Indianapolis 500

Race Report: Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS May 29, 2011--The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat summed up the final lap of the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 as Dan Wheldon took advantage of rookie J.R. Hildebrand’s misfortune on the final corner to sweep past and win his second Indy 500 and the first one for his Bryan Herta Autosport team. Hildebrand, who went wide to lap a slower car, hit the marbles and then the wall in turn four to the shock of all. He coasted across the line to finish second. Third through fifth were Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon.

Vitor Meira and Indy teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay had a tough day in their ABC Supply Dallara/Honda cars as a series of circumstances combined to produce a tough day for both.

Meira started off with a good race as the ABC Supply crew pitted him quickly enough to move him from 11th to eighth during a caution period for E.J. Viso. When the yellow came out for Jay Howard on lap 62, Meira was about to pit but the pits closed. He pitted for a splash of fuel but the car stalled as he went to leave.

When the engine refired, he’d dropped back to 16th. Pitting for a full stop two laps later, Meira was trying to enter his pit as Ed Carpenter was trying to leave his pit. Neither car made contact but Meira had to be pushed back after the stop as his car was angled wrong because of the near miss. He dropped back to 18th.

With Meira lacking straight-line speed, the team made changes to take away some downforce about midway through the race. During that green flag stint, Meira slipped from 12th back to 17th as he struggled with the car in traffic. He went a lap down on lap 138. The team added some of the downforce back in on the next stop. Then the car ran laps as fast as the leaders but there was never an opportunity to get his lap back. He soldiered on to finish 15th.

"It was a long day,” said Meira. “We had great pit stops. We picked up a lot of positions after every stop. As windy as it was and as hot as it was today, we didn't have any practice in conditions like this. In hindsight, we may have done too much qualifying work and not enough race work. It just wasn't the day for us."

Asked about the double file restarts, Meira added, “They weren’t so bad after all. Everyone behaved pretty well and the track and IndyCar officials did a good job of cleaning off the track during the caution periods.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled with the No. 41 ABC Supply/DHL/Sun Drop car throughout the race despite running a different set-up from the 14 car. In an effort to keep Hunter-Reay comfortable after the driver switch, Foyt arranged it that Hunter-Reay work with his regular Andretti Autosport engineers and pit crew on Carb Day and in the race. Unfortunately, Hunter-Reay’s race was also frustrating. He finished 23rd.

"We dealt with a lot of issues today, but everybody dealt with tricky conditions today, which made for a loose race car,” said Hunter-Reay. “But we really struggled more than others. It was a monumental task to prepare a car in 30 laps of warm-up for the longest race of the year and most important race of the year. The ABC Supply and DHL/Sun Drop guys did a great job preparing the car; we just missed the balance. For me, all day, it was an exercise of just keeping the car out of the wall. I almost lost it at least 12 times."

The only one on the team who didn’t have trouble with his car was Foyt who drove the Chevrolet Camaro to pace the field at the start of the Indy 500. “Who would have thought I would be leading the Indy 500 fifty years after winning my first race here?” said Foyt. “It was a lot of fun. Not as much fun as driving a race car but it is second best.”

Today his drivers might have disagreed with him.

The next race for the IZOD IndyCar Series will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, June 11th. The Firestone Twin 275s will be broadcast live at 8pm ET on Versus.

NOTES & QUOTES: Indianapolis 500

• A.J. Foyt will be the honorary pace car driver for the Indianapolis 500. A.J. on being the pace car driver: "Since I won my first Indy 500 50 years ago, I had hoped to still be racing in it, but driving the Pace Car is the next best thing!" Foyt said. "Seriously, racing has always been very important in my life - it's been my life - and the Indianapolis 500 is the most important race in the world. I lived for that race. When I got hurt in race cars, I always made it back for Indy because it is that important. That's where people know me from - Indy. So being asked by my good friend Mari George to drive the Chevy Pace Car for the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 - well, I couldn't have a bigger honor come from the Speedway and the Hulman-George family."

• Vitor Meira qualified for his ninth Indianapolis 500 with a four-lap average speed of 225.590 mph. He will start 11th (middle of row four) in the No. 14 ABC Supply car. Meira finished second at Indy in 2005 and 2008, driving for two different teams. He joined A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team in 2009. He started 14th in that race and was running in the top 10 when a pit fire broke out; later he was involved in a wild accident on lap 174. Meira sustained two broken lower vertebra ending his season. In his first race back in Brazil in March, he finished third, his best finish to date with the ABC Supply team.

• The last time the No. 14 started higher than 11th at Indy was in 2000 with driver Jeff Ward who started sixth and finished fourth.

