Originally created 05/17/02

Non-qualified Luyendyk looking for race speed



INDIANAPOLIS -- Even though Arie Luyendyk isn't qualified yet for the Indianapolis 500, it's a race-day setup that most concerns the two-time winner of the event.

After waiting impatiently through Monday and Tuesday, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2 1/2 -mile oval closed, Luyendyk has spent two days trying to find a way to get his backup car up to speed.

"We weren't working on qualifying at all," said Luyendyk, whose fast lap in Thursday's practice was a relatively slow 220.972 mph. "We felt we needed a lot of time on the track but, with the windy conditions, that hasn't been easy.

"The backup car in race conditions is just really poor. From what I feel, I think we're 4 to 5 miles an hour off from a good race pace with that car right now."

Luyendyk, a 16-time Indy starter, set several speed records here, including the fastest race average in 1990 and the one- and four-lap qualifying records in 1996. He has been off the pace, though, much of the time since practice began on May 5.

While more than a dozen drivers have gone above 230, with Bruno Junqueira winning the pole for the race May 26 with a four-lap average of 231.342, the best Luyendyk has managed in his primary Team Menard G Force is 228.469.

He made two qualifying attempts in that car on Saturday, waving off one after three laps just above 227 and aborting another after one lap at 227.6.

Luyendyk was ready to make his third and final attempt in that car just before the opening qualifying session ended, but a problem with a tire sensor brought him back into the pits without taking the green flag.

Last Sunday's qualifying was rained out, and Luyendyk and about a dozen other drivers will have to get up to speed in the final round of time trials this Sunday to join - or bump out - the 24 drivers already qualified for the tentative 33-car field.

It's likely to take a four-lap average above 226 to make the show.

Luyendyk says he isn't very concerned about making the lineup, though.

"As far as the primary car, I'm confident that we don't need a lot of laps," he said Thursday. "We don't need to go out now and practice to get a qualifying setup because we pretty much believe we have that. We just need to take advantage of it Sunday and, hopefully, we won't have a technical glitch like we had last Saturday that would ruin the run.

"You have to have a backup plan, and that is to take the backup and put the setup on it that resembles the one on the primary car."

Greg Ray, a former polesitter here, was fastest on Thursday at 227.291, followed by Junqueira's backup car at 226.598 and Airton Dare at 226.484.

Ray and Dare, who also need to qualify Sunday, were fast on Wednesday as well.

Junqueira had a problem Thursday, hitting the wall as he attempted to pit his backup car.

"I was coming into the pits a little too fast," the Brazilian said. "The brakes locked up on me. I was going too fast so I tried to get back out on the track and the car just came around."

Junqueira was not injured and the damage to the Chip Ganassi Racing G Force was minimal.

Jon Herb, hoping for his second Indy start, also walked away without injury late in the afternoon when a blown engine sent him spinning nose first into the speedway wall.