we made good progress with the Canadian Club car. We'll get all five us working from now on toward a race car."
BRIAN BARNHART (President, Competition and Operations, Indy Racing League):
"A lot of thought went into the process to develop the new format and there's so many years of history and tradition here, but realistically, coming out of the first weekend, you usually came out with 20 to 25 cars qualified, and that's what we've got. We've got 22 cars qualified, we just got there a little different way that I think was way more entertaining for the fans. And the one thing that I certainly get a closer reaction to immediately is the reaction of the crews and the drivers because of the process that we got through, and while it was tension-filled, especially with the drivers and what's at stake when they do that, that's what they're paid to do and that's what they have fun doing. When you look at the face of Tony Kanaan when he's getting ready to go out at five minutes to 6 or waiting for Helio to finish, he was eating it up; he was ready to go. The drivers had fun, the crews had fun, the managers and strategists had fun trying to decide what they wanted to do--to go to impound, to go back to tech. It was a different game to be played and so I know the participants enjoyed it, and I've always felt that whether it's on the track or the formats, if it's something the participants enjoy doing, then they're going to entertain the fans. Like I said, the good news is that we came out with just exactly what we're looking for as we head out into the second week--about the same number of cars qualified. We've got 22, which is probably pretty close to the average that used to qualify. One of the things I liked best about it was not just he drama and the excitement that was provided for yesterday, but the fact that we did it with this new format put meaning on today. If we wouldn't have done this format we'd have probably qualified 22 to 24 cars yesterday and then sat around and ran practice all day today because nobody would have taken a time and we'd have had no meaning for the second day. Now, the second day had meaning. It wasn't quite as much as the first day, but it shouldn't be--that's the Pole Day. But the second day, the middle of the field had meaning. You could tell by what Buddy, Jaques and Jon Herb doing there at the end of the day, they want to know, they at least have a temporary spot reserved in the field and they can work on Race Day setups next week and work with sponsors and make sure they know that at least now they're in the field, at least right now. It still had meaning for a Second Day Qualifying that in the last several years didn't exist. So, very successful from our standpoint, the teams, drivers and fans that I've talked to. I've been overwhelmed by the fans' response that I've had several e-mails and stopping with the fans in Gasoline Alley that it's all been positive so we're very pleased."
(About adding another hour to the day): "I think that's really more a Joie question. In terms of the facility and noise, but from our standpoint, jumping in on it, Don, the cars performance isn't dramatically affected by temperatures as it used to be either. Again, that's a testament to our manufacturers and suppliers. Dario (Franchitti) ran his (qualification attempt) at one o'clock in the afternoon. His 25.1 stood up there until five minutes 'till 6. And even though it did cool off, it really wasn't a temperature-related issue. I think when Helio (Castroneves) and Tony (Kanaan) ran a little faster, it was more wind-related than it was temperature. And, I think, if you remember, I think (Sam) Hornish ran his pole speed, I think in the heat of the day last year as well, so the cars seem to be less sensitive to temperatures than they have been in the past but maybe a little more sensitive to wind. Especially with the gear ratios. I think that's what caught a lot of people off guard early yesterday, was the direction of the wind. I was just amazed at one point, they ended up starting third, fourth, and fifth, but I thought the closeness of the competition, at one point, for several minutes, we had 225.1 on the pole, 225.1 second , and 225.1 third. Like I said, I think they're third, fourth, and fifth now, but after a 10-mile run, of three teams that were represented that close, it just shows how good the competition is, and it literally came down to a gust of wind, or the wind laying down a little bit that gave Helio and Tony the opportunity to do what they did. And from another standpoint, I hope people understand what it takes to withdraw a time from an incredibly secure starting position at the Indy 500, in the second row, to go out there and make a run. It's just an amazingly brave decision. And it shows what these guys are willing to do, but more than that, it shows what the Indianapolis 500 means to them. They're in the field, in the second row, well, that's not good enough. When you see the look that I saw on Danica (Patrick's) face that I saw who was in the middle of the third row, that she didn't get to go out and run again, and she was looking to move up to the second or the front row and didn't get a chance to do it, these guys are so passionate about this place, that that certainly bodes well for the future. That's a little off track, Joie can answer more on your Daylight Savings, I guess."
JOIE CHITWOOD (President and Chief Operating Officer, Indianapolis Motor Speedway):
"I'd say I'd be pleased any day the sun is shining and the temperature is about 78 to 82 degrees. I think we pulled some weather numbers for the last eight years during qualifications; we were either wet or below 70 (degrees), so the fact that we had great weather really felt good and I think Brian and I--it's typical that we'd be doing this press conference at 3 on a Saturday saying what the format is for Sunday after it had rained out. But it was nice to see it in action. I think our goal was to come up with a process that provided more activity on each day of qualifications, and I think the numbers bore out. I think we had 44 attempts, 11 bumps, two wave-offs, four weren't fast enough and five withdrew. So, we're really pleased that it did what it was supposed to and that was not only to provide a run for the pole, a run for the top 11 and then, today, a run for the next set of 11. And it was nice to actually see it in progress, but also to actually see the result because many times when Brian and I sit down and talk about these things, we hope it's going to play out the way it does; we plan for everything and all-in-all I was pleased. I couldn't be more happy. I thought the energy was there yesterday, from the plaza area to the garage area, it seemed like there was a great atmosphere and a lot of people seemed to be enjoying the day.
(Are you happy with the fan response?): "Absolutely. I think both Friday and Saturday were both outstanding days. From a hospitality standpoint, we were jam packed. All the hospitality rooms, Legends Row Suites, we had great corporate response. And I will tell you, there was a bustle. Whether is was getting in line to get soft drinks, food, or just to get in the gates, folks were getting in here at 7 a.m. excited for the day. I was very pleased. I was very pleased to look up into the Northwest Vista and see a bunch of fans sitting in Turn 4. I was very happy, of course, there's always room to impr ove. Always room, whether it's a practice day, whether it's a qualification day, whether it's Miller Lite Carb Day. We want to do as many activities and entertainment to draw folks out here. And the key thing for us is to make sure we have things that are compelling for, not only a 5 year old, but a 15 year old, a 25 year old, a 30 year old, and the folks that remember the A.J. Foyts running here and doing all the things they did. That's our job. Yeah, I'm the track president, but at the end of the day, we're all promoters and we're promoting entertainment. I think what we did this weekend is offer a new format for qualification that was a great form of entertainment. I think the fans enjoyed it, I think the competitors did, and I'm excited now because we got to see it in action this weekend. I'm excited to see what it can be for next year. People are talking about how that was pretty exciting, that was pretty fun. 'Wow, did you see Sam Hornish take two shots at it? The first one he almost white-walled it and the second, he had a pretty good wiggle.' That's the kind of entertainment, I think, folks are interested in, and I'm looking forward to what it can do for next year, now that we've had it happen for the first time and people are talking about it."
(About adding another hour to the day): "I get the exciting part of this conversation. You know, at the end of the day, you have to realize that we are a racetrack within a neighborhood. I think that it's always about a fair balance, in terms of operating the property and with the neighbors around us, you know, 6 o'clock has, kind of, always been the standard for when we shut down, and I think, unless there's a real need from the competition side to address it, I think that's a comfortable time for us to be operating."
The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (ET) on May 27. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's coverage of Carb Day at 4 p.m. on May 25.