Bell fastest on second qualifying day
|By Matt Beer and Jeff Olson||Saturday, May 17th 2008, 22:02 GMT|
Townsend Bell was fastest on the second qualifying day for the 2008 Indianapolis 500, earning himself 12th place on the starting grid, while AJ Foyt IV, Max Papis, Mario Dominguez and Phil Giebler all failed to make the field after various dramas.
Bell set his 222.539mph average on his first and only attempt of the afternoon, and it remained unbeaten for the rest of the day.
"I'm pretty happy with the way it went," Bell said. "We had good qualifying practice today and last night, and we knew we'd be pretty close.
"We always say we just want to be comfortably in the show, but when you get out there you realise every position is one less car you have to pass. We had a decent first lap and then slowed down a little. We knew we wanted a consistent four-lap run."
The Dreyer & Reinbold driver beat Graham Rahal to the quickest time today, with Darren Manning (Foyt) third-quickest, giving him 14th on the grid.
Rahal will be the highest starter amongst the drivers who switched from Champ Car for this season. On Pole Day a week ago he had been highly critical of his Newman/Haas/Lanigan team's tactics after missing out on a place in the top 11, but he apologised for those comments after his qualifying run today.
"It's nice to get in, and obviously I feel bad about my comments last week," Rahal said. "This team is certainly known for its preparation, and we showed it today.
"We've had a good car so far. Even yesterday when we were doing the long runs with high downforce, we were really good. This is only the first step, though."
Manning was also extremely upbeat after taking 14th spot.
"We were cautious with downforce, so we were surprised to go so fast," he said. "It was just because the car was that much better. With the downforce we're on, we're nearly at race set-up. That really bodes well for the race."
2002 Indy pole-sitter Bruno Junqueira produced a highly impressive run for the small Dale Coyne Racing team to secure 15th on the grid, ahead of Rahal's teammate Justin Wilson and Bell's teammate Buddy Rice, who had looked capable of better than 17th last week.
"This weekend, the weather is completely different," said 2004 Indy winner Rice. "It's windy, it's cold, it's everything. That's what makes this place awesome. It's tough. It's not supposed to be easy."
Today's six-hour session should have decided the final 11 spots on the grid, but with last Sunday's running having been cancelled due to rain, positions 12 to 33 were up for grabs instead.
Four drivers are yet to make the field - three of them because they were sidelined by accidents today.
Phil Giebler suffered the only crash during qualifying itself. He had only taken to the track for the first time today after his deal to drive for American Dream Racing came together at the last minute, and had yet to make a qualifying attempt when he spun violently into the wall while on a practice lap.
His Panoz chassis - the only one in the field - was heavily damaged, and Giebler was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for treatment of bruised lungs. He will be kept in hospital overnight.
Max Papis (Rubicon) and Mario Dominguez (Pacific Coast) both had to sit out the session because of their crashes in morning practice. Both drivers were cleared to continue, and their teams were confident that the cars would be repaired ready to earn a place on the grid during tomorrow's Bump Day session.
The other driver who failed to make it onto the grid today was AJ Foyt IV, who endured a nightmare afternoon. The Vision Racing driver abandoned his first qualifying attempt after an error, then waited until the final 20 minutes to make another run, only to become jammed in gear on his first lap and have to pull back into the pits.
All bar Foyt IV and Marty Roth set their times at the first attempt. Roth continued to work on his car throughout the afternoon before finally making a qualifying run with ten minutes to go, but he was still struggling for speed and ended the day 33rd and last.
Foyt IV, Papis, Dominguez, and potentially Giebler and any drivers who manage to complete last-minute deals, can all attempt to win a place on the grid during Bump Day tomorrow.
Struggling Conquest driver Jaime Camara, Roger Yasukawa (Beck), 1996 Indy winner Buddy Lazier (Hemelgarn) and Roth are the drivers vulnerable to being bumped out of the field when those yet to qualify make their attempts.
Current Indianapolis 500 grid:
Pos Driver Team Speed (mph) 1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 226.366 2. Dan Wheldon Ganassi 226.110 3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 226.080 4. Helio Castroneves Penske 225.733 5. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 225.197 6. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 224.794 7. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 224.417 8. Vitor Meira Panther 224.346 9. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 223.887 10. Ed Carpenter Vision 223.835 11. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon 223.496 12. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold 222.539 13. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 222.531 14. Darren Manning Foyt 222.430 15. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne 222.330 16. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 222.267 17. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold 222.101 18. Davey Hamilton Vision 222.017 19. Alex Lloyd Rahal Letterman/Ganassi 221.788 20. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 221.579 21. John Andretti Roth 221.550 22. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 221.246 23. Will Power KV 221.136 24. Jeff Simmons Foyt 221.103 25. Oriol Servia KV 220.767 26. EJ Viso HVM 220.356 27. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 220.305 28. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 219.716 29. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest 219.422 30. Jaime Camara Conquest 219.345 31. Roger Yasukawa Beck 218.010 32. Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 217.939 33. Marty Roth Roth 215.506