St. James Is Still Hard at Work at Indy INDIANAPOLIS, May 20 - She's disappointed, but she's not down. Last weekend Lyn St. James came just 0.674 mph short - over a distance of 10 miles - in her effort to earn a...
St. James Is Still Hard at Work at Indy
INDIANAPOLIS, May 20 - She's disappointed, but she's not down.
Last weekend Lyn St. James came just 0.674 mph short - over a distance of 10 miles - in her effort to earn a starting spot in the 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500 this Sunday.
It would have been her seventh appearance in the Indy 500. She has made every Indy 500 since 1992, when she earned the prestigious "Rookie of the Year" award. But unfortunately this year she joins a long list of distinguished drivers who have failed to make the field sometime in their careers.
But she was so, so close.
In practice on May 14 her brand-new Lifetime Television for Women G-Force Infiniti No. 90 toured the Brickyard at an average speed of 217.302 mph. Had that occurred three days later, on the opening day of qualifying for the Indy 500 last Saturday, she would be starting this Sunday's classic from the outside of row six, in 18th position.
Each driver/car combination gets three attempts to qualify. Teams have the option to wave off official attempts if they think they can go faster later, but they get no more than three attempts. Each driver's final qualifying speed is the average speed run over four laps on the 2.5-mile speedway. The pole position is determined on the first day of qualifying (last Saturday), with the final positions being set for the 33-car field on "Bubble Day," (last Sunday).
St. James made one attempt on the first day of qualifying, coming out late in the day to run three laps at 215.559 mph, 215.383 mph and 214.787 mph before team manager Kevin Doran waved that attempt off. What the fans in the grandstand didn't know was the team was simply testing a new set-up during that run, unable to get practice time any other way. St. James' car was the last entry accepted for the 500, and its first shake-down run didn't occur until the day the track opened for practice the week before, on May 10.
That set the stage for "Bump Day" last Sunday, when St. James was scheduled to be the 14th of 18 drivers expected to try to qualify. Earlier in the week 39 drivers had drawn for positions in the qualifying line-up out of a total of 60 entries.
Her second attempt came at 4:54 p.m. Sunday, when she dashed off two laps at 215.085 mph and 215.615 mph before her team waved off that attempt on lap three.
The drama continued to build, and further adjustments were made to try to find that last bit of speed out of the machine. With only 10 minutes left before the end of qualifying she pulled onto the track for her third and final attempt. She was the next-to-last driver to try to qualify. Her teal and white car reeled off four laps at 216.050 mph, 215.765 mph, 215.662 mph and 215.095 mph for an average of 215.642 mph, unfortunately just missing the field by a heartbeat.
The run was only 0.674 mph slower than the slowest driver who will be in the race - Johnny Unser - who locked himself into the field at an average speed of 216.316 mph on the first day of qualifying.
St. James' official run on Sunday was 3.356 mph faster than the average speed needed to make last year's 500, 212.286 mph. This year's average was 218.305 mph.
"Of course we're disappointed on how things went, but there is still a remote chance that we could make the field up until 1 p.m. on Thursday," St. James said on Tuesday night. "If two cars should crash during the final practice session on Thursday and be deemed beyond repair, we'd be in as the second alternate. We certainly don't wish that on any other drivers, but if that should happen we'd be ready."
Being the team owner for the first time this year in addition to being the driver has been a challenge, and St. James now finds herself shifting her attention once again.
"I still have a job to do," she said firmly. "I'll still be interfacing with the fans and sponsors and working the event. I really want to thank all of our fans and supporters who helped us this year."
Even if she's not in the field on Sunday, she'll still be one of the most popular stops for the fans attending "Community Day" at the track today (Wednesday), when she'll cheerfully sign autographs in Garage No. C-20. After that she'll dash off to the new HomeGate studios and suites hotel at 5350 West Southern Avenue to do a personal appearance and a live radio remote with Rodger Ward of radio station WQFE, 101.9 FM, Brownsburg, Ind., from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Both HomeGate and the radio station are sponsors of her effort.
She'll be the honorary chairperson of the Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (CARA)'s 17th annual fashion show and luncheon on Friday at the Westin Hotel at 50 South Capital Avenue, which starts with a social hour at 11 a.m. She'll also co-host "500 Magazine," a racing TV show on WRTV, Channel 6, the local ABC affiliate, this week.
St. James will also be entertaining sponsors and potential sponsors and actively seeking support for the eight remaining Pep Boys Indy Racing League events this year, as well as the entire season next year.
"Not making the 500 has happened to some of the best, like [team owner] Roger Penske with drivers Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi, and team owner/driver Bobby Rahal as well as a number of other very good drivers," St. James says philosophically. "We're disappointed, but we're not down. We still have work to do."
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