• Ryan Hunter-Reay will start 33rd in the No. 41 ABC Supply/DHL/Sun Drop Dallara/Honda. Hunter-Reay replaced Bruno Junqueira who qualified the car on Pole Day and was scheduled to start 19th. The agreement between the Foyt Enterprises and Andretti Autosport teams developed after time ran out on Hunter-Reay to try to bump his way back into the field after being bumped by his teammate, Marco Andretti, in the final seconds of qualifying.

• This race will be A.J. Foyt’s 54th consecutive Indy 500. He started out as a driver in 1958, became a driver-owner in 1965 and has been solely an owner since 1993 when he retired from driving Indy cars on Pole Day at Indy. He was the first driver to win the 500 four times and has won it as solely an owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack driving.

• Car chief Tom Howatt won the Jim Greer Award for the race in Brazil. Howatt’s management of the team as they scrambled to repair the No. 14 ABC Supply car led to its being able to rejoin the race the next day. Meira finished 17th, never being able to recover the two laps he lost from the accident.

Q & A with Vitor Meira:

Q: Your strategy for the race?

Vitor: “We haven’t talked step by step strategy because it changes so much. We know our field strategy, we know our set up strategy, but as usual, and as always happens, the race will change constantly, and we have to keep adjusting to it. From my perspective, my strategy is to be really calm and not take a lot of risks until the last pit stop or the last 30 laps. So that’s what everybody’s approach is going to be and also be extra careful on the restarts. We will learn about it as we go, make sure that the car is where we want to be, and position ourselves in a good area for the last 30 laps. Luckily, we can pass here so if we have a good car on the last 30 laps, we’ll be passing a lot of people. But we have to get there first, and that’s sort of the strategy.”

Q: Where can you pass here? On the straightaway, in the turns?

Vitor: “In the turns you set up a pass. You never pass in the middle of a turn, but the turn is where you set up a pass for the straightaway, so turns are very, very important. Our car is very fast on the straightaway already and very comfortable in the turns, and that’s what you want. You’re going to have to do the last two or three things on Carb Day, just checking things over for the race, but it seems as though everything’s working really good up to this point.”

Q: And double file restarts for the first time here at Indy– have you talked to the other drivers about it?

Vitor: “I mean to be honest, we always say ‘Yeah, let’s take care of each other,’ this and that, but it’s tough to do, really. And sometimes because you’re too careful too, you’ll be in the way, so it’s as bad as being too aggressive – being too careful. So we’re going to have to feel it out. It might be much better than we thought, or it might be worse, so we have to get ready.”

Q: What is the difference from the start when everyone is doing three-abreast?

Vitor: “Well, the only difference is the time of the race. When it’s the first lap, everybody knows that crashing on the first lap is as stupid as it gets if it’s your fault, if you provoke it. So you’re really extra double triple careful. During the race you get amped up, you start going and either you want to make spots or you want to make up for mistakes, and things get amped up and up and up and your mindset changes. That’s one factor. The other factor is on race day, the first lap – inside or outside – is the same. There’s no rubber on the track, there are no marbles or anything. During the race there will be a lot of marbles, and as much as they clean, there are always marbles that get left behind. So knowing that, everybody tries to avoid it and take the inside lane. Once everybody picks the inside lane, things are going to bottle up. It’s going to be just like a traffic jam. But again, we have to deal with it, we have to learn with it, and see what happens.”

Q: This is the best start you’ve had with this team, you’re excited?

Vitor: “Very excited. Very hopeful because throughout our history here, our race car has been much better than our qualifying cars, and if the qualifying car is good, I’m really hopeful for the race car. We tested already full tanks and it’s really good, so not having to start in the back or halfway through the field – it’s already such a peace of mind because one – you know there’s much less of a chance of something happening in front of you than if you start in the back, and two – it’s cleaner air. You have much cleaner air so you’re going to be smoother. So it’s a big peace of mind, and drivers around you are not trying to make up for something. They know there is a lot of race to go and they’re calmer … a little bit.”

For more information on the Foyt Racing program, please check our web site: 

Indy 500 Qualifying Report-May 21

“What a difference a year makes!” Larry Foyt said when asked to sum up Tom Carnegie Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both Vitor Meira and Bruno Junqueira qualified their ABC Supply entries for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500.

Alex Tagliani won his first pole position driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports with a speed average of 227.472mpg. Joining him on the front row were Scott Dixon and Oriol Servia.

Meira, who had been quick all week, put his No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda safely in the race with a four lap qualifying average speed of 225.590mph which at the time was sixth quickest. He would eventually drop to 11th quickest as track temperatures cooled and several cars went faster later in the day. He will start in the middle of row four.

