By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Indianapolis, Ind. (May 20, 2001) - The closest field of 33 drivers in the history of the Indy 500 is set for the 85th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing next Sunday. Only 3.2422 seconds separates...
By David Reininger - Motorsport.com
Indianapolis, Ind. (May 20, 2001) - The closest field of 33 drivers in the history of the Indy 500 is set for the 85th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing next Sunday. Only 3.2422 seconds separates MBNA pole winner Scott Sharp from last place starter Billy Boat.
"Bump Day" started with one position left in the field, which was quickly filled by Billy Boat when qualifying began at noon. Boat averaged 221.528 mph, slowest of the seven cars to qualify today.
Just after 5:00 p.m., Stephan Gregoire bumped Felipe Giaffone out of the field putting Boat's speed of 221.528 mph on the bubble.
Boat endured 12 attempts by eight different drivers, managing to stay in the field by five one-hundredths of a second over Shigeaki Hattori, now the first alternate.
"We're pretty happy," said Boat, who sat on the bubble for 48 minutes. "I never thought it would be this hard. You have to earn everything you get. I think this was definitely earned this year.
"Anyone who thinks this place is easy has never been here. To get in the field is one thing, and to stay n the field is another."
The fastest car to qualify today belonged to Donnie Beechler, who averaged 224.449 mph, the fifth fastest speed in the field. Beechler edged A.J. Foyt Racing teammate Eliseo Salazar by six tenths of a second, earning the 27th starting position.
Salazar will start 28th.
"I didn't even think I was going to drive here," said Beechler. "I just came looking to see if I could find something."
Beechler, who qualified the No. 14T car, will now be designated as driver of the No. 84 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing entry.
Stephan Gregoire was the day's third fastest qualifier, putting the Heritage Motorsports No. 36 entry into the middle of the tenth row with a four-lap average of 222.888 mph. Gregoire came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the driver of Dick Simon's No. 7 but had trouble getting the team's Dallara up to speed. Gregoire turned his first laps in the Heritage Motorsports entry yesterday.
"It's such a relief," said Gregoire, after making his qualifying run. "I've been worried all month."
After struggling for two weeks, Gregoire managed to record a lap at 223.541 mph while practicing in the Heritage Motorsports car this morning. "I was losing my confidence. I've been questioning myself. I never have questioned my driving before. Finally I know it's not me."
A total of six drivers were added to the field today. In addition to Boat, Beechler, Salazar and Gregoire, Raul Boesel and Cory Witherill both qualified to run in Sunday's race.
Boesel, who was called to the Speedway from Brazil by Treadway-Hubbard Racing on Monday, practiced in both team backup cars, the No. 5T of Arie Luyendyk and the No. 21T of Felipe Giaffone today. According to Indy Racing Northern Light Series officials, Boesel, who qualified 31st with a speed of 221.879 mph, will be withdrawn on Monday morning as the driver of the No. 21 car and will be replaced by Felipe Giaffone. Giaffone, a rookie, is currently fifth in Indy Racing championship point standings.
When the second day of qualifying ended last Sunday, Airton Dare was in the field with a speed of 220.966 mph in his backup car. Raul Boesel bumped Dare at 12:24 p.m. this afternoon and a half-hour later, Dare was back in the qualifying line in his primary car. Dare managed to record four laps at an average speed of 222.236 mph to put his Team Xtreme G Force back in the show.
"We were ready to be bumped," Dare said. "We thought we'd go out on this run and see how it felt, since we had two attempts left. If we had a problem, we could come back in and go out again. But the car felt good so we took it."
Six cars were bumped from the field today, the most since 1993, when six also were bumped. Five of the drivers bumped today were first day qualifiers, moving seven drivers up five positions. Bruno Junqueira, Michael Andretti, Nicolas Minassian, Jeret Schroeder, Buzz Calkins, Eddie Cheever and Davey Hamilton each moved up five positions on the starting grid.
Final practice for the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be held on Carb Day, Thursday May 24 with the Indy cars on track from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.