Lazier Bumps Into Field In Dramatic Final Moments; Roth Hangs On
Sunday, May 18, 2008
"You can't get rid of me that easily," Marty Roth joked after his four-lap run early on Bump Day yielded -- at least temporarily -- 33rd place again on the starting grid for the 92nd Indianapolis 500.
There were plenty who tried for the coveted spot during a furious and drama-filled closing half hour - including a last-minute attempt by Mario Dominguez with Roth on the bubble - but the IndyCar Series owner/driver was correct in his prognostication/wish.
For the second time in his four 500-Mile Race starts, Roth will be on the last row. This year, he'll be joined by 1996 race winner Buddy Lazier and A.J. Foyt IV. Does it matter to the Toronto native?
"As the team owner and the driver, I get a double whammy if that 25 car doesn't make it," said Roth, who was placed initially bumped by Foyt and later placed on the bubble by Lazier's four-lap average 219.015 mph with 13 minutes left in the session that bumped Dominguez. "It's just a real lousy place to be on the bubble. That's when reality hits you that you might not make the show. That is a terrifying moment; you can see it on the faces of your teammates, you can see it in your own face when you look in the mirror. You have to pull out all the stops to make it happen. When we came here this morning that was the mandate - get it in the show."
Standing at the head of the qualification line wearing firesuit and helmet, there was nothing Roth could do as Dominguez's reconstituted No. 96 Visit Mexico City/Pacific Coast Motorsports Honda-powered Dallara recorded a first lap of 219.780 mph (40.9501 seconds) - on pace to unseat Roth's 218.965 mph four-lap average - with 30 seconds left in the session. But as the car rounded Turn 1 for the second lap, it spun and made contact with the SAFER Barrier.
Dominguez was uninjured, but it was a blow to the team that was seeking to make its IndyCar Series debut in the biggest automobile race on the planet. An entire nation was following his progress throughout the month, and even 90 large-screen units were to be placed around Mexico City for citizens to tune in on Race Day.
"After we got bumped, we trimmed the car as we thought we could do and it was just a little too much," said Dominguez, whose car sustained moderate damage in practice May 17. "The car was very, very loose and we were in an all-or-nothing situation. It wasn't quite enough with Buddy's run and that was it for us. We will re-group, take a rest and get ready for Milwaukee."
Heartbreak also befell Max Papis and Roger Yasukawa. Papis, whose Rubicon Race Team/Lifelock crew worked until 1 a.m. to repair the car that was heavily damaged during a morning practice crash the day before, had a mechanical issue reoccur leaving pit lane on his lone qualification attempt (with 16 minutes left in the session) and he was left to wonder what if.
"They are saying it was an input shaft or something like that," Papis said. "It was hugely disappointing. I didn't think I would ever be saying that I didn't make the show at the Indianapolis 500, but my wife reminded me that her dad (Emerson Fittipaldi) didn't make the show the last time (1995) so I guess that is a consolation."
Yasukawa, who entered Bump Day 32nd on the grid, was bumped by Dominguez with 26 minutes left. Yasukawa was back on the track in the No. 98 CURB Records/hhgregg/Real Power car for CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports and was tied with Dominguez's qualifying speed after three laps. But he came up 0.120 mph short on Lap 4 to bump into the field. Another attempt 14 minutes later, with Roth on the bubble, also was below the standard.
Lazier, who won the $50,000 Firestone designation as the final qualifier, will make his 14th consecutive start in the 500-Mile Race - the first from the last row.
"Emotions are running deep," said Lazier, who didn't see his first track time until May 16 in the No. 91 Hemelgarn Johnson Motorsports car. "I've raced here and know what it's like to be second. When I first started I had cars that were just last-minute shoestring deals, and we missed a few races. I know that feeling. I really feel bad for those guys that they're very good race teams and very good race drivers but they just fell short.
"It's such a special race and so important to be in. If you have a smoking-fast car, you feel emotional because you get all of your race car. You get everything out of it, and you finish in the top three. Well, I think emotions are the same when you get everything out of what you have on a given day and it's just enough to make the Indy 500. So very emotional run, very serious run, very on-the-edge run."
After waiving off on previous days, Foyt posted a 219.184 mph average as the first qualifier. He received the $10,000 Red Gold Zone Award for the fastest single lap on Bump Day (219.412 mph). In practice mid-afternoon, Foyt's No. 2 Lilly Diabetes/Vision Racing car made contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier after a fuel buckeye cover wasn't properly attached. The car would not have been repaired in time if Foyt had not already qualified.
"It's been a tough month, for sure, probably my most frustrating yet," said Foyt, who mentioned that his grandfather, four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, called repeatedly the night before with encouragement. "But that's how the Speedway is; you never know what's going to happen and what position you're going to be in. Thankfully, we went out early as we planned and put four laps down and we thought it was a solid run. But, as Marty was saying, the guys started getting quicker and quicker at the end. So I started to getting a lot more worried but thankfully held on."
Indy 500 tickets on sale: Tickets are on sale for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25, the 92nd running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.
Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET) Monday-Sunday during May, with special hours of 6 a.m.-1 p.m. on Race Day, Sunday, May 25. Online orders can be made at any time. Race Day ticket prices start at just $20.