“The best thing about today is getting both cars in, because tomorrow, myself and Bruno, we are just going to work on race stuff, we’re going to run with full tanks, and really focus on what matters,” Meira said.

For Junqueira, the day was a little more challenging, reflective of his week here. His team struggled to make the car comfortable for him, a situation exacerbated by three days of rain. But patience and methodically going through the car allowed the problems to be identified and corrected .

He qualified in the top 24 on his first attempt with a speed of 224.236mph with all four of his laps varying by less than three tenths of a mile an hour. However as the track cooled, cars started to bump him down to the bubble spot. Eventually Simona DeSilvestro bumped him by one thousandth of a mile an hour! Three hours later, he went back out to re-qualify which he did with a four lap average of 224.691mph good for 19th on the grid. He will start on the inside of row seven.

“I am very happy to be able to qualify today and to qualify 19th,” said Junqueira. “It was better than expected and I think the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt team did a very, very good job turning this car around and improving it so much. We gained so much speed, we are much closer to Vitor. The car had a great balance in qualifying, we were really trimmed, low downforce and I was flat all the way around—I enjoyed it so much!”

The drama surrounding Junqueira as teams took their shots at him was a new experience for him here at the Brickyard where he qualified on the pole in 2002.

“It was the first time in my life that I was on the bubble–it was Not Nice,” he said. “When I was taken out, I got my helmet and gloves and said ‘Let’s go and do it.’ We took some more downforce out and to have done it, I’m very happy about that. Big emotions! I remember when I was on the pole here, I was the first guy out at 11 am and I sat in the garage from 11 to 6, waiting on everybody having their runs trying to go faster than me. Today it was the opposite. Seven, eight guys tried to beat me and Simona did by a thousandth [of a mile an hour] and I said ‘Wow. I need to go back there and do it again!’ but I had a great car so that helped.”

Meira credited the team with doing their homework over the winter which resulted in the positive performance.

“This qualifying run puts into perspective how much our work over the winter paid off,” said Meira. “We left here with a crashed car that had started 30th. We came back with the very same car. The crew got together over the winter worked on the car and did what they did and now we have two cars safely in the top 20 in the hardest 500 field in a long time. That shows how much work the ABC Supply crew did.”

Foyt echoed the sentiments, saying, “Last year we were on the outside looking in after Pole Day so coming here the thought was just to get both cars qualified on the first day. Then when we unloaded we were pretty happy with the speed the 14 was showing. At Indy, the details matter so much that it’s the attention to details that makes the difference. The other thing that helped us is having the consistency of a driver like Vitor here at Indy. He knows this place very well, he’s very good here, he understands these cars and what he needs out of them to go well. Bruno knows the same thing and they can drive very similar cars so that was a help. Having the same engineer Jeff Britton working with Vitor for the second straight year also makes a difference.”

A.J. Foyt spent the week overseeing the team’s preparation of the cars while also handling requests related to his driving the Chevrolet Camaro pace car at the start of the race. “I’m real proud of my team. Today went a helluva lot better than it did a year ago. The crew worked real hard over the winter and it paid off because the competition is so close right now. You have a bunch of great teams that have cars that haven’t qualified yet and we are in sound. I’m just happy, very happy that we’re in and we can work on our race setup a little bit tomorrow.”

With both of the Foyt team’s cars carrying retro paint schemes in honor of A.J.’s first and last Indy triumphs as a driver, his son Larry recounted a moment from Meira’s qualifying run.

“It was really cool when Vitor put up that good time—that 226 lap and at the time he was in the top six,” he said. “Dad was driving down pit lane and I jumped on the back of the golf cart, and all the fans were cheering for him. It took me back to when I was a kid and used to ride around with him and people would cheer for him. That was a pretty cool moment for me.”

The first 24 positions of the 33 car field were filled with the last nine to be filled tomorrow on Bump Day. Once the field is set Sunday, the cars will not be on track again until Carb Day, the next Friday.

The 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC on Sunday, May 29.

Track Report: Fast Friday

It was good news/bad news for the ABC Supply team today. Vitor Meira came away feeling confident about his chances on Pole Day but for Bruno Junqueira, it was a long day in the office.

Meira, who ran 35 laps with a top speed of 226.9mph (13th quick) in the No. 14 ABC Supply car, said, “We feel good about the car. It’s just hard to really know where we are at, but I think if we do our jobs like we have been doing, it’s a first day qualifier no problem and then we can work on race setups on Sunday. Tonight is when we massage the car and we’ll get some speed out of that. It will come down to getting the best out of the time when we are out qualifying tomorrow—it’s that close to doing very good. It’s going to come down to taking 100% out of the situation – weather and our place in the qualifying line. We’re close enough that we are going to be able to play with these things so I’m happy.”

