INDIANAPOLIS – Hitting the wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – twice – could slow down some drivers.
Not Robert Doornbos, who shook off two crashes in practice last week and led the third of four rounds of time trials for the Indianapolis 500 as the final 11 spots in the 33-car field were tentatively filled.
The Dutchman, a rookie at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, crashed on consecutive days in the first week of practice for the May 24 race and missed the opening weekend of qualifying.
He came back strongly with a four-lap average of 221.692 mph Saturday to grab the 23rd position in the lineup.
“I can’t say it’s been a boring month,” said Doornbos, who has been mentored here by two-time Indy winner and countryman Arie Luyendyk.
“I arrived here with Arie and, inspecting the track, he scared me to death in the pace car ride,” Doornbos added. “And then I got going in my IndyCar, and I was really quick the first day and the next day, as well.
“I think we got a little bit too excited because Arie said I probably didn’t need him anymore, and then we took off too much downforce and we crashed.”
Doornbos, driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, persevered. But, thanks to a 31/2-hour rain delay in qualifying, and a gusty wind, it wasn’t easy.
“Here, it’s such a long track and with the wind picking up you feel like every lap is a new adventure,” he said. “Every lap is a new adventure because the wind is coming from different angles. It’s a tough four laps.”
While the field is now filled, it is not final. The slowest drivers can be bumped out by faster qualifiers today, the last day of time trials.
Nelson Philippe wound up the slowest qualifier at 218.032. He was sitting in his car in the qualifying line, waiting to make another try, when the gun ending the session went off with fellow Indy rookie Stanton Barrett on the track.
Barrett’s first three laps were quick enough to bump the Frenchman out of the lineup, but he slowed on his final lap and Philippe was able to breathe a sigh of relief – for the moment.
Thanks mostly to the conditions, none of the third-round qualifiers was able to surpass the 221.956 of Davey Hamilton, the slowest of the 22 in the first two days of time trials.
Townsend Bell and Oriol Servia, both of whom got in their cars this week for the first time, were close behind Doornbos at 221.195 and 220.984.
Also qualifying were Alex Tagliani at 220.553, Tomas Scheckter at 220.212, Mike Conway at 220.124, E.J. Viso at 219.971, Ryan Hunter-Reay at 219.502, John Andretti at 219.442 and Milka Duno at 218.040.
Drivers who are bumped can then try to requalify. Each entry has up to three chances on each day of time trials. Even Andretti, third on the bump list, wasn’t feeling very comfortable.
“Tomorrow is supposed to be better weather conditions and, if it is, we’re definitely in the center of the target,” he said. “There are a few people who probably won’t sleep real well tonight.”
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