Come on everybody, do the Bump

It's known as Bump Day, but for many drivers trying to make the field for the 85th Indianapolis 500, Sunday's final round of qualifications is auto racing's version of D Day.

Come on everybody, do the Bump

If a driver doesn't get up to speed before 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, he will be watching next Sunday's race from the sidelines.

One position remains open in the 33-car starting lineup. Once that spot is filled, the bumping process begins, where the slowest qualified car is on the bubble. Currently, that is Roberto Guerrero with a four-lap average of 220.054 miles per hour. Next on the list is Tyce Carlson at 220.480, Airton Dare at 220.966, Didier Andre at 220.985, Shigeaki Hattori at 221.098, Felipe Giaffone at 221.100 and two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. at 221.615.

Raul Boesel was the fastest non-qualified driver during Saturday's practice session at 222.547 mph in Giaffone's backup G Force-Oldsmobile Aurora. Billy Boat was second at 222.147 mph, with Donnie Beechler third at 221.032 mph. Eliseo Salazar, who was a contender for the front two rows last weekend, before suffering two crashes and two blown engines, ran a lap at 220.410 mph.

But, Sunday could be a day when a driver who has yet to turn a lap at Indy this month could jump in a car and be the hero of the day. Richie Hearn is hoping to be that driver.

Hearn, who finished third in the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and 27th last year, has been looking for a ride all month. When Stan Wattles withdrew from Hemelgarn Racing's entry on Saturday, that opened the possibility for Hearn to get that ride on Sunday. The team's primary driver, 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier, will start on the inside of the fourth row. As of Saturday night, Hearn had yet to get a firm offer.

"It would definitely help for my psyche if I knew something before Sunday," Hearn said. "I know I can get it up to speed, but I haven't done a race since last year. I'll be back in the morning asking again.

"I think he is waiting for money," Hearn added of team owner Ron Hemelgarn. "There would be no other reason why he would do it, unless he wants to challenge me mentally. Maybe he has some other deals working and he is close. This race is expensive to run. Sometimes, people overlook the fact, are they here to make money or are they here to win the race? I don't have money, but I can win the race. That's the best I can offer."

Ron Hemelgarn has suddenly become the most popular man in Gasoline Alley because he has one of the best non-qualified cars available for Sunday. Rideless drivers are offering Hemelgarn plenty of deals to get into that car.

"We have the fastest unqualified race car out there so that feels pretty good," Hemelgarn said. "You don't want to put somebody in there that needs a lot of laps because they aren't going to get it. You need somebody to stand on the gas who is not in good enough equipment to make the race.

"I have lots of friends in this garage area now. I'm looking at all options. To me, it's not a rush. The car is ready to go. It can go fast. We have stayed with the track all week. I think a guy could go out there and run 222 pretty easily. I can wait until five minutes are left in qualifying because I don't have to do it."

Cory Witherill is attempting to become the first Native American in the modern era to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. His prospects improved when Team Menard sold Witherill's team a qualifying engine. Greg Ray, Team Menard's driver, will start in the inside of the first row with a four-lap average of 225.194 mph from last Saturday.

"I was at the gym running when I heard we got an engine from Menard," said Witherill, a member of the Navajo Tribe. "They are excellent motors and Sal Incandala, one of the owners of my team, got us the motor. We were working on speed during the last hour of Saturday's qualifying. We made some changes and put some new tyres on it and then there was a crash. We hit some of the debris and had to come in to make some minor repairs."

Team owner Tom Kelley doesn't have to worry about Bump Day. His driver, Scott Sharp, is on the pole at 226.037 mph and the team's other driver, Mark Dismore, starts on the inside of the second row at 224.964 mph. However, Kelley may help another team get into the race if the right offer is made.

"I don't know of any situation yet where it will work," Kelley said. "I don't know a proposition that makes sense right now. We could lease a car to somebody or sell a car to somebody. The teams that are struggling to get in now are the teams that don't have the money. It's a tough deal. I tend to help people we have a relationship with, like Sam Schmidt. We loaned him an engine last week to get Davey Hamilton into the show. We don't have a backlog of motors sitting around right now."


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