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SPORTS WEEKEND | INDIANAPOLIS 500 NOTES

Durant Drives Through the Looking Glass

May 23, 1997|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS — Paul Durant had only 12 laps in an Indy Racing League car before he qualified for the 500 last Sunday. From the time he first climbed into A.J. Foyt's No. 1 car to practice to the time he completed his qualification run, 52 minutes elapsed.

"This place is like Alice in Wonderland." Durant said. "Nothing is what it appears."

Substituting for the injured Scott Sharp, the second-year driver qualified at 209.149 mph and will start 33rd.

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When rookie driver Affonso Giaffone isn't racing cars in his native Brazil, he keeps busy building bulletproof cars.

"Unfortunately for the public, but fortunately for me, business is good because the economic situation in Brazil has led to an increase in violence," he said.

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Another rookie, Greg Ray, remembers the day he first attended driving school.

"There were about 30 people there and the instructor said, 'Stand up and tell us your name and your background.' And they all stood and said they'd won five go-cart championships, motocross championships and had done dirt car racing, and all of them had experience.

"Then I stood up and said, 'Hi, my name is Greg Ray. I'm an entrepreneur from Dallas, Texas, and I'm 26 years old. I've never driven a race car, but I got a few speeding tickets, and I'm going to drive Indy cars.'

"All 30 of them proceeded to laugh at me."

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The Formula One team that folded earlier this year, leaving Italian driver Vincenzo Sospiri without a ride, was Lola, not Lotus as reported previously. Sospiri, who has never driven in an oval race, will start on the outside of the front row as a member of Andy Evans' Scandia team.

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Mike and Robbie Groff are the 12th set of brothers to qualify for the same Indy 500. The last were the Bettenhausens, Gary and Tony, in 1993. Bobby and Al Unser hold the record of 16 years, from 1965 to 1968 and 1970 to 1981.

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