It wasn’t the kind of day that Scott Brayton and Arie Luyendyk had envisioned.
After a week of scintillating speeds by the two Indianapolis 500 veterans, their qualifying runs at a little more than 231 mph barely caused a ripple of excitement on a dank, dark Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The teammates, favorites in the pole competition for the May 28 Indy 500, did come out on top in the rainshortened opening round of time trials, but not with the kind of performance they and just about everyone else expected.
“Anything can happen here,” said Brayton, whose four-lap, 10-mile average of 231.604 mph put him on the provisional pole. “It’s the most unpredictable game you’ve ever tried to play.”
The problem was a soggy day that saturated the air with moisture and made driving a race car around the 2-mile oval like flying a plane into a stiff head wind.
Only 11 drivers were able to complete qualifying runs as the rainy weather limited qualifying to the final 75 minutes of the scheduled 7-hour session.
Brayton’s qualifying effort knocked Luyendyk, the 1990 Indy champion and 1993 pole winner, off the top spot, where he had been sitting at 231.031.
Both efforts were well short of the unofficial record laps they had run late in the week, with Brayton posting a 234.656 on Thursday and Luyendyk increasing that to 234.913 on Friday.
Since records can be set only in qualifications or in the race, the slowdown also preserved the one- and four-lap qualifying records of 232.618 and 232.482 set in 1992 by Roberto Guerrero.
“The air is so thick today, if you lost any momentum anywhere, you were going to fall off,” Brayton said. “Arie put a heck of a lap out there for me to chase.”
Asked if he were disappointed by failing to surpass Guerrero’s record, which appeared to be in jeopardy after 14 drivers ran laps better than 230 during the week, Brayton said, “No, there can’t possibly be any disappointment in what we did today.”
Brayton, who started second in the 1985 race, could easily have been relegated to No. 2 behind Luyendyk.
“I know we want friendly competition, but he wanted to beat me as bad as I wanted to beat him,” added Brayton, who qualified for his 14th Indy start.
The closest any of the first-day drivers could come to the two Menard V-6-powered Lolas was Michael Andretti, who was the final qualifier. His Lola-Ford completed a run averaging 229.294 as time ran out.
“It was a really long day, but I’m glad we got out today,” Andretti said. “It really makes for a long night if you don’t. … I don’t know if it will hold up, but it should be good for the second row, at least. If it’s hot and windy tomorrow, it might hold up.”“I knew we didn’t have much chance for the pole, but feel we have a big shot at winning the race.”
Nearly half the 69 entries who drew positions in the qualifying line remained eligible to try for the pole when time trials resume on today.
Among the drivers still in line were Teo Fabi, rookie Andre Ribeiro, Raul Boesel, 1986 winner Bobby Rahal, Robby Gordon, Jimmy Vasser, Jacques Villeneuve and Scott Goodyear, all with practice laps better than 230.
Others in line include defending champion Al Unser Jr., last year’s pole-winner at 228.011, and his Penske teammate Emerson Fittipaldi, neither of whom have practiced better than 227.261.
Brayton has some insurance available should conditions and speeds improve markedly today.
“I will tell you I have a backup car in spot 65 (in the qualifying line),” he said. “If it gets that good, I might be back out in it.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Indy’s top three 1. Scott Brayton, Coldwater, Mich., 1995 Lola-Menard, 231.604. 2. Arie Luyendyk, Netherlands, 1995 Lola-Menard, 231.031. 3. Michael Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., 1995 Lola-Ford, 229.294.
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