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The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 10

10 May 1997

Luyendyk Wins Indy Pole

INDIANAPOLIS (6:00 PM): While many race fans were watching the checkered flag fall for the NASCAR race at Talladega, Arie Luyendyk was taking the green flag for his run at the pole for this years Indianapolis 500.

Luyendyk with 
$100,000 PPG Pole Prize Luyendyk Cashes in on Pole Dayfont size>

Only five cars qualified in early action this morning. The track was opened for practice around noon. Arie Luyendyk and Tony Stewart provided the entertainment. Luyendyk brought out his Wavephore/Sprint/G Force Aurora. He ran five lap spurts and returned to the pits. Tony Stewart did the same in his bright neon yellow Menards/Glidden Aurora. The two drivers have been the fastest here all month. Today was no different.

Luyendyk was the first driver to bring his car to the technical inspection line for qualifynig. At 3:30 PM, Luyendyk set a new speed record for normally aspirated engines at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He torched the track with a four lap average of 218.263 mph. Several other drivers put in solid qualifying runs but could not touch the time set by Luyendyk. The rags to riches Jim Guthrie was especially impressive in his run. The Phoenix winner qualified at over 215 mph. As of Thursday, Guthrie was using an engine that had logged almost 1000 miles.

Rookie Vincenzo Sospiri surprised many of the fans at the track. He quickly flew through his rookie tests early in the week and hasn't put in many miles since then. Ears perked up when Sospiri qualified his Team Scandia car. He punched his way to the third fastest speed of the day. He had just put himself on the front row at Indy as a rookie.

It was the Menard Team's turn. Tony Stewart hit the speedway. His first and second laps were at 217 mph...the third lap at 218 mph.....then came crunch time. He needed a good 219 mph lap to knock Luyendyk from the pole. It was not quick enough and Luyendyk breathed a sigh of relief.

The final threat was Robbie Buhl, driving a car identical to Stewart's. The Menard Team had waved off a 215 mph run by Buhl earlier in the day. At precisely happy hour time (5:00 PM) Buhl charged his Quaker State green machine onto the speedway asphalt. He took the green flag, made one lap and brought it in. At 5:53 PM, Buhl went out again. The waiting was over for Luyendyk as Buhl was not nearly fast enough with a four lap average in the 216 mph range.

Luyendyk's speed held up. It was a nice payday as Luyendyk snatched $100,000 from PPG Industries,$25,000 from Pennzoil, and $10,000 from GTE for his efforts. Luyendyk was also presented a Chevrolet customized van valued at over $35,000.

At the end of the day there were 21 cars qualified with a field average above 213 mph. A total of 29 cars made qualifying attempts. Qualifying will resume tomorrow (Sunday) at noon CST.

Hemelgarn Makes Engine Change

INDIANAPOLIS (12:25 PM): Ron Hemelgarn, owner of Hemelgarn Racing, announced today that the car driven by defending Indy 500 champion, Buddy Lazier, will now be powered by Oldsmobile Aurora instead of the Nissan Infiniti.

Buddy Lazier used the Nissan power plant in the first two races of the season. The team had practiced all week with the Nissan Infiniti, but "the straightaway speed is just not there", said Hemelgarn. The personable car owner stated that being the defending Indy 500 champion brings with it new sponsorships. He wants to make the best showing possible for the sponsors and his driver.

Ron Hemelgarn Car Owner, Ron Hemelgarnfont size>

Hemelgarn further stated that the team will put Johnny Unser into Buddy Lazier's backup car. The backup car will continue to use the Nissan engine. Unser is driving the car with the understanding that if anything happens to Lazier's primary car, the ride goes to Lazier. The Hemelgarn cars carry the Delta Faucet/Montana sponsorship.

Lyn St. James is also in the Hemelgarn camp and she qualified her Lifetime/Cinergy/Nissan this morning.

The fastest drivers of this week's practice sessions have all passed on their qualification attempts. The race track was opened for practice after a handful of drivers qualified. The "speed show" will continue later this afternoon.

Scott Sharp has been released from Methodist Hospital and has returned to the garage area with his team.

Mike Groff First In The Field

INDIANAPOLIS (12:15 PM): Mike Groff driving the Jonathan Byrd/Bryant Heating and Cooling/G Force/Infiniti was the first qualifier for the 81st running of the Indianapolis 500. Groff, the Indy Racing League points leader, ran a consistent four laps in the 208 mph bracket.

Groff needed to post a qualifying speed of greater than 203 mph to make the field under the Indy Racing League's rules. Twenty-five spots in the Indianapolis 500 are reserved for series regulars provided they achieve the minimum speed requirement. There are not more than 25 teams that have earned IRL points.

Mike Groff Drawing Mike Groff First In The Fieldfont size>

Pole Day Early Report: Tony Stewart Fastest In Morning Session

INDIANAPOLIS (10:10 AM): For the first time in history, the pole day morning practice session way delayed due to low track temperature. The track was scheduled to open for practice at 8:00 AM for the first group of cars ready to make qualifying attempts for pole position. The second group was to begin shortly after the first group completed their run.

The track temperature at 8:00 was just 60 degrees. Indy Racing League officials conferred with Goodyear and Firestone tire makers and decided to keep the track closed until the track temperature reached 65 degrees. This decision resulted in a delay of about 35 minutes. There were five spins/crashes yesterday when the track temperatures were 62 degrees.

Chief Steward Keith Ward said "We want to make sure this track is in the best possible condition for the drivers".

The practice session time for the second group of cars was shortened to twenty minutes in an effort to begin qualifying at precisely 11:00 AM.

The first group completed their practice session. Mike Groff driving the Jonathan Byrd/Bryant Heating and Cooling/G Force/Infiniti was fifth fastest. He is scheduled to be the first driver to make a qualification attempt for the 81st Indianapolis 500.

In the second session, Tony Stewart required a tow in, as he did in the first session (in his backup car). Stewart quickly returned to the track. He then became the quickest man of the day with a lap of 219.085 mph. He was followed by stable mate Robby Buhl at 216 mph and Luyendyk at 215 mph.

The track opened to all cars for the remainder of the practice period. Bright sunshine and cool temperatures are forecasted for the start of qualifying at 11:00 AM.

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel


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