Junqueira started the day with a set-up that felt comfortable yesterday but in the heat, it didn’t work as well so they switched to a different setup. The handling didn’t improve noticeably. He ran 43 laps in the No. 41 ABC Supply car and posted a top speed of 225.396mph which was 29th on the speed charts.

“We started with the same car (set-up) we had yesterday but for some reason the car is a little bit loose today," said Junqueira. "We tried to improve it and didn’t improve much, so in the afternoon we went to a different setup. It’s still not feeling right so we have to analyze the data and analyze the car to see if we can improve tomorrow.”

Practice on Tom Carnegie/Pole Day runs from 8 to 10 a.m. with the first hour split into two groups and the second hour open to all cars. Qualifying for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 starts at 11 a.m. Junqueira will be 21st to qualify while Meira is 27th in line.

Track Report: May 19

After two days of mist and rain, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was abuzz with race cars today. Vitor Meira was in the top 10 for most of the day until Happy Hour (which he didn't participate in) when both the drafting and the speeds picked up. Logging 34 laps, he recorded a top speed of 225.4mph which was the 17th quickest time.

“Today confirmed what we were cautious about—we didn’t know how fast the car is and I think today confirmed that the car is very fast," said Meira. "There isn’t anybody really playing around today. Everybody at one point or another did a qualifying run, maybe not as aggressive as they are going to go in qualifying but they did a qualifying run. And I think we stuck up pretty good on that. I feel very confident, very good about the car. Once we qualify on the first day, hopefully we can focus on the race setup on Sunday. Right now it’s very doable, so I’m happy about that.”

Bruno Junqueira put in a solid day, running 60 laps and posting a top speed of 224.6mph. "It’s very good to be back in the car," said Junqueira. "Straight out of the box, we made good improvements on the car these last two days that we didn’t run. The guys were able to fit the engine cover properly. We were able to run 224 which, at the time, we were P-4 on a tow, but then we worked on the car and at the end we could run decent laps by ourselves. I think we’re getting better every time and we’re learning about the car. We still have a little bit to improve but it's getting better, so I’m happy.”

Track Report: May 16th

Vitor Meira ended the first full day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the sixth fastest in his No. 14 ABC Supply car with a speed of 224.8mph. “It was good," Meira said afterwards. "I think we evolved a little bit from where we were on Saturday when we last ran. I think the ABC Supply car is competitive, but it’s hard to tell exactly how competitive we are at this point. The car is good but we’ll be able to tell how good later in the week when we really start dropping the hammer—as will everyone else. In preparation for that, today was a good day.”

The day didn't go quite as well for teammate Bruno Junqueira. The engine cover on his No. 41 car loosened and flew off in front of Vitor Meira's No. 14 car. Junqueira maintained control of his car and Meira did not hit any bodywork. Both cars returned to the pits. The ABC Supply team fitted a new engine cover to the car back in the garage and Junqueira got back out to log 18 laps before the track closed down. His best lap was 222.5mph.

“It was an exciting day," said Junqueira. "On the second lap, the engine cover fell off but my team did a good job to replace it and get me out for some laps at the end of the day. It felt ok, I think the balance is good, we need to work a little more to get more straight line speed.”

Track Report: Opening Day at Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS May 14, 2011—Despite the threat of rain, Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway stayed dry long enough for the ABC Supply team to shake down both of its cars before the rain showers came this afternoon. After the rain stopped and the track dried, Vitor Meira and Bruno Junqueira were able to run a few more laps before the rain returned, shutting the track down for good. There were 32 cars on track today.

Vitor Meira, who logged 39 laps, posted a quick lap of 223.192 mph which was seventh quickest of the day. Bruno Junqueira, in his first time back in an Indy car and on an oval since last year’s Indy 500, did not take long to get up to speed. He ran 34 laps, posting his quickest lap of 220.221mph. Working with the two cars, the team made some changes throughout the runs and determined the direction they wanted to go.

Vitor Meira: “I think we are cautiously excited, there’s still a lot to do, we’re still slower than what it will take in qualifying but the car is good, it’s fast. We did get a draft but even without the draft we’re pretty competitive in our times so we’re excited. It’s the first day but I think we started the right way and we just have to maintain and improve on what we had today.”

Bruno Junqueira: “It was very nice to be back at Indianapolis—I love the track. To feel the speed—I always have to get used to it to go 220 mph. I’m very happy to have a chance to race here with A.J. Foyt, it’s a great team and A.J. is a great team owner. I’m learning a lot from him. Let’s hope we can have a good week. It rained a little bit but we were able to do some good laps. We found a good direction to go, so that was very good for the first day.”