Thursday notebook: Whatever floats your Boat

Billy Boat and Eliseo Salazar were back at work Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an attempt to prepare for Sunday's Bump Day - the final round of qualifications for the 85th Indianapolis 500.

Thursday notebook: Whatever floats your Boat

Boat was the fastest of the non-qualified cars for the Indy 500 at 220.866mph. Salazar, who was favored to start in the front two rows before two blown engines and two crashes ruined his hopes, was in a brand new Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora. The new father as of Tuesday ran a fast lap of 218.891 mph in shake down runs. Salazar's A.J. Foyt team will attempt to run the car for speed Friday and Saturday before Sunday's final round of qualifications.

Practice was delayed for over three hours after a morning rain shower drenched the track.

"I think we are making progress," said Boat. "We made a big change to the set-up and we had more success. We've got something very good to work with and tweak. Conditions are constantly changing and we're working with them."

Earlier in the day, Boat spun out while coming out of the second turn. He slid to the inside retaining wall, but the car was not damaged.

"We have been struggling with exit understeer for some time," said Boat. "We made some adjustments, but we just went too far the other way. I made very slight contact, did some damage to the rear suspension, but not much."

Salazar, whose common-law wife, Kari, gave birth to a baby boy early on Tuesday, was able to re-focus on racing after last weekend's problems.

"I always say racing is a bit like the chequered flag - you have black and white," Salazar said. "We had the blackest moment last week. We had four days in a row with incidents and crashes. So, I hope this will turn things around. A.J. Foyt bought a new car and we're shaking it down. Hopefully, this will be a turnaround and things will be different."

Greg Ray, who will start in the middle of the front row, had the fastest speed of the day at 222.283 mph as he worked on race day setup. Because Ray is already in the race, his practice speed on Thursday is not as important as it is for those cars trying to get into the 500.

"We worked with a heavy, full race setup trying to find a good balanced car and also on aerodynamic downforce," said Ray. "Darrell Soppe (crew chief) and I communicate very well together. He can help build a very solid race car. I try to be very open-minded and listen to them. As a driver you sometimes are concerned about your input and don't listen to the crew chief, but I have been giving 100 percent attention to him, and we are working very well together."

Two drivers took the track for the first time this week as 12-time Indy 500 starter Raul Boesel drove 50 laps in a G Force-Oldsmobile Aurora for Treadway-Hubbard Racing. That team already has two cars in the field - Arie Luyendyk on the outside of the second row and Felipe Giaffone in the middle of the seventh row.

Boesel had the third fastest lap of the day at 220.518mph.

"It was a good day," said Boesel. "We made some good progress. We just hope the weather will cooperate on Sunday. We hope it doesn't get too sticky because it gets more difficult to run good speeds. Indianapolis is so special and every opportunity you have to run here is wonderful."

Donnie Beechler, who finished sixth in the Indy Racing League standings, has joined A.J. Foyt's team as a third entry. Once Salazar qualifies into the field, Beechler will get a chance to make the race. Robby Gordon already has Foyt's other entry on the outside of the front row.

Beechler ran a fastest lap of 218.224mph on Thursday.

"I've been fortunate because Robby Gordon and Eliseo Salazar have already shaken down the cars," said Beechler. "They are already set up. It makes my job easier. We're still taking it easy. Our main objective right now is to get Eliseo in the show. I have no doubt in his ability. I am confident in it. I'm praying for him.

"Saturday is the day we will have to get up to speed. Today was more of an orientation. I haven't been in a car since October and haven't been here since last year."

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