By Ken de la Bastide
CNHI News Service
After being bumped from the starting field while sitting on the qualifying line on pole day, Josef Newgarden turned the fastest time on bump day assuring himself a spot in the Indianapolis 500.
The field of 33 cars get one final opportunity to practice on Friday before next Sunday’s 97th running of the “500.”
One year ago the Sarah Fisher Racing Team withdrew Newgarden’s time and had to qualify on bump day. This year the team decided not to make another qualifying run and got bumped.
“It was a tough day,” Newgarden said. “We didn’t even think we would have to go out for a second attempt. We knew it was going to be close. We had a tough run. We had a couple of issues.”
Newgarden said the team was confident it would qualify Sunday, and he did so with no difficulties. He posted the fastest four-lap average at 225.731 miles per hour.
There was no drama on “bump day” as the only driver not in the field, Michel Jourdain Jr., could never get his Rahal Letterman ride to top 220 mph. The team continually worked on the car, trying to find enough speed, but all efforts proved to be futile.
Katherine Legge, who only climbed into her Schmidt Peterson ride Saturday, was the last driver to make the field with an average speed of 223.176 mph.
As the end of the qualifying time approached, she sat in her car prepared to make another run, if necessary.
It wasn’t necessary as Jourdain never attempted a qualifying run.
Teammate Graham Rahal, who was in then out of the starting field on Saturday before finally deciding to wait another day, was second-quick Sunday.
“I have been in this spot before so I knew this would be the way it would be,” he said. “I thought we would be quicker, fought some uphill battles and couldn’t get through it.”
Rahal said during the practice session the car was back in the 226 mph range.
“It was far more on edge today than it was yesterday,” he said. “When you start to get the temperatures like this, it starts to slide around significantly more. I could feel the wind gusts so it was pretty on edge a couple of times.”
Noblesville resident Conor Daly, who thus far in May has had the only accident, qualified 31st with an average speed of 223.582 mph.
“It’s nice to get it all done for once, and it’s exciting to get it done early,” the Indy 500 rookie said.
Buddy Lazier, the 1996 race winner, qualified with a family-owned team that only was finalized last week. He will start in the middle of the last row.
With a qualifying average of 223.442 mph, Lazier said he was disappointed the car didn’t turn laps in the 225 mph range as it did during practice.
“The track has changed a little bit,” he said. “We kind of knew that, but I think the track was a little hotter than we anticipated. It is nice to know there is more speed in the car, if and when we need it.”
Three women, led by Ana Beatriz made the starting field, she is joined by Pippa Mann and Legge.