By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 21, 2007
Today proved that when it comes to qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, the best laid plans, can come apart in a matter of seconds. With the final 11 spots available in the grid for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, it became obvious there were two schools of thought when it came to qualifying. Some qualified as soon as they could get in line, while others waited until “happy Hour.”
After the track opened for qualifying at 12 noon, four drivers qualified in the midst of sunny skies, temperatures in the low 70s and track temperatures running between 100-105 degrees.
Roger Yasukawa, John Andretti, Milka Duno and Marty Roth all posted qualifying times in their first runs of the day. Jon Herb ran three laps but was waved off during the course of his final lap when he began to suffer from a fuel pressure problem, after averaging 220 miles per hour.
Almost an hour and a half passed before two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, Jr. went out at 2:20 pm and posted a 220.876 to put him into his 19th Indianapolis 500. Unser said he was encouraged by the fact that “We were getting faster every lap. It was good; it was a good run. I’m glad it’s in.” As for his prospects for the race, he shared “Uncle Bobby (three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser) told me a long time ago, the thing about your Dad (four time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, Sr.) and I see it you, is the longer the race, the better you’re going to do.” Unser, Jr. went on to say “Something my Dad kept telling me went I was growing up and learning the business, is there only one lap you want to lead, and that’s the last one.”
Although activity on the track was at an all-time high for the month with 32 cars running a total of 1,925 laps, bringing the month’s total to 1,178 laps run, qualifying action was virtually dormant following Al Unser’s run, until happy hour.
At 5:05pm cars started heading to inspection. First in line was Alex Barron, in the No. 98 CURB Records-Agajanian-Beck Motorsports Dallara/Honda, who posted a solid run of 219.471 to capture a spot on the outside of the ninth row. Next was Jaques Lazier in the No. 21 Indiana Ice/Venture Logistics Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda who qualified 28th, but was bumped a spot by Jon Herb, whose No. 19 Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda qualified at 220.108 mph.
It was then that Rookie Phil Giebler in the No. 31 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda, posted three laps above 221 miles per hour, clearing putting him in the show, only to have his car “push” into the wall in turn two and ending up next to the backstretch inside retaining wall, heavily damaged. Once he cleared his medical examination, Giebler indicated that he was confident his team could get his car repaired by tomorrow.
The delay clearing track debris shorted what qualifying time was left for the day. Two more cars qualified, Roberto Moreno in the No. 77 Chastain Motorsports Panoz/Honda qualified at 216.229 mph and Jimmy Kite in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs PDM Racing Panoz/Honda at 214.528 mph. Both drivers admitted that their cars were not up to speed, but wanted to get qualified in the event that rain affected tomorrow’s “Bump Day” schedule.
Drivers left to qualify and/or bump their way into the grid tomorrow are Phil Giebler in the No. 31 car, P.J. Jones in the No. 40 car and Richie Hearn in the No. 91 car. It was announced this morning that a partnership had been struck between Jon Herb’s Racing Professionals team (No. 19 car) and Ron Hemelgarn Racing to run the Racing Professionals No. 19T backup Dallara/Honda as the Hemelgarn Racing entry No. 91 with Hearn behind the wheel. Hearn has run in six Indianapolis 500s with third and six place finishes to his credit.
Other news out of Gasoline Alley today, was that Larry Foyt, Team Director for A.J. Foyt Racing, a three-time competitor in the 500 and one-time competitor in the Brickyard 400, underwent a driver’s physical examination earlier this week at the on-track Clarian Medical Center. Although he would not commit to the possibility of Foyt Racing entering a third car to run with No. 14 Darren Manning and No. 50 Al Unser, Jr., Foyt did say “Well, you never now what’s going to happen here (at Indy.) We’ve got the cars to where if my Dad wanted to throw one in, I think that we could do it. We’re probably just going to see what happens today and how fast people are going. I feel really confident that I could jump in and get up to 220 pretty quickly. It probably won’t happen, but I just want to be ready just in case.”
Qualifying today were …
23. Roger Yasukawa – No. 24 Dreyer&Reinbold Dallara/Honda – 222.654
24. John Andretti – No. 33 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda – 221.756
25. Al Unser, Jr. – No. 50 AJ Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda – 220.876
26. Alex Barron – No. 98 Beck Motorsports Dallara/Honda – 220.471
27. Jon Herb – No. 19 Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda — 220.108
28. Jaques Lazier – No. 21 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda – 219.409
29. Milka Duno (R) – No. 32 SAMAX Motorsports Dallara/Honda – 219.228
30. Marty Roth – No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda – 218.922
31. Ro. Moreno – No. 77 Chastain Motorsports Panoz/Honda – 216.229
32. Jimmy Kite – No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda – 214.528