Hillenburg makes the show

Andy Hillenburg, a 37-year-old stock car driver who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina but is originally from Bloomington, Indiana, realized his dream of qualifying for his first Indianapolis 500 with a little help from four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears

Hillenburg makes the show

Bill Simpson, the famed racing safety equipment manufacturer, was the first team owner to give Mears a ride in an Indy car back in the 1970s. The two have remained close friends and Simpson is one of the owners of the Fast Track Racing Enterprises team that gave Hillenburg an opportunity to run at Indy.

Hillenburg made the field with a four-lap average of 218.285 miles per hour and will start last in the 33-car field.

"I had two people helping me this week," Hillenburg said. "Earlier in the week, I had Pancho Carter and he helped me to get my line. Rick helped me bridge the gap between Tim Bumps and myself to interpret what I was feeling about the car and what it was doing.

"I've worked on this forever. Every book report I ever did, even in grade school, everything has always been about being here. This is something I've wanted ever since I can remember. I told my dad the first time he ever brought me here that someday I would be driving."

Mears works for the Marlboro Team Penske CART operation, which has not competed in the Indianapolis 500 since it failed to make the field in 1995.

"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Mears said. "I was visiting with Bill Simpson the other day, and he said they were struggling a bit. I told him that I would be more than happy to help out. I didn't really do much. It was just another set of eyes and ears.

"Andy went out there and stood on it and got it done. We did a couple of little changes. The credit goes to Tim Bumps and the team."

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