Drivers on Indy bubble stay confident

The drivers most vulnerable to being bumped out of the Indianapolis 500 field in today's final qualifying session are all optimistic that they can hang on as the last three non-qualified drivers take shots at them this afternoon

Drivers on Indy bubble stay confident

John Andretti (Dreyer & Reinbold/Richard Petty), Milka Duno (Dreyer & Reinbold) and Nelson Philippe (HVM) currently occupy 31st to 33rd places on the grid, with Stanton Barrett (3G), Buddy Lazier (Hemelgarn) and Bruno Junqueira (Conquest) all seeking to get into the field at their expense.

Philippe accepts that he is likely to be knocked out of the top 33 today, but hopes he can swiftly regain his place.

"I'm happy I'm in the field," said the Frenchman. "I also know it doesn't mean anything because obviously tomorrow is Bump Day and I'll be the first guy to be bumped.

"The good thing is that because we were in line at the end of the day today I will be the first in line tomorrow. The most important thing is to qualify. We just want to be in the show."

Duno, who grabbed 32nd and bumped Lazier out with the penultimate qualifying attempt of Saturday's rain-interrupted session, said she had no concerns about possibly having to fight back in again today.

"At least we are already in and have one more day for practice," she said. "Tomorrow the conditions will be much better. We will qualify again; it's no problem."

But her team-mate Andretti admitted that he was anxious about his position as he suspects Sunday will be a much quicker day.

"It is supposed to be a little less windy, and it's going to be cool tomorrow," he said. "Obviously we're pretty much a target. We're in the bull's eye. It is certainly an attainable speed for people to capture. I think that if tomorrow is a really good day, then it can go much deeper than that.

"So it's not going to be a good night's sleep for a lot of people, including me, and this is for sure my roughest month of May by a thousand-fold. I've seen people in this situation, and you always feel for them. I don't want anybody to feel for me. We're just working hard, and we're going to do our best to make it all happen.

"I'm not sure that we've found the right set-up for this tyre, maybe. Last year, every time we went out we were fast. We were real fast. And actually I was pretty disappointed with my qualifying. This year, I'd be ecstatic with it. It's amazing what a year does."

Junqueira is potentially the most competitive of the non-qualified drivers. A pole-winner at the track in 2002, his Conquest team-mate Alex Tagliani has already qualified 26th, and team owner Eric Bachelart hopes to "get him strongly in the field." Having only completed his deal with the squad yesterday, Junqueira has yet to take to the track this month.

1996 race-winner Lazier is optimistic that he will have the pace to get back in, having only put in a banker run yesterday at a time when conditions were poor.

"I think we will be okay, but we will have to wait and see," he said. "We would have liked to get it in today of course, but I have a lot of confidence in the team."

Barrett has struggled throughout the month, but believes he is close to finding the speed he needs on Bump Day. He came within 0.034mph of knocking Philippe out yesterday, having only lost pace on his fourth lap.

"There is more speed in the car, and we just need to work with it and figure out how to get the speed out of it," said Barrett. "The car is comfortable, maybe a little too comfortable. The conditions weren't all that great today, but we will be back out and try again. It's supposed to be a better day."

It now looks unlikely that any last minute entries will be added to the qualifying list. Drivers including Indy veterans Alex Barron and Jaques Lazier approached Sarah Fisher Racing regarding its vacant second car, but team manager Andy O'Gara said the team expected to concentrate solely on Sarah Fisher this year.

"I'm 95 per cent sure that we're solid," he said. "We're fine where we're at."

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