Doornbos is back on his game

INDIANAPOLIS --- Hitting the wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- twice -- could slow down some drivers.

Not Robert Doornbos, who shook off two crashes in practice last week and led the third of four rounds of time trials for the Indianapolis 500 as the final 11 spots in the 33-car field were tentatively filled.

The Dutchman, a rookie at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, crashed on consecutive days in the first week of practice for the May 24 race and missed the opening weekend of qualifying.

He came back strong with a four-lap average of 221.692 mph on Saturday to grab the 23rd position in the lineup.

"I can't say it's been a boring month," said Doornbos, who has been mentored here by two-time Indy winner and countryman Arie Luyendyk.

"I arrived here with Arie and, inspecting the track, he scared me to death in the pace car ride," Doornbos added. "And then I got going in my IndyCar, and I was really quick the first day and the next day, as well. I think we got a little bit too excited because Arie said I probably didn't need him anymore, and then we took off too much downforce and we crashed."

Doornbos, driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, persevered. But, thanks to a 31/2-hour rain delay in Saturday's qualifying, and a gusty wind, it wasn't easy.

"Here, it's such a long track and with the wind picking up you feel like every lap is a new adventure," he said. "Every lap is a new adventure because the wind is coming from different angles. It's a tough four laps."

While the field is now filled, it is not final. The slowest drivers can be bumped out by faster qualifiers on Sunday, the last day of time trials.

Nelson Philippe wound up the slowest qualifier at 218.032. He was sitting in his car in the qualifying line, waiting to make another try, when the gun ending the session went off with fellow Indy rookie Stanton Barrett on the track.

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