Four women will start next weekend’s Indianapolis 500, the 100th anniversary of the iconic event, after superstar Danica Patrick put the hammer down in final qualifying Sunday and set the second-fastest time of the day after Toronto’s Paul Tracy.
Simona De Silvestro of Switzerland had qualified on Saturday. Ana Beatriz of Brazil, Pippa Mann of
England (both graduates of the Firestone Indy Lights Series) and Patrick made the 33-starting field on Sunday.
It was a nerve-wracking day for Patrick, arguably the biggest name in the sport. After practicing most of the past week in the top five (of 40 drivers entered), her speed literally disappeared on Saturday when she first tried to qualify.
Sunday, when she was scheduled to try to qualify second (of the 17 or so drivers remaining), her car failed tech inspection and was sent to the back of the line – a potentially disastrous turn of events, considering what happened during the day.
After qualifying started, a storm hit and it took 90 minutes to dry the track. Then, when qualifying continued (during which Paul Tracy set the day’s fastest time), storm clouds gathered again and, with Patrick strapped in and ready to go behind Tracy, it started to rain once more.
Although Tracy made it in comfortably, Patrick was left to sweat out another 90 minute delay. When she finally made it in, her first reaction was short and to the point: “I need a drink.”
An emotional Patrick, who reportedly burst into tears when she got got out of the car, described the Indianapolis Speedway as a person.
“There is no explanation for why you can be fast one day and slow the next,” she said. “It reads you when you’re nervous, it reads you when you’re not confident and it reads you when you are. That`s why it`s the greatest race track in the world.`
Patrick said there were no plans in place for her to replace another driver in a qualified car, in case she had failed to qualify. If she didn`t make it, ìt would be one of those things. Terribly disappointing, but . . .``
Bump Day had drama right up till the end. Marco Andretti was bumped from the field by Alex Lloyd and with no time left, Andretti went back on the track and bumped his way back into the field by knocking out his own teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay.
It was a terrific weekend of race driving, competition, tension and drama. Everything pretty much came out right in the end, as my following rolling blog from Sunday will illustrate.
This sounds like a commercial, but you`ll find out about Tracy`s run in the rain, and how Patrick Carpentier nearly became the fourth Canadian to make the field for this 100th anniversary 500.
By the way, if you scroll down, my F1 report is at the bottom. It was nice of the Indianapolis Speedway to have the Speed Channel on in the cafeteria for the Grand Prix of Spain.
Earlier Sunday . . .
Danica Patrick qualified for the Indianapolis 500 today by turning four laps at an average speed of 224.861. She will start the race beside Paul Tracy of Toronto, who turned the fastest speed of the day earlier.
Previously . . .
One of the biggest names in auto racing, Danica Patrick, is in danger of missing the world’s biggest race, the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.
Moments after Toronto’s Paul Tracy bumped himself into the 33-spot starting field – by turning the fastest speed of second-day qualifying, 224.939 miles an hour – the heavens opened for the second time today and qualifying trials were suspended.
Next in line was Patrick, who wasn’t fast enough to qualify on Pole Day Saturday and expected to make a run today. She was second in line to attempt to qualify but her car apparently flucked tech inspection this morning and that put it to the back of the line.
Every driver has an opportunity to make a qualifying run. Or to bump their way in. That Andretti Autosport wasn’t ready to pass tech does not bode well for them, or her.
For her to miss the race would be a disaster for Andretti Autosport, the Indy 500 and the Memorial Day television ratings for the race, not to mention Patrick personally. Her major sponsor, GoDaddy.com could very quickly become known as NoGoDaddy.com.
An Indy 500 without the biggest star in the IndyCar series would be like a Super Bowl in Indianapolis with the Colts in it and Peyton Manning unable to play.
In his post qualifying session media conference, Tracy asked if he had any idea what Patrick was feeling and he didn’t hesitate to reply:
“I know exactly how she’s feeling,” he said. “She’s very stressed. I went through this sort of thing last year (when he missed the race after his team inexplicably withdrew his already qualified car). It’s a very stressful time, knowing you can probably get in the race and yet not have an opportunity.”
Tracy said that halfway through his qualifying run, it started to rain and his final two laps were totally on the edge.
“It was definitely scary,” said Tracy. “ The car started to slip and slide on me and that’s not a comfortable feeling. I was adjusting the car to keep the balance just right (there are buttons on the steering wheels of Indy cars that drivers can push to make chassis adjustments in flight).
“But then when I started to see the mist (rain at more than 200 mph), it took a little bit of a slide on me in (turn) three and I had to stiffen the front bar to try to settle down the rear a little bit. “
Incidentally, IndyCar officials now say that if the weather holds, they’ll try to resume qualifying at 4:45 p.m., 15 minutes after Bump Day TV coverage is scheduled to start.
Earlier. . .
Toronto`s Paul Tracy bumped his way into the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 today by setting the fastest of the second-day speeds: 224.939 miles an hour.
GTracy will start the race from inside the ninth row. Eleven rows of three make up the field.
And then it started to rain again - with Danica Patrick next in line.
Tracy said he noticed rain on his visor halfway through his third lap. `The car started to slide around and I really had to keep my foot in it,`Tracy said.
At the moment, three women have qualified - Simona
de Silvestro, Pippa Mann and Ana Beatriz. Patrick would make four - a record for the 500.
