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NEWGARDEN QUICK ON BUMP DAY AS THE FIELD IS SET FOR THE 97TH RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
May 20th 2013 -
By:  Mark W. Theisen; INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA MAY 19, 2013:    It was a drama filled day for Katherine Legge and Michel Jourdain Jr at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but in the end a bump attempt was never made as Jourdain and his Rahal, Letterman, Lannigan Racing team just could not get a handle on the #17 Dallara Honda today or yesterday and the beneficiary was Legge, who sat poised and ready for another attempt in her Angie’s List Schmidt Peterson Dallara as the 6.P.M. gun sounded to end the second and final day of qualification for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 set for next Sunday.

     Nine starting spots were available at the start of qualifications today at 12:15 p.m. with 10 cars vying for those spots under warm and humid conditions.

    The track opened for practice at 9:00 A.M. and eight of the ten cars competing for the final spots were on the track including Legge , who was getting her first laps on the track since last year and she quickly brought the car up to 223.191 miles per hour with just 20 laps of practice.

     Graham Rahal paced the early practice session with a top speed of 226.564 before the 10:00 a.m. end of the practice that send all 10 cars back to the garage to work on the set-up they would use for their qualification effort.  Tristian Vautier and Pippa Mann skipped the morning practice, relying on the information they had garnered yesterday when they were bumped from the first day field.

     Buddy Lazier, with only two real days of practice, opened the session with a four lap average of 223.442, about the same speed he had yesterday but that speed did not hold to gain one of the 24 spots open on day one.

     Ana Beatriz was next at 224.184 as it was all business for today’s qualifiers, knowing full well that with the heat and humidity track temperature will build all day and make achieving a respectable speed that much more difficult.

     Sebastian Saavedra was next putting at qualifying effort averaging 224.929 and then it was Conor Daly’s turn.  Day, who had crashed early in the week and then suffered through a blown engine on his attempt yesterday came back today to average 223.582 in his A.J. Foyt Racing Honda.  The rookie’s speed was gone enough to make the show.

     Rahal was next at 225.007, Vautier at 224.873 and Mann at 224.005 before Josef Newgarden took to the track in the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing #21 Century 21 Realty Honda Dallara.  Newgarden, who was bumped yesterday in the final minutes, came back to average 225.731 to post the fastest effort of the day to nail down the inside row 9 staring spot.

     Legge then averaged 223.176 to fill the final spot in the field.  Being the slowest car to qualify she then became the first car in line to bumped and the only car to do it would be that of Jourdain Jr.

     Jourdain was able to get the car up to speed during the week but something went away on the chassis and the car became very unstable to drive for him.  He could not muster and real  speed on Saturday and in the practice this morning he could only get 219.843 out of the car in rather ideal conditions so the decision was made to skip the early effort and have team driver, Graham Rahal take the car and see what could do done to make it better.

     First they put the set-up of the third team driver James Jakes on the car, it did not work.  Then Rahal used his set-up but still the car was just not comfortable to drive at speed and the decision as the last minute was to not make an attempt and risk injury to the driver.

    A tough decision to make for driver, team and sponsor but it was the right call.  "With being only an Indianapolis driver this year, it was difficult enough”, said Jourdain Jr.  "The something just went away in the car; it became undriveable after being very fast early in the month.  No matter what we did to the car it would not work.  We don’t know if something broke or not because we just could not find it.  In the end the right decision was made, it was tough, but hopefully I can make it back here next year.”

     Jourdain’s dilemma was all that Legge needed to complete her goddess that her back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year.

     When the third car for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports was entered without a driver assigned it became a battle to see who would drive it, however enthusiasm for the open seat diminished somewhat when it was learned that it would be Sunday only effort for the car as the team was committed to get two primary cars into the field before working on the third.

    Legge agreed to terms and was in the car this morning and in the race at the end of the session.  "It was an exciting day,” said Legge, who was strapped into her car and in the qualifying line just in case at the end of the day.  "I knew it would be a tough day but I knew how good this team (Schmidt-Peterson) is and that they would be ready with a car that was capable to making the race.  I feel sorry for the problems incurred by Michel (Jourdain Jr.) and relieved that I did not have to go back out and qualify.

     The average speed for the field of 33 is 226.176, the fourth fastest field in 500 history.  In 2002 the 33 starters averaged 228.648 and that record still stands today.  Ed Carpenter’s 228.762 being the fastest and Legge’s 223.176 being the slowest for a difference of just about 4 seconds.

     Four formers winners, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Lazier are in the show as well as four rookies, Vautier, Carlos Munoz, A.J.. Allmendinger and Daly.  In addition two drivers, Lazier and Mann are in the field after not competing in last year’s events at all.

     The stage is now set for next Sunday; most of the 33 cars used the down time today between early morning qualifying and the last afternoon drama to log hundreds of laps in hopes of finding that right track set up that will propel them to victory.

     The track is now closed thru Wednesday with it opening up for practice and qualifying for the Indy Lights Freedom 100 on Thursday.  The last chance the 500 teams have to practice on Friday with the traditional "Carb Day” events.

    We’ll be there with all the results!.