INDIANAPOLIS, May 13, 2001 - Five drivers seized the day, taking advantage of ideal weather conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to earn provisional starting spots in the second day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 27. With ...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 13, 2001 - Five drivers seized the day, taking advantage of ideal weather conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to earn provisional starting spots in the second day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 27. With temperatures in the 60s and calm winds, fast times were in the air. Bruno Junqueira turned today's fastest speed in Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Oldsmobile G-Force at 224.208 mph - a speed that would have earned him a spot on the fourth row of the grid yesterday. Instead, he will tentatively start on Row 9 under the Indy 500's complex qualifying rules. The final 33-car field will be set in the third day of qualifying on May 20.
"This morning we took a little downforce off the car, put on new tires, and ran 225 mph," said Junqueira. "I have to thank (teammates) Jimmy (Vasser) and Tony Stewart for their help. On the last lap the car started to push. I had to lift a little bit and the car lost one mile per hour. It was still a good average speed and I didn't push it. The most important thing for me today was to qualify for the race. I knew that I had to be flat out all the way, and the car did it."
Rookies Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian were originally slated to drive for team owner Chip Ganassi, but were replaced by the more experienced Stewart and Vasser. With two cars safely in the field, Ganassi gave his other drivers a shot at the Indy 500. Junqueira responded, and Minassian was third fastest at 223.006. Ganassi's four cars are the most qualifiers from a single team since Team Scandia put five cars in the race in 1997.
"I was on my way home," said Minassian. "They called me and said you have to come back to the track - you're going to run Indianapolis. It came as a surprise."
Oldsmobile engines continued to dominate qualifying for the world's most famous auto race. Twenty-nine of the 32 qualified drivers are using IRL Aurora V8 engines. Eight independent Oldsmobile engine builders are represented in the provisional starting lineup.
Michael Andretti was one of two Oldsmobile drivers who gambled on improving their qualifying speeds by withdrawing their previously qualified cars. Andretti ran a four-lap average of 223.441 mph in Team Green's Oldsmobile Dallara, a marked improvement over his 220.747 mph run yesterday.
"We wouldn't have been in this position, but yesterday in qualifying there was some miscommunication and there was too much tape put on my radiators," Andretti reported. "We overheated the engine and I lost a mile-an-hour on the last two laps. Yesterday's engine was as good as today's."
Buzz Calkins also won his bet that he could improve his qualifying speed. He tossed out yesterday's 220.039 mph run and replaced it with a 222.463 mph average today.
"This car isn't that much different than the one we had before, so I think it had a little more horsepower," Calkins commented. "Also conditions are great right now without the wind we had yesterday."
Oldsmobile drivers Jeret Schroeder, Davey Hamilton, and Tyce Carlson also joined the provisional lineup. Hamilton used an Ilmor-prepared Oldsmobile that was loaned to the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team by the pole-winning Kelley Racing team.
"Today when I pulled out of the pits, I told myself I'm not lifting until the checkered flag comes out," Hamilton said. "It paid off. Ilmor built a great motor and that's how we got the speed. I can't thank Kelley Racing enough for loaning us an engine last night."
Carlson, the slowest qualifier at 220.480 mph, assessed his situation realistically. "We had to take the time today," he declared. "You don't know if it's going to rain next weekend or be 90 degrees. We're happy with where we are. If we need our spare car, the engine we have coming for it is a thumper. If we need it, it will be there."
Pos./Driver/Engine/Speed 1. Bruno Junqueira, Oldsmobile, 224.208 mph 2. Michael Andretti, Oldsmobile, 223.441 3. Nicolas Minassian, Oldsmobile, 223.006 4. Jeret Schroeder, Oldsmobile, 222.786 5. Buzz Calkins, Oldsmobile, 222.463 6. Eddie Cheever Jr., Infiniti, 222.152 7. Davey Hamilton, Oldsmobile, 221.696 8. Tyce Carlson, Oldsmobile, 220.480
The track will be quiet for the next two days, and will reopen for seven hours of practice daily from Wednesday, May 16 through Saturday, May 19. The field will be set on "Bump Day," the final day of qualifying, on Sunday, May 20. The 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 12:00 noon EDT (11:00 a.m. local time) on Sunday, May 27. The 200-lap, 500-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.