The field has now been filled for the 2011 Indianapolis 500, the 100th anniversary of the world’s most famous race.
But two of the biggest names in car racing, Danica Patrick and Paul Tracy, aren’t in the lineup and will have to bump their way in.
Ryan Briscoe, Pippa Mann, Rafel Matos, Charlie Kimball, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway drove their way into the field after qualifying resumed following a rain delay.
Bumping will now begin.
But the rain clouds are approaching again.
Previously . . .
The sun is shining but there's still "weather" all around the Indianapolis Speedway.
Track officials say, however, that if the weather holds, qualifying will resume at 2:30 p.m.
Earlier. . .
Ana Beatriz and Graham Rahal qualified during the first minutes of Bump Day today but then a torrential rainstorm hit and proceedings were suspended.
Tow trucks and jet driers are on the speedway, trying to accelerate the drying process. The sun comes out periodically but with more rain around, it could be a long day.
Every driver – there are 15 more scheduled to try, including Toronto's Paul Tracy – will get at least one chance to make the field, either by qualifying or by bumping their way in. If that happens today, the field will be frozen.
If not everybody gets their one shot by 6 p.m. , the time qualifications are scheduled to end, then
Bump Day will be put over until Monday for the cars remaining.
Rahal qualified at a speed of 224.380 miles an hour. Beatriz turned in a speed of 223.879.
Previously. . .
When first-day qualifying for next weekend’s 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 ended on Saturday, Toronto’s Paul Tracy was as concerned about the failure of Jay Penske’s team to make it into the race as he was about his own.
Tracy was bumped out of the 24 fastest cars at the last minute Saturday and will now have to fight it out against 17 other drivers today for the final nine starting places remaining in the traditional 33-car field.
But he was worried that his primary employer for five races this IZOD IndyCar Series season wouldn’t be able to qualify and would miss out on a serious payday, as a result. (Tracy is driving for another team this weekend.)
“So I told them yesterday to call Pat Carpentier,” Tracy told me this morning in a quick Gasoline Alley conversation. “(Scott) Speed had never been able to get the car above 220 (miles an hour) in practice. You saw it, Pat had it up to 223 without breaking a sweat.”
Unfortunately, in pushing the car to go even faster during first practice this morning, Carpentier - a veteran of CART, IRL and NASCAR competition - lost control mid-way through turn one and spun, hitting the outside wall. The left side of the car was demolished; Carpentier was not injured.
Although there were rumours that Penske was working to make a deal with his father, Roger Penske, to take over one of Team Penske’s spare cars and let Carpentier take another shot, Tracy said it wouldn’t happen.
“(Ryan) Briscoe (the only one of three Team Penske drivers not in the race) is having a hard time getting up to speed in the one spare Penske (Roger) has together, so there’s no way they’ll try to pull out another car,” Tracy said.
“In fact, they’re (Jay Penske's team) scrambling now to get cars together for Texas (a racing double-header at Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks).”
As to why a veteran racer like Carpentier, whose only scheduled ride so far this season was the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Montreal in August, would lose it, Tracy said that Indy can bite a driver.
"He pinched down a little below the white line and that can get you," Tracy said. "There's a bit of a ledge, there. If you go over it, it will whip you right around. There's nothing you can do at that point.
Bump Day qualifying is scheduled to go at the Speedway at noon - weather permitting. As I write this, it has suddenly become very overcast.
Tracy, who turned the fifth fastest time this morning (“don’t worry; we’re okay”), is scheduled to make his first qualifying run in fourteenth position. Danica Patrick, who was second fastest in the morning practice, will qualify third.
Once the field is full, bumping will begin. Every driver gets three shots in his or her primary car. Then, to continue trying to get in, they would have to turn to their spare cars but that's easier said than done - as Ryan Briscoe is finding out.
It can be complicated. It can also be very exciting.
VETTEL (WHO ELSE?) WINS SPANISH GRAND PRIX
It has to be totally discouraging to win a drag race to the first corner and take the lead of a Formula One Grand Prix and then to stay in front for the first two stints, only to wind up not only losing the race but being lapped in the process.
That is what happened to Ferrari’s No. 1 driver, Fernando Alonso of Spain, in his home race Sunday. All he could do after he made his third pit stop was sit back and watch as Sebastien Vettel made mincemeat of him en route to winning his fourth race of the 2011 Formula One season going away.
Lewis Hamilton was a very close second in his McLaren-Mercedes with his teammate, Jenson Button, third. Mark Webber, driving the sister car to Vettel’s Red Bull-Renault, was fourth.
It was a rough day for Webber. He won his first pole of the season on Saturday but was passed by both Alonso and Vettel by the time they got to the first corner. He trundled around in third place for much of the race but eventually was put away by Button.
Alonso was the first of the 11 drivers who were lapped once. He officially finished fifth, one spot ahead of Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes. Nico Resberg (Mercedes) was seventh, Nick Heidfeld (Renault) eighth, Sergio Perez (Sauber-Ferrari) ninth and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari) tenth.
Six drivers were lapped twice (including Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli and isn’t it time those guys called it a day?) and three (including Ferrari’s Felipe Massa) did not finish.
Tire strategy again played a major role in this race, as did pit stop tragedy. The disgraced Max Mosley once said that F1 racing is like a game of chess, and it’s looking more and more like he’s right.
But does that make it right? Isn’t a race a race, rather than a game of cat-and-mouse?