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Field of 33 Is Far From Complete

May 18, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — There are nine pieces left for the 33-piece Indianapolis 500 jigsaw puzzle and today is the last chance for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League to put them in their proper place.

An off-and-on rain Saturday complicated the problem.

Two new drivers added to the potential starting field, Richie Hearn and Robby McGehee, were unable to get in a practice lap. Neither has been on the track all month and their only opportunity to get a feel for their cars will be this morning, before the final qualifying session.

Hearn will drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which leased a Panoz G Force-Toyota from Roger Penske. McGehee will drive a third Chevrolet-powered Dallara for Panther Racing. Other Panther drivers are Sam Hornish Jr. and Billy Boat.

It was a frustrating day for Robby Gordon. He flew in from Charlotte to practice only to have it start raining after he turned only four laps. Then he flew back for Saturday's Winston Open at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Today he is due back here as part of his continuing odyssey of racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 next Sunday.

The only other cars on the track were Alex Barron, who hopes to qualify today as a replacement for the injured Arie Luyendyk, nd pole-sitter Helio Castroneves. Barron took five laps, Castroneves two.

Veteran Jimmy Vasser, one of the unqualified nine, was one of the disappointed ones.

"It was a little frustrating not getting out today," said Vasser, who missed last Sunday's qualifying because he was racing in Germany. "We wanted to get a little bit of qualifying setups ready for Sunday, but I think we can do that in the morning. To be honest, I'm more concerned with the race trim than the qualifying trim. Starting in the back of the field is more about getting through the field, and I think we have a car to do that."

Vasser, who has won three 500-mile races, two at California Speedway and the U.S. 500 at Michigan when it ran the same day as the Indianapolis 500 in 1996, will drive a Dallara-Honda for Bobby Rahal.


The Freedom 100, an Infiniti Pro Series race designed as a support event for the 500, proved to be as big a fiasco as anticipated.

Official results show that 12 laps have been completed, but in actuality, less than one lap was completed under racing conditions.

On the first lap, leader Ed Carpenter had completed two turns when Matt Beardsley and Thiago Medeiros hit the wall and brought out a yellow caution flag. After nine laps under caution, the inexperienced drivers tried again. This time Carpenter only made it through the second turn before World of Outlaws sprint car driver Craig Dollansky spun into the grass and back across the track into the retaining wall.

Before the race could be restarted a second time, it began raining. They will try to finish the 100-mile race today.

It was a bad day for Dollansky, who was making his first start on pavement after racing on dirt with the Outlaws. He qualified Friday at Indianapolis, and flew to Mechanicsburg, Pa., for a night race that was rained out. Then he returned to Indianapolis and had a plane ready to take him to Hagerstown, Md., for a race Saturday night.

However, after his crash he was taken to Methodist Hospital after complaining of back pains.

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