Friday Practice Washed Out
May 18, 2001 | 4:00 P.M. EST
Non-qualified drivers in the field now have just one day of practice to prepare for the final day of qualifications, Bump Day, on Sunday. The final full practice takes place from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (EST) Saturday.
Thunderstorms are expected to remain in the central Indiana area overnight Friday, but Saturday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. Sunday’s temperature should reach into the low-80s.
Two of the fastest drivers still trying to gain a spot in the 33-car field, Eliseo Salazar and Billy Boat, said the washout did little to affect their plans to find speed and qualify for the May 27 race.
"We have the speed," said Salazar, who drives the Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile entries. "We just need 15 to 20 laps to put the qualifying speed together. We can do it tomorrow or even Sunday morning. This just keeps the other guys from getting up to speed."
Boat, who won the pole in 1998, is taking a similar approach. He has been the fastest non-qualified driver in the last two days of practice in the CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile.
"We had an engine change scheduled for today anyway, so we hadn't really planned on going out to practice until later in the day," Boat said. "The rain only sets us back a little bit.
"We still feel we've got a pretty good baseline, but we need to work a little bit more tomorrow and make sure the consistency is there. Hopefully we'll have some good weather conditions so we can do a simulated qualifying run and be ready to go first thing on Sunday."
In an odd twist, the cancellation actually may help front-row starter Greg Ray. He will start second in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
Ray and Team Menard worked last week before MBNA Pole Day on running alone on the track with full tanks, trying to learn more about the handling characteristics of the car. Now Ray wants to test the car in full tanks in traffic, simulating race conditions.
He should get his wish Saturday, as the track should be busy.
"Now we're looking for anybody on the racetrack - and their mother, brother, father and sister - with a race car, to get on their gearbox and run with them," Ray said.