IRL: Indy500: Sharp leads qualifying

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Indianapolis, IN (May 12, 2001) - Scott Sharp won the pole position for the 85th Running of the Indianapolis 500, averaging 226.037 mph in his four lap qualifying run. "I would call it my greatest...

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Indianapolis, IN (May 12, 2001) - Scott Sharp won the pole position for the 85th Running of the Indianapolis 500, averaging 226.037 mph in his four lap qualifying run. "I would call it my greatest accomplishment in racing so far," said Sharp. "Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 is the single hardest day in racing. It's a great accolade but I still have my focus on May 27."

"I turned to the man upstairs and said this is the time to excel," said Sharp, whose single fastest lap was recorded at 226.423 mph. "This says a lot for Kelley Racing. We've really stepped up our program. I can't say enough about the Delphi team. Ilmor gave us great engines. We actually got faster on the third lap, and that is when I knew we were going to have a good run. I think we've got a great race car."

Greg Ray, who was favored for the pole after setting the best lap of the day during four of the six practice days, qualified in the middle of the front row with an average speed of 225.194 mph.


Scott Sharp. Photo: Rob Kurtycz/Motorsport.com.

Robby Gordon was the surprise of the day, qualifying the A.J. Foyt - Richard Childress entry on the outside of the front row. "The lap surprised me, actually," said Gordon, who turned a four lap average of 224.994 mph. "Our warm up lap was the quickest lap I've run all month."

" I felt we could run 224.5s, consistently. I scared myself on the first fast lap in (turn) one, I got a little loose. On the second lap, going into turn one, I stiffened the front bar two notches. The car pushed, washed out, and I had to lift off the throttle just a little bit. From that, I moved the bar back one more position, to make the car looser, and ran the next two laps flat out."

Sharps teammate, Mark Dismore qualified fourth. "This morning we ran a 224.58 and I felt like we could run a 226," Dismore said.

"We made a couple of small changes that we thought would pick us up about a mile an hour. We made those changes and rolled it out there to qualify." Expecting higher speeds, Dismore's first attempt was aborted. "The track temperatures were about 20 degrees hotter than when we ran this morning and it really took the car away from me in turn one. That was the first strike again the car, we ran 221."

"We went back and addressed those issues. We made the changes, went out and turned a 224 with 20 gallons of fuel in it. We knew it was pretty good. We made a decision to just wait and let the track come to us."

Gil de Ferran qualified fifth, the highest placing driver from the CART series. Despite a second row starting position, de Ferran felt he had more in the car. "We left a little on the table in the last couple of laps, but it was a good, solid run."

De Ferran is making his second appearance at the Speedway. His first race, in 1995, ended in a first turn accident. "We don't have a lot of experience in this car. Here you run wide open all the way around. At the end of the day, I'm a rookie here. I've got to figure out the drafting and line of the racetrack."

"There is a great aura about this place. It's great to be here. I always saw Indianapolis as an arena where the great champions of our sport ran, not only the great drivers of America but also Europe. You can just feel the tradition."

Two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will start on the outside of the second row. "On the backstraight I heard a clunk," said Luyendyk. "I felt it going this morning. It didn't feel like it did yesterday. We thought about changing the engine this morning. We weren't sure. There were no signs on any of the data, so we decided to still take this first run."

First out on the track for qualifying, Luyendyk posted a strong number, 224.257 mph, but slowly slipped back to sixth place as the day progressed. "I definitely went into turn one a lot harder than I have all week because that's what you have to do, save the best for last."

Winston Cup star Tony Stewart was seventh. "We didn't have a problem," said Stewart. "We just missed the balance a little bit. I would have loved to have been on the pole, but I'm more worried about getting my picture on the Borg-Warner Trophy in a couple of weeks. I had a god run. It's not what we had been hoping for, but we're in. By the end of the second lap the car was a little tighter, but this wasn't a situation where we were trying to go for the pole. I've never seen anyone on the Borg-Warner Trophy for winning the pole."

Notes:

McCormack Motorsports owner Dennis McCormack and the team's regular driver Brandon Irwin have decided to allow Jimmy Kite to drive the team's No. 30 G Force for the race. Kite has made three appearances in the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of 11th in 1998.

***

After putting Tony Stewart and Jimmy Vasser safely in the field, Chip Ganassi has decided to release the backup cars to his regular drivers in the CART series. Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian will practice in the Target Chip Ganassi cars on Sunday morning before attempting to qualify later in the day.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Greg Ray , Brandon Irwin , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Mark Dismore , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Jimmy Kite , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt