Boat Back Against The Wall
May 18, 2001 | 5:00 P.M. EST
With his back up against the wall, Boat has one last chance to make the field for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday’s Bump Day qualifying.
"This definitely isn't the position we would have scripted, but there are no favorites here at Indy," he said. "You have to go out and produce when the time comes and so far we haven't been able to do that - but we feel we have the capability to do it, and that's key.
"We just have to be smart and use our opportunities wisely."
Last season, Boat bailed out of Team Pelfrey’s No. 81 machine on the last day of qualifications and jumped into A.J. Foyt’s No. 41 at the last minute and made the race.
This year, there is no backup plan – yet. Boat is driving for Beck Motorsports, but unless he finds a few more miles per hour, he won’t be driving at all on May 27.
Boat is fourth in the Bump Day qualifying order with one of the 33 Indy 500 starting spots still vacant. After that, bumping of slower cars begins.
Boat knows all too well what it will take to make the race. Problem is, he hasn’t been able to meet those requirements.
"Right now we have to try and figure out how to go faster - how to run consistent laps at 223 mph," Boat explained. "We're going to have to make sure we have a fresh engine for the weekend and probably take a look at a couple different setup options and just try to find some more speed because we feel we need to run that 223 (mph) four-lap average to make the race."
Boat’s top speed during practice has been 222.261 mph in Greg Beck’s No. 98 Dallara-Aurora on the morning of Pole Day. He’s been unable to duplicate that type of speed in time trials, however.
In his only qualification attempt, Boat turned laps of 219.663 mph and 218.770 mph before waving off his run.
"We're battling a handling problem," Boat said. "We can run quick, but we can't run quick for long enough to make us comfortable. (On Pole Day) we thought we had the speed, then we found a problem with the skid-plate underneath the car where some bolts had broken and it was hanging down."
What makes Boat’s predicament even more frustrating is the fact that the former pole sitter turned down a Foyt ride for the month of May in order to honor his commitment to Beck Motorsports.
Boat has started the past four Indy 500s in a Foyt car, with a best finish of third in 1999.
Even in his current situation, Boat is confident he made the right decision when he bypassed Foyt's offer for a ride.
"This is a good team and a good bunch of guys, so we're definitely going to give it our best effort and we feel that will be good enough," Boat said.
If it’s not good enough, there’s talk around Gasoline Alley that Foyt could loan Boat a backup car to get his former driver in the race.
Wouldn’t be the first time.