Now the Chess Match Begins …

Posted: May 12, 2008 in Uncategorized

Speedway Sightings …

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — May 12, 2008
Speedway, Indiana
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SPEEDWAY — With Sunday’s complete washout of the second day of qualifying, remaining driver and race team matchups now becomes a chess match that will play out over the course of the next six days.

The loss of Sunday’s qualifying has moved 11 qualifying spots in the grid to Saturday, combining qualifying for the remaining 22 spots in the 2008 Indy 500 field to just one six-hour afternoon. Final bumping will then take place Sunday.

This scenario creates even more activity than previously planned.

Several of the “Indy second week program” teams like CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports (who will soon announce their driving decision between Alex Barron and Roger Yasukawa), A.J. Foyt Racing (rumored to be talking with Jeff Simmons for a second entry), and Hemelgarn Racing with 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier, now have a shot at qualifying as high 12th on the grid, rather than 22nd as would have normally occurred had qualifying been held Sunday.

One of those “second week program” drivers is Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Phil Giebler who said “It’s tough being here at the Speedway and listening to cars practicing and not be able to be behind the wheel. But I’m really looking forward to being in the (No. 21) American Dream Motorsports Panoz/Honda next week.”

But not all of the driver opportunities end on a positive note.

Rookie Jay Howard, who had already run the first three races of the 2008 IndyCar Series season for Roth Racing, woke up Saturday morning and found his Indianapolis 500 dream ride pulled right out from under him.

Due to the decreased track time, loss of a team engineer and Howard’s being at Indianapolis for the first time, team owner Marty Roth elected to go with John Andretti in the No. 24 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda.

Andretti is reportedly bringing sponsorship with him, which is always a major factor in securing a ride.

Roth has indicated that Howard will be back in the seat for the June 1 Indy Racing League race at the Milwaukee Mile.

The IRL has confirmed that there are now a total of 37 cars at the Speedway that have passed inspection and one of those is the No. 77 Penske Racing entry, which does not have a driver listed, nor has been out of the garage on Gasoline Alley.

Even with a handful of “wild card” entries, Thursday’s and Friday’s practice sessions are expected to be the busiest of the month as all of the teams here to race will be after as much track time as they can get.

Brian Barnhart, President, Competition and Operations of the Indy Racing League stated “I anticipate a lot of track activity as teams will be running on full (fuel) tanks in preparation for the 92nd running (of the Indianapolis 500). You will have some pretty big groups of cars running, maybe eight or 10 running together (in practice) at a time.”

Combining the current 11 cars that have already secured spots in this year’s 500, with the remaining 26 cars available for running for the last 22 spots, toss in this year’s 11 rookies still in the hunt at the end of this week and you have a recipe for a lot of fast traffic.

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