Archive for May 21, 2007

Speedway Sightings …

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 22, 2007
Speedway, Indiana

It lasted all the way until 6pm, right up until the final gun, just like it’s supposed to. The practice laps, the never-ending adjustments and the uncertainty of who was capable of qualifying for the most prestigious auto race in the world, were all a part of year’s “Bump Day.”

And now, the 33 car field for the 2007 Indianapolis 500, the 91st running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” is set.

Richie Hearn set the bump day pace by taking a qualifying run at 2:30 pm. With an ambient temperature of 83 degrees, winds from the west-northwest at 17 mph and a track temperature of 136 degrees, Hearn had to know, just what kind of speed did his car was capable of. This morning was the first opportunity he had to get into his ride and he made the most of it. With the 33rd spot left in the grid, the six-time Indy 500 competitor posted a 219.960 mile per hour qualifying speed in the No. 91 Racing Professionals-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Honda to make the field. Hearn summed up his qualifying experience in a simple statement “I got on a plane and flew here and hoped for the best.”

Then it was Rookie Phil Giebler’s turn. After crashing hard late yesterday and his team working through the night, with the support of other teams such as Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Giebler stepped up at 3:42 pm and bumped Jimmy Kite from grid with a four-lap run of 219.637 mph. In talking about his team, he said “These guys are awesome. They pulled me up from the INDY PRO Series, and they believe in me and I believe in them.”

Then “Happy Hour” bumping began right at 5pm with Roberto Moreno in the No. 77 Chastain Motorsports Panoz/Honda, withdrawing his yesterday’s qualifying speed and making another run for the field. He raised the bar for those left on the outside looking in, by posting a 220.299 mph run. That put Marty Roth in the #25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda squarely on the bubble. The Moreno move, even brought Jaques Lazier, driver of No. 21 Indiana Ice/Venture Logistics–Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda out to pit lane preparing to get into the qualifying line just in case. It was a telling move of the uncertainty involved in getting bumped from the 500, when a driver who has two other cars between his and getting bumped, is still concerned enough to get back in line.

With 18 minutes left, Jimmy Kite in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs-PDM Racing Panoz/Honda attempted to qualify, but waved off after two laps, unable to wring any more speed out of the same car he qualified for the race grid yesterday at 214.528 mph.

At 5:57 pm, with the only change to the car being the addition of new tires. Kite, after admitting that the team had taken out all of the downforce from the car and he had never lifted his foot off the accelerator during his earlier run, gave it one last effort. It wasn’t to be. After just one lap at 214.744, owner Paul Diatlovich mercifully waved off the final attempt.

Conspicuously absent from qualifying was P.J. Jones in the No. 40 Team Leader/Dollander Racing Dallara/Honda. Only running 13 practice laps all afternoon, with the fastest being 216.987 mph, it was clear the team never got up to speed.

So the field is set, and if the weather next Sunday is remotely close to what we experienced that past two weekends, the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 has all the makings of great race.