Race notebook: 'It's unbelievable,' says de Ferran

The last time Gil de Ferran competed in the Indianapolis 500, he never got through the first turn. De Ferran was involved in a frightening multi-car crash that left Stan Fox with a serious head injury in 1995. Fox survived that accident, but died in a passenger car crash in New Zealand last autumn.

Race notebook: 'It's unbelievable,' says de Ferran

De Ferran had a much better time in his second Indianapolis 500 as the Team Penske driver finished second behind team mate Helio Castroneves in Sunday's race.

"I tell you it was an unbelievable day for the whole team, and I think it speaks wonders for the type of team that we have and all the people that work with us," de Ferran said. "It says a lot because not only do guys have to prepare four IRL cars over the last month, but also five CART cars. It's really unbelievable.

"The cars ran like clockwork throughout the race. The engines were unbelievable, too. I have to say the team did a great job preparing for this race, their first race with this type of engine."

De Ferran is the defending CART champion and although this was not his first Indianapolis 500 he still was on a steep learning curve during the race.

"In the beginning of the race, it was very much a learning experience for me," de Ferran said. "I was trying to learn how to deal with the traffic, how much I had to back off, when I get back on the throttle again getting not too lose. The momentum is important and at the beginning of the race, I went by Robby Gordon when I thought I judged really well the traffic.

"It worked fantastic. The next bunch of traffic I lost two positions and that wasn't too clever. So throughout the race, I was just learning how to deal with traffic and towards the end of the race I was getting better at how the turbulence went and how the traffic went."

Finishing second in the Indianapolis 500 is a tremendous accomplishment for de Ferran. But, that's not the result he wanted.

"Ultimately, I wish I was first and Helio second, but I think if you step back for a moment and think about what this means for the team, it's just incredible," de Ferran said.



Michael Andretti made it to the finish in his first Indianapolis 500 since 1995, but his third-place result left him disappointed as he continues to search for his first victory in the event.

"It's a little disappointing," Andretti said. "The uphill battle started with a flat tyre. We had to go all the way to the back of the field, we fought our way back up to the front and then had that problem on the pit stop where Penske came out in front of Tony Stewart and we all locked up. I locked up right in the back of him and it broke my win."



Eliseo Salazar, the Indy Racing League's highest-finishing driver in Sunday's 500, survived minor gremlins and was reasonably pleased with his seventh-place finish.

"All in all, we're happy," said Salazar, driver of the A J Foyt Racing Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora. "We finished. We improved 21 places. But we started at the back and that really complicates things. We didn't have the right handling. But we salvaged a pretty good seventh place. In a way, I'm happier today with seventh than third (place) last year because it was very, very hard work."




When the race ended, Jeff Ward was driving the lowest-finishing car still running. He finished 24th and had completed 168 laps when the chequered flag fell. It was Ward's lowest finish in five 500s and ended a streak of two consecutive top-five finishes.

"We had a problem with the rear end," Ward said. "We were fast. We had one of the fastest cars out there. So it's unfortunate."



Moments after losing control and spinning out on lap 165 while in second position, Robbie Buhl came on his radio and leveled with his crew.

"Guys, that was me," he said. "I was just trying to (expletive) get busy with it. That was me. That was it."

Buhl's crew managed to get him back out, and he finished 15th, four laps down.

"I was trying to get to the lead," he said afterwards. "We had some traffic in front of us. And it went around. But it wasn't because we were trying to fight our way through traffic. We were trying to lead this thing. We had a piece to win today, so I'm pretty frustrated."



As the field pulled to a stop for the red flag for rain on lap 155, Buddy Lazier had an urgent request.

"Can somebody find out if I can hop out of the car real quick?" he asked on the radio. "Because all of this rain has made me want to go to the bathroom real bad."

The drivers were allowed to leave their cars. One driver, Tony Stewart, even ran to the first aid room in Gasoline Alley to have a cramp in his right leg massaged.



After surviving perhaps the most intense assault ever on Bump Day, Billy Boat went from 33rd to ninth in Sunday's race. "We didn't have a great race car, but we stayed out of trouble, we didn't make any mistakes and we hung in there," Boat said. "My handling was changing as quick as the weather was. We had one stretch when the weather was real cool, when I was as fast as the leaders. But the weather changed so fast, you couldn't predict it."

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