Robert Doornbos stood up to a track that had caused him anguish and secured the best remaining starting spot for the 93rd Indianapolis 500.
Doornbos, who crashed twice this month while practicing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and didn’t attempt a qualifying run last weekend because of the second crash, got himself safely in the field Saturday by recording the fastest four-lap average of the day – 221.692 mph.
Doornbos was rewarded for his effort with the 23rd position in the 33-car field for the start of the May 24 race. Considering his Newman/Haas/Lanigan team had no parts to fix his backup car a week ago, Doornbos – who qualified second-best in the previous IndyCar Series race -- was pleased to land a starting position that’s 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.”
Doornbos led a group of veteran racers who secured positions Saturday as the 33-car grid was filled. Among the others were Townsend Bell, who landed the 24th spot with a run of 221.195 mph in the No. 8 KV Racing Technology Dallara-Honda, and Oriol Servia, who will start 25th after a run of 220.984 mph in the No. 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.”
Alex Tagliani will start 26th in the No. 34 Conquest Racing entry, followed by Tomas Scheckter in the No. 19 Dale Coyne car. Milka Duno provided the last-minute drama Saturday when she bumped 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier from the field; Stanton Barrett, the final driver to try to get on the grid, came up just short, keeping Nelson Philippe in the 33rd and final position.
Another driver whose introduction to Indianapolis was thwarted by a crash also made it into the field Saturday. Mike Conway, who was hospitalized after a crash in practice, qualified in the 28th position.
The day was also rife with frustration for two other veteran racers. John Andretti made it into the field in the Richard Petty-backed Dreyer & Reinbold No. 43 entry, but he wasn’t pleased with the car’s 219 mph showing. “This has been my toughest month of May,” he said. “I see other people go through this and I feel for them, but I don’t want anybody to feel for me.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay also struggled with mysterious setup problems, getting just a 219.5 mph average out of the No. 21T Vision Racing car. “It’s tough for me,” Hunter-Reay said. “I know how it should be for us, and it’s not, so it’s tough. This is it for me. This is my life, and when it’s not going right, it’s hard.”
Action resumes Sunday with a one-hour practice session at 10:15 a.m. ET, followed by the six-hour qualifying/practice session at noon. Bruno Junqueira will join Barrett and Lazier in trying to get into the race via tomorrow's Bump Day qualifying session. The Brazilian only completed his deal with Conquest Racing this morning and has yet to take to the track. The speed to aim at is Philippe’s four-lap average of 218.032 mph.
Today's slower times ensured that Davey Hamilton - the slowest day two qualifier last weekend - is safely in the event. Under Indy 500 rules, the slowest time in the field, rather than the driver in 33rd on the provisional grid, is the one that gets 'bumped' out on the final day of qualifying, but with none of today's qualifiers beating Hamilton's time, the Dreyer & Reinbold driver can relax tomorrow.
Tomorrow's six-hour session is also the final day of race preparation for the drivers and cars already in the field before Friday’s final Carb Day session.Current Indianapolis 500 starting line-up:
Pos Driver Team Speed
1. Helio Castroneves Penske 224.864mph
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske 224.083mph
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 224.010mph
4. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 223.954mph
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi 223.867mph
6. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 223.612mph
7. Mario Moraes KV 223.331mph
8. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 223.114mph
9. Will Power Penske 223.028mph
10. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 222.882mph
11. Alex Lloyd Schmidt/Ganassi 222.622mph
12. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 223.429mph
13. Paul Tracy KV 223.111mph
14. Vitor Meira Foyt 223.054mph
15. Justin Wilson Coyne 222.903mph
16. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 222.805mph
17. Ed Carpenter Vision 222.780mph
18. Dan Wheldon Panther 222.777mph
19. AJ Foyt IV Foyt 222.586mph
20. Scott Sharp Panther 222.162mph
21. Sarah Fisher Fisher 222.082mph
22. Davey Hamilton Dreyer & Reinbold 221.956mph
23. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan 221.692mph
24. Townsend Bell KV 221.195mph
25. Oriol Servia Rahal Letterman 220.984mph
26. Alex Tagliani Conquest 220.543mph
27. Tomas Scheckter Coyne 220.212mph
28. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 220.124mph
29. EJ Viso HVM 219.971mph
30. Ryan Hunter-Reay Vision 219.502mph
31. John Andretti Dreyer & Reinbold/Petty 219.442mph
32. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 218.040mph
33. Nelson Philippe HVM 218.032mph