IRL: Oldsmobile Aurora Fills 32 of 33 Spots in Indy Field

19 May 1998

Speedway, Ind. -- Oldsmobile's production-based IRL Aurora V8 will power 32 of the 33 drivers in the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. In the second and final day of qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, seven more Oldsmobile drivers earned starting spots for the 82nd running of America's most famous race. The 32 Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 engines that will start in this year's Indy 500 field are the most engines from a single manufacturer since 32 Cosworths qualified in 1983.

Arie Luyendyk
"Bump Day" at the Speedway saw Jimmy Kite, a 22-year-old rookie from Stockbridge, Ga., turn in the day's fastest speed at 219.290 mph in Team Scandia's Oldsmobile-powered Dallara. Defending Indy 500 champion Arie Luyendyk and 1997 Rookie of the Year Jeff Ward also qualified with IRL Aurora V8 engines.

Kite rebounded from a series of crashes to post the ninth fastest qualifying speed. "Nothing was salvageable from my last crash -- not the tub, not the gearbox, not anything -- except the engine," Kite reported. "Everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to have that motor. That Roush Oldsmobile engine is the reason we went so fast. My motor made me look good, and so did the handling of my race car."

Luyendyk's 218.935 mph run in Treadway Racing's G-Force was faster than his pole-winning speed last year, but left him 28th on the 33-car starting grid. "I never had a doubt that we would make the field," said Luyendyk after installing a fresh IRL Aurora V8 engine built by Roush Technologies. "I'm relieved we got it done this morning. We had some mechanical problems yesterday; it's may have been something with the electronics or battery. All of last year, we didn't have one problem with our engines. We're very happy with Roush."

"I helped out John Paul, Jr. by giving him one of our engines," added Luyendyk's car owner, Fred Treadway. "This morning I was thinking, 'Gee, I don't know if I should have been so generous.'" (John Paul, Jr. qualified 16th on Saturday at 217.351 mph.)

Jeff Ward backed up his pole-winning performance in the preceding Pep Boys IRL race in Phoenix by recording the second fastest time in the second day of qualifying. "As soon as I went out this morning for practice, I knew right away that I could run 217," said Ward. "We had some bad luck earlier, but I knew that I had a great race car. It doesn't really matter whether we were the quickest today as long as we made it into the show."

While some teams sweated out the final minutes of qualifying, Indy 500 legend A.J. Foyt reflected on his success in putting his drivers Billy Boat and Kenny Brack on the front row. "We've worked closely with Katech, our engine builder, ever since Oldsmobile came into the IRL," said the four-time Indy 500 winner. "They did a fantastic job. It's a combination of everybody -- the crew, the team, and the engine people. The IRL rules let us work on our engines, and I'm sure our combination is different from what other teams are using. They're all Oldsmobile engines, but they're not all the same."

Indy veteran Jim Wright of Brayton Engineering built the IRL Aurora V8 that propelled Greg Ray to the Indy 500's second fastest qualifying speed at 221.125 mph. "When you come here, you better have all the horsepower you can possibly get," Wright advised. "We have a total of 43 Oldsmobile engines here at Indy, and depending on the camshaft profile we are using, there probably isn't a difference of five horsepower between them."

Twenty-nine of the starters in last year's Indy 500 used IRL Aurora V8 engines; with 32 qualifiers for the 1998 edition, Oldsmobile is even more dominant in the Division's sophomore season in Indy car racing. "It is gratifying that so many teams have chosen the IRL Aurora V8," commented Dennis Weglarz, Oldsmobile Specialty Vehicle manager. "We know that the other engine supplier in the series is working hard, and we are determined to maintain the IRL Aurora V8's standing as the engine of choice. We congratulate the drivers who qualified for the Indianapolis 500. With the parity in the performance level of the cars, it took a superhuman effort to earn a place on the starting grid."

The 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will start at 11:00 a.m. local time (12:00 noon EDT) on Sunday, May 24. The race will be televised live by ABC Sports and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.

                INDIANAPOLIS 500 STARTING LINEUP

Driver Entrant Engine Speed Row 1 Billy Boat A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile 223.503 mph Greg Ray Knapp Mtrsprts Oldsmobile 221.125 Kenny Brack A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile 220.982 Row 2 Tony Stewart Team Menard Oldsmobile 220.386 Robbie Buhl Team Menard Oldsmobile 220.236 Sam Schmidt LP Racing Oldsmobile 219.982 Row 3 Scott Sharp Kelley Racing Oldsmobile 219.910 Davey Hamilton Nienhouse Mtrspts Oldsmobile 219.748 Roberto Guerrero Pagan Racing Oldsmobile 218.900 Row 4 Scott Goodyear Panther Racing Oldsmobile 218.357 Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Oldsmobile 218.288 Mark Dismore Kelley Racing Oldsmobile 218.096 Row 5 J.J. Yeley SRS Oldsmobile 218.044 Marco Greco Phoenix Racing Oldsmobile 217.953 Jack Miller Arizona Mtrsprts Infiniti 217.800 Row 6 John Paul, Jr. Team Pelfrey Oldsmobile 217.351 Eddie Cheever, Jr. Team Cheever Oldsmobile 217.334 Buzz Calkins Bradley Mtrsprts Oldsmobile 217.197 Row 7 Andy Michner Chitwood Mtrspts. Oldsmobile 216.922 Jim Guthrie ISM Racing Oldsmobile 216.604 Robby Unser Team Cheever Oldsmobile 216.534 Row 8 Jack Hewitt PDM Racing Oldsmobile 216.450 Steve Knapp ISM Racing Oldsmobile 216.445 Donnie Beechler Cahill Auto Racing Oldsmobile 216.357 Row 9 Johnny Unser Hemelgarn Racing Oldsmobile 216.316 Jimmy Kite Team Scandia Oldsmobile 219.290 Jeff Ward ISM Racing Oldsmobile 219.086 Row 10 Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing Oldsmobile 218.935 Stan Wattles Metro Racing Oldsmobile 217.477 Raul Boesel McCormack Mtrsprts Oldsmobile 217.303 Row 11 Stephan Gregoire Chastain Mtrsprts Oldsmobile 217.036 Mike Groff Byrd/Cunningham Oldsmobile 216.704 Billy Roe Team Scandia Oldsmobile 217.835

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in The Racing Image Galleries and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.

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