INDIANAPOLIS, May 12, 2001 - Walker Racing driver Sarah Fisher qualified the ...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 12, 2001 - Walker Racing driver Sarah Fisher qualified the #15 Walker Racing/Kroger Special/Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone car in 15th position today for the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 with a four-lap average speed of 222.548 mph.
Pole Day in Indianapolis dawned sunny, clear and cool and Sarah's car took the green flag to qualify at around noon. Her first attempt, however, was waved off by owner Derrick Walker when a piece of her headrest became loose on her second qualifying lap and blocked the air intake of her racecar.
However, the waved off run actually helped the Walker Racing team when they made their next attempt, as the data that engineers Rob Edwards and Mike Wright gathered about the car was utilized to give Sarah an even better qualifying setup based on wind and track temperatures at the time.
Sarah's second Indianapolis 500 qualifying run was a far different experience for her than her rookie run in 2000 when she qualified 19th.
"Last year's run was `bing-bang-boom' and it was over with before I knew it," said Sarah. "This year it was kind of spooky because the head pad fell out and blocked the air intake and took my helmet and almost pulled it off and it was a bad experience. I came into the pits and we had to make a second attempt, and the waiting kind of drove me nuts and I got even more nervous. I think everyone around me was concerned that we would not have an equal opportunity when we went back out because the weather was much hotter.
This week during practice we've struggled to have consistent 220 laps and this morning we did a couple of consistent 222 laps, which gave us some confidence, but that was before the weather got hot. So it was surprising to me that we could consistently run 222's during qualifying. Derrick, Rob, Mike and all the guys did a wonderful job of predicting the conditions correctly when we went back out on the track and actually gave us a better qualifying time even in the heat of the day -- all four laps were right on the button and really close. That's what we were striving for."
Team owner Walker is a veteran of 17 Indianapolis 500's and talked about the difference between Sarah's rookie qualifying year and 2001.
"Sarah had never been in the Indianapolis 500 qualifying mode before last year and so that was more of an issue for us last year," said Derrick. "Today was a success for us in more than one way. From Sarah's point of view, she stepped up to a speed she hadn't done all week, and for her to manage those four laps at those speeds, that was first-class. The other successful part of the story was that from an engineering standpoint we were able to take the data from the first failed qualifying attempt and make adjustments to the race car prior to going back out on the track. The accuracy of those adjustments made the difference between having a mediocre qualifying attempt and the successful one we ended up with."
Don't miss Sarah and the Walker Racing team's feature story on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Monday, May 14th. Check your local listings for broadcast times.