IRL: Indy500: Schroeder race report

INDIANAPOLIS, May 27 - "We were fortunate and unlucky at the same time," said Jeret Schroeder Sunday after starting 23rd and finishing 20th in the 85th annual Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The PDM Racing crew was...

INDIANAPOLIS, May 27 - "We were fortunate and unlucky at the same time," said Jeret Schroeder Sunday after starting 23rd and finishing 20th in the 85th annual Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The PDM Racing crew was forced to change the gearbox in the Purity Products/Summit Packaging/Graph to Graphics Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone #9 during the race. That cost the team many laps and most likely a top-10 finish. However, in an accident-riddled race it was still an accomplishment to be driving one of the 24 cars out of the 33 starters that was still running when winner Helio Castroneves took the checkered flag.

"It was a good day turned bad and then turned good again," noted Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J., about his run, which changed as often as rain replaced the sun in Indianapolis on Sunday. "But it could have been worse."

It could have been indeed. Schroeder got off to a great start, passing at least four cars right away. Polesitter Scott Sharp didn't even complete a lap, spinning and hitting the wall between turns one and two to become the second consecutive Indy 500 polesitter and the fifth one in the event's history to finish last.

Unfortunately Schroeder ran over some debris from Sharp's crash and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap three so the crew could examine the car for damage.

Fortunately there was no damage to the car other than a cut right-front tire, which they automatically changed. If they hadn't, it certainly would have caused trouble a little later.

Unfortunately, Schroeder came back out on the track in 32nd position.

    "We don't have any pressure sensors, so we had to check it out,"
Schroeder explained.  "It turned out it was a good thing we did."

That's the way things went for Schroeder almost all day.

"I don't remember if the gearbox problem developed right before our first regular pit stop or right after it, but it was early," Schroeder continued. "It felt like the same problem we had on Carb Day to me. At first I had no sixth gear, and then things went from bad to worse."

Schroeder had worked his way up from next-to-last to 18th spot when he made his first regularly-scheduled pit stop on lap 46. By lap 60 he didn't have fifth gear, and by lap 71 he told PDM's Paul Diatlovich over the radio that the gearbox was bouncing around a lot when he was in fourth and fifth too.

Rain was only three miles away from the track at that point, so Diatlovich told him to try to keep running as long as he could. By lap 103 Schroeder said it was so bad he couldn't keep the car in gear, and two laps later he brought the car into his pit stall and turned the engine off.

The PDM Racing crew scrambled to borrow parts and they changed the gearbox on pit road as fast as they could. The bad news was that they had to do it in the first place. The good news was that Jon Herb had an altercation with Greg Ray and crashed in turn three two laps after Schroeder came into the pits to bring out a yellow, so most of their work was done under caution-flag conditions.

Schroeder was back underway by lap 116, and by lap 130 he was in 23rd place.

"After the crew changed the gearbox, I had all my gears," Schroeder noted. "It felt a little different than what we started with, but it was OK. Fifth and sixth gear were a little shorter than what we started with; we needed a taller sixth gear I think.

"The car had a slight push early in the day, but it was adjustable by playing with the swaybar one or two clicks from where we started," he added. "I never had to touch the weight jacker."

The race was red-flagged for a shower on lap 155, and through perseverance and attrition Schroeder was able to advance a few more positions before the checkered. In fact, near the end he easily ran with the leaders until the starter gave him the move-over flag since he was driving a lapped car.

"PDM Racing gave me a good-handling car," Schroeder noted. "It came off the corners great in the draft. At the end of the race I had a really good, well-balanced car, and we were running as fast as the leaders. If the gearbox had worked the whole race, we would've been up front somewhere. If we hadn't had those problems we would have had a top-10 car for sure.

"I wish we could have had the car we had at the end of the race all day," he added wistfully.

"It was extremely disappointing because we should have had a better showing. It was tough to do down as many laps as we did because we all worked really hard."

Schroeder said the many cautions didn't really affect his concentration. "The breaks in the rhythm of the race were no big deal," he said. "I think it actually helped me stay a little more calm."

Schroeder said he didn't have any close calls even though there were five accidents during the race and three in the first 20 laps.

"No one was very patient at the start," he noted. "I don't think the early accidents had anything to do with cold tires. We're all on the same tires, they're Firestones so you know they're good, and we're all using the same basic equipment. The drivers who were involved in the early accidents were probably not being patient enough, but you'd have to ask them.

"The track conditions were fine," he continued. "The safety crews did a great job cleaning it up. It was the cleanest track in the three years I've been here.

"PDM did a great job," he concluded. "We proved we had a good race car at the end of the race. But to have the problems that we did and go down as many laps as we did and get stuck in 20th place was disappointing. We should definitely have been a lot better than that.

"I guess it could have been worse though," he concluded. "I'll be back next year!"

Schroeder is now 21st in the Indy Racing Northern Light series' driver point standings and PDM Racing is 21st in the entrant standings.

The series' next race is Saturday night, June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

-LM

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Jon Herb , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jeret Schroeder