Robert Doornbos said he was proud of his achievement after he stood up to a track that had caused him anguish a week earlier and secured the best remaining starting spot for the 93rd Indianapolis 500.
The Dutchman, who crashed twice this month while practicing for his first Indy 500 and did not attempt a qualifying run last weekend because of the second accident, got himself safely in the field on Saturday by recording the fastest four-lap average of the day -- 221.692 mph. Doorbos was rewarded for his effort with the 23rd position in the 33-car field for the 24 May race.
Considering his Newman/Haas/Lanigan team had no parts to fix his back-up car a week ago, Doornbos -- who qualified second for the previous IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway -- was pleased to land a starting position that is arguably far below his ability.
"I am very happy and proud to be here now," Doornbos said. "In Kansas, it was easier. Here it's such a long track, and with the wind picking up, you feel like every lap is a new adventure.
"Every corner is an adventure because the wind is coming from different angles. It's a tough four laps, but I'm very proud to do them on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"There was so much stress involved since I missed qualifying last week. It was the most stressful four laps I have done in my whole career just because there was a lot of pressure on this run. I found myself qualifying for a race that I was doing race setups for yesterday, for a race I wasn't even in yet! I hardly slept the last couple of days. We had to crawl back from such a deep, deep hole. We made a mistake and here you pay a big price for it. It's a weird feeling and I hope I never experience it again."
Doornbos was one of several highly-rated and veteran drivers who secured positions on the Indy grid during Saturday's third qualifying session. Among the others were Townsend Bell, who landed the 24th spot with a run of 221.195 mph in the #8 KV Racing Technology Dallara-Honda, and Oriol Servia, who will start 25th after a run of 220.984 mph in the #17 Rahal Letterman Racing machine.
Bell, whose deal was finalized this week, said he was surprised at the car's level of speed.
"I got in and the thing was just flying," he said. "It's a great car, good team. I'm happy to be here. If the tank feels good, I'm going to put my foot down, so it just gave me a lot of confidence. You got to just drive what you have, and in this case I have a really good car."
Other notable names securing safe starting spots on Saturday included Alex Tagliani, who took 26th for Conquest Racing, and Tomas Scheckter, who will start next up in the #19 Dale Coyne car.