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Rank Driver Points
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32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Indy 500 Qualifications - Sunday Update

by Tim Wohlford
Sunday, May 10, 2009

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Qualifying continues at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  With the recent qualification of Ed Carpenter, 21 spots are now full.  Justin Wilson set today's fastest speed at 223.903.  Other notables to qualify are Paul Tracy, John Andretti, and Davey Hamilton. 

A qualification attempt for Vitor Meira was disallowed after a post-race inspection.  The #14 car's rear suspension measurement failed to meet measurements.  Those who are uncharitable can speculate on whether AJ's car's rear end is too wide, or too narrow.

Sarah Fisher's first qualification attempt nearly ended her month as it came within inches of hitting the exit of turn 2.  This caused her to lift and make a drastic correction, killing her overall speed.  Her second attempt was much more comfortable, much less dramatic, and much faster at 222.082.  After a month of misery last May, followed by nearly folding the tent a few times since then, Sarah can smile today.  She's solidly in the field at 222.082 mph, her sponsor's checks have cleared, and she now can focus on "having fun" putting the car in race trim.  Her team only has 5-6 employees and one car, but right now they feel like they can conquer the world. 

John Andretti's qualification attempt was slow at 221.109, and he cut short the press conferences to go work on his car.  “It’s just unfortunate. We didn’t start out fast enough, and we didn’t finish fast enough. That’s all I can say. You know you always have work to do here at the Speedway. I don’t know why it ran like it did, but it didn’t run good. We need to get in today so that we can work on the race stuff. If you don’t get in today, you’re still battling to get into the race, and you can’t really work on the race stuff, so that’s the disappointing part about it all. You know, whether somebody else can go up there and beat that and knock us out of the top 11, I don’t know but it’s certainly not the quality time that we were expecting. All I care about is that we’re here and we should be going quicker than that, and we didn’t.”

Paul Tracy qualified safely in the field, and he was philosophical about the month.  Noting that this team was almost out of miles on the engine and tire leases (that is an option for poorly funded teams), he expected a few laps in race trim today before packing it up until Carb Day before the race.  “I’m not really happy with the laps we qualified on, so I’m disappointed. But we’re… just out of miles and need to get some full-tank running in. We wanted to be in the 223s today. We achieved that on the first lap, then started sliding the front tire with a tail wind in Turn 1, and then it kind of fell off. The last couple of laps I just couldn’t get the speed out of it. The race is a long race, and we’ve got an OK starting position. We’re starting in mid-pack, and we’ll go from there. A lot of things can happen in a 500-mile race. It’s three times longer than any other race in the series, and a lap can change over the course of the race. You work on that car until the end of the race to get it competitive.” (On his tire situation): “You always think you’re going to have enough. You think, ‘Ah, I don’t need to run that much,’ but when guys were up there yesterday running 40 to 50 laps of qualifying runs to get their car ready to qualify and you sit all day watching them, it’s definitely frustrating. From that standpoint, we qualified OK. It’s definitely not where we’d like to be, but the race is what counts. We’ve got to go out today and get some race feel in the car and be ready for the race.”

Milka's qualifying attempt was disappointing even by Milka's standards.  While the track looked perfect this morning, the sun soon heated the track and things got slippery.  At 219.072 she is in danger of not being one of the fastest 22 locked in by today's qualification, and even if it stands, might be bumped out next week.  Milka's eyes -- always the way to see what she's really thinking -- actually displayed anger, and she said that she planned on coming back later in the day.  When asked to comment on meeting fans, another part of her motivation appeared -- she simply loves to receive the "love" from fans.  If the IRL can't give her 4 mph in driving skill, perhaps she can give the IRL -- including its biggest stars -- a few pounds of fan love. 

Other notes:

- Mike Conway was admitted to Methodist Hospital following his accident this morning, suffering from bruised lungs. 

- The mystery is solved regarding Graham Rahal's re-qualification attempt yesterday.  The IRL ruled that the configuration of Rahal's car following the first attempt would be the one that they'd have to race, and that wasn't acceptable to the team, so they pulled the car out of the qualification slot in favor of a second attempt using race part.  The second attempt was actually faster. 

- Al Unser Jr. is at IMS today, looking healthy and telling people that he's very happy these days.  No matter what you thought of his problems over the years, you have to admire a man who can come back from those problems. 

- Around 2:00 p.m., the Indiana skies clouded over.  Look for a flurry of qualification activity during Happy Hour.

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