INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 20, 2001 - Billy Boat survived a second consecutive year of Bump Day drama, clinging to the final spot in the 33-car field for 48 minutes as the field for the 85th Indianapolis 500 was set on Sunday. Boat was pushed on...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 20, 2001 - Billy Boat survived a second consecutive year of Bump Day drama, clinging to the final spot in the 33-car field for 48 minutes as the field for the 85th Indianapolis 500 was set on Sunday.
Boat was pushed on the "bubble" as the slowest qualifier in the field, at 221.528 mph, at 5:12 p.m. (EST) when Stephan Gregoire qualified at 222.888 mph in the #35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
Then Boat sweated out 12 unsuccessful attempts by eight different drivers over the next 48 minutes to keep his spot in the field, which is the closest time-wise in Indianapolis 500 history. He will start 33rd in the #98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone with the speed he posted at noon today as the first qualifier on Bubble Day.
"Right away, two guys got in, and then we're on the bubble," 1998 Indy pole winner Boat said. "You sit there, you say it was 48 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. Car after car was taking a shot at us." "I think from a satisfaction standpoint, the pole was more satisfying. From a terrifying standpoint, the bubble was more terrifying."
Last year, Boat qualified for the field on the last attempt of Bump Day, entering the track for his qualification attempt with less than one minute remaining.
"Just anything can happen," Boat said.
Other drivers earning a spot today in the May 28 race were Eliseo Salazar in the #14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone; Donnie Beechler in the #84 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, giving Indy legend Foyt three cars in the field; Raul Boesel in the #5T Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone; Airton Dare in the #88 1-800-BAR NONE TeamXtreme G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone after being bumped earlier in the day; and Cory Witherill in the #16 WSA/MOTORS/Indy Regency Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
Other drivers besides Dare bumped from the field were Roberto Guerrero, Tyce Carlson, Didier Andre, Shigeaki Hattori and Felipe Giaffone. None of those drivers were able to requalify for the race.
The scene during the final 45 minutes was frantic, as drivers scrambled to climb into cars to try to gain a spot in the field. Among the notable drivers switching cars were rookies Casey Mears and Memo Gidley.
Mears switched from Galles Racing to Walker Racing late in the day after the decision was made by the Galles team to give Mears' backup car to teammate Didier Andre. Mears started his attempt with five minutes left in qualifying, but the team waved off the run in the No. 25 Walker Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone after three of four laps.
Gidley switched from the No. 61 Brayton Racing car to a No. 37 Brayton Racing entry that was built today by Kelley Racing, which fields the pole-winning car of Scott Sharp. Gidley's run with 33 minutes remaining was waved off after three laps.
Kelley Racing crew members pulled Gidley back into the qualifying line, and he moved to the front of the line in the last minute of qualifying. Gidley started his final attempt approximately 10 seconds before the gun sounded to end qualifying, but his four-lap average of 221.198 was too slow to bump Boat from the field.
Richie Hearn was the unlucky driver who was next in the qualifying line, wondering about what could have been.
1998 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Steve Knapp was the only driver involved in an incident. Knapp, who had moved from Brayton Racing to Hemelgarn Racing in a late-night deal Saturday night, crashed while exiting Turn 2 during a late-afternoon practice session. Knapp was unhurt but unable to qualify in the No. 93 Metro Management/Super Fitness/Firestone Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.