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2nd Day @ Indy Qualifying

By:  Mark W. Theisen

     INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA  May 10, 2009:     Defending Firestone Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos became the first rookie driver to qualify for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24th this afternoon and he did so in convincing style by being the  fastest of the second group of 11 to qualify for the Memorial Day classic.  In doing so he overcame the huge disappointment of being bumped yesterday from the first group of eleven.  His four lap average speed of 223.429 was posted early in the afternoon and stood after all the attempts following his.

     A much calmer wind and relatively mild temperatures made for a great afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the morning got off to a poor start for rookie contender Mike Conway and veteran Alex Tagliani as both crashed just minutes into the morning practice session that preceded the second round of qualifications.  Conway was taken to the infield care center and then on to Methodist Hospital where he was admitted in good condition but with bruised lungs that need to be treated and observed as a precautionary measure.   Tagliani was uninjured in his shunt but the damage prohibited him from being one of today’s qualifiers.

     Matos filled out the final spot in row four, with Paul Tracy, Vitor Meira and Justin Wilson filling our row five.  In row six it will be Hideki Mutoh, Ed Carpenter and Dan Wheldon.  Row seven will see A.J. Foyt IV, Scott Sharp and Sarah Fisher with Davey Hamilton being the first qualifier for row eight.

     Tracy, Wilson, Mutoh and Carpenter made up for disappointments’ yesterday as well, coming back to solidly qualify their cars in the race.  Tracy actually qualified early in the session only to see that time begin to drop back in the second day grid so he withdrew his initial posting and came back to make a run at Matos only to come up a few hundredths of a second short of being fastest of the day.

     Fisher, the first car to qualify today, saw her second lap speed drop dramatically because of an unexpected gust of wind came and posted an average speed in the 219 bracket.  Knowing full well that that speed would not hold up, she immediately withdrew that attempt and returned later with a more stable setup that allowed her to become a second day qualifier.

     It was not as good for the third female entrant in this year’s race, Milka Duno.  She posted a four lap average also in the 219’s but decided after being bumped out of the field not to return for another attempt today feeling that another week of practice will help improve her overall effort at the track and enable her to make the race next year.

     Sharp, like Alex Lloyd yesterday, waited until the final minutes to make his attempt and it worked and he was able to the final qualifier of the day besting both Fisher and Hamilton.

     Meira, in the primary car for A.J. Foyt/ABC Supply Racing, also had an up and down day.  After putting in four solid laps to qualify for the race Meira saw his speed disallowed in post qualifying inspection due to his overall rear, tire to tire measure, being too wide for specifications.  After making the required changes Meira came back and qualified even faster than his disqualified attempt.

     John Andretti, driving for Richard Petty in the Number 43 Window World entry qualified early only to see his effort bumped and then things got even worse as he crashed his car while try to find the speed necessary to get back into the lineup.  Andretti was unhurt in the incident but will now have to wait until next weekend to make the race.

     The final 11 spots for the 33 car field will be filled next Saturday and then bump day will follow on Sunday with the slowest of the field, wherever that car may be on the provisional grid being suspect to being ousted from the field by a faster car and with the promise a few surprise driver/owner hookups coming this week it could be an exciting “Bump” day for a change come next Sunday.