Luyendyk May be Retiring But Not Until May 31st
23 May 1999The first day of qualifying at Indy always provides drama. When the day ended the story lines had more twists, turns and subplots than a Alfred Hitchcock movie. To some people, the fact that Arie Luyendyk achieved pole position was the perfect ending to a day that started out with storm clouds but ended with a beautiful sunset.
Luyendyk, who was 16th in line to attempt to qualify, put together a four lap average of 225.179mph. His speed was just enough to beat early favorite Greg Rays average speed of 225.073. Ray, who knew exactly what was needed to grab pole position away from Luyendyk came up just short. Rays first lap of 225.643mph set pit row abuzz. Unfortunately for the talented Texan his lap times went down each lap. The look on the Menard pit crew told the whole story. Close but no cigar. The Menard team was so distraught at missing the pole that their was even momentary discussion of pulling the time and making another attempt. Cooler heads prevailed which was fortunate for Ray as well as Robby Gordon. Rays back-up car was turned over to Gordon, who earlier waved off his first attempt. Gordon returned the good fortune by turning in a four-lap speed of 223.066mph which placed Gordon on the inside of row two.
The day started off with first qualifier Eddie Cheever waving off his first qualifying attempt. The decision to wave off became a point of consternation as the day proceeded. Cheever did make it into the show on his second qualifying attempt with a speed 221.315mph. but his first attempt of 221.438 would have placed him two starting places higher.
The second qualifier, Tony Stewart, who is following in the footsteps of Robby Gordon to run both Indy and the Coca-Cola 600 ended up with a speed of 220.653. Stewart, on a tight schedule, finished his qualifying run and then made a dash to the airport to jet-off to Charlotte. Stewarts attempt placed him 24th on the starting grid.
The next qualifier, Scott Sharp was the temporary pole sitter until Luyendyk came along. Sharps speed of 222.771mph eventually placed him on the outside of row two next to his teammate Mark Dismore who turned in a great four-lap average of 222.963mph. The Kelly teammates will be two of the drivers to watch come next Sunday. The team has gone about its business very quietly.
One of the other twists and turns of the day involved Billy Boat who drives for AJ Foyt. Boat crashed his car on the warm-up lap. The spin into the turn 2 wall was caused according to Boat by not letting the tires get warmed up. Understandably shaken, Boat would return later in the day to set the third best time of the day with a four-lap average of 223.469mph. Commenting in pit lane after his successful attempt, Boat offered that " it felt good to get the Texans [AJs] boot of out of my butt."
The field of 33 was eventually filled. On the bubble is the unsinkable Lyn St.James who turned in a less than spectacular speed of 218.970mph. The other drivers who will also be looking over their respective shoulders will be Jacques Lazier (Buddy Laziers brother) and Stephan Gregoire who turned in a dismal speed of 219.165mph. No doubt tonight will be spent working to find more speed. There are too many drivers who did not make it today who will be ready tomorrow.
Bubble day is always known for high drama. It will be difficult to match today but you never know when it comes to Indy.
David Treffer-The Auto Channel