INDIANAPOLIS (May 21, 2011) – The first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 didn’t go exactly as planned for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, but the team had a strong day nonetheless, putting both cars in the top 24 in the first round of qualifying, provisionally putting them both in the field for next Sunday’s Indy 500.
After running top-five speeds yesterday, Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) went out early in qualifying today and posted four laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at an average speed of 225.285 mph. And while that speed wasn’t what he was hoping for, it was still good enough for 14th on the time charts and a berth in the middle of Row Five.
“We are in the race and that’s the most important part of the day for us,” Baguette said. “But I feel that we are all a little disappointed with the speed, since we were able to do so much in the last couple days with the car. We were targeting a berth in the Fast Nine, and will feel we had to car to get there, which is why we are a little disappointed. But at the end of the day, we are in the race, in a good spot, and are ready to go.’
Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had an equally good day in his Sam Schmidt/RLL Indy Car, taking the 21st spot on the speed sheets (224.488 mph), provisionally giving the Englishman a spot on the outside of Row Seven — but more importantly, bringing him a step closer to earning a spot in his very first Indy 500.
“I’m over the moon about how our day went and am very glad to be in the Indianapolis 500,” grinned Howard. “The run was interesting and I had to use my tools during my run to keep everything where we wanted it, but we were able to keep everything going and put up a good time. It’s great because now we can work on the race car tomorrow and hopefully not have to worry about any more qualifying setups.”
The top 24 speeds today earned spots in the May 29 race, while positions 25 – 33 will be locked down in tomorrow’s Bump Day qualifying. But despite getting a spot in the race today, there is still a danger for some of today’s qualified cars to be bumped tomorrow and be forced to re-qualify.
Once the field is populated with 33 cars tomorrow, the entry with the slowest speed becomes the bubble car, regardless of whether it posted its time Saturday or Sunday. Right now it means that 13 cars would need to go faster than Howard’s time in order to knock Howard out of the field, and 20 cars would have to be faster than Baguette in order to take his spot.
Today’s 100th anniversary Indy 500 fun fact
Six drivers have led more than 75 percent of the laps in a given Indianapolis 500 and failed to win the race. The last time it happened was in 1992 when Michael Andretti led 160 laps before falling out. Ironically, the last time it had happened previous to that — it was done by his father Mario Andretti in1987.