INDIANAPOLIS -- A.J. Foyt IV covered as much ground going
backward as he did going forward on his first qualification attempt
for the Indianapolis 500.
The 18-year-old grandson of the four-time Indy winner made a
180-degree spin coming out of the second turn on his first
qualifying lap Sunday. He avoided hitting the wall, and his car
fishtailed in reverse until he brought it under control, coasting
backward almost the entire length of the backstretch.
"It was a pretty interesting ride, one I'm not sure I'd want to
repeat," the younger Foyt said.
The car came to a stop facing backward near the end of the
3,300-foot backstretch. Foyt was not injured. He came back later in
his backup car and qualified at 224.177 mph, becoming the youngest
known starter in Indy history.
"My front end was dragging on my warmup laps, but I didn't
think it would affect my run," Foyt said of his earlier attempt.
"It just broke loose coming off of Turn 2. I was really lucky to
stay out of the wall. Probably if I had spun a little earlier, I
would have been in the wall."
"I'm just glad to be a part of it," Foyt said.
His grandfather and team owner started 12th and finished 16th in
his rookie race in 1958. The elder Foyt retired as a driver before
qualifications in 1993, the year before his grandson started racing
"A lot of mistakes were made today. That's the slowest he's run
since his rookie test," the elder Foyt said. "At least he stayed
out of the wall."
Foyt IV, whose father, Tony Foyt, is A.J.'s eldest son, was the
champion last year in the new Infiniti Pro Series, the IRL's
Robbie Buhl, struggling for speed all week,
was more than happy to accept a four-lap average of 224.369 mph,
the third-slowest among the 24 drivers in the tentative Indy 500
The slowest was his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing teammate, Sarah
Fisher, at 224.170.
"Sure, it's disheartening to see the other guys do 229s, but we
have the car as trimmed out as much as we can, and that's it,"
Buhl said. "We did what we wanted to do in the window that we had.
During the whole week, 224 was the target we had set for
Last year, Buhl qualified at more than 231 mph for a start from
the middle of the front row. Dreyer & Reinbold, which he co-owns,
switched from the Infiniti engine to a Chevrolet, which has not
been as competitive as the Hondas and Toyotas.
"Now it's time to focus on getting the car set up for the
race," Buhl said. "I usually hold a little back for qualifying,
but this week I didn't do any of that. I gave it everything I had.
I can sleep tonight with a 224 average."
Fisher, who started ninth and finished 24th last year, also has
struggled for speed.
"We're in it as a team. We're sticking it out," Fisher said.
"We're going to go back this week and try to come up with some
That's my boy
Mario Andretti remembered the first time
his son, Michael, passed him on the race track.
"It was at the Meadowlands," Mario recalled. "I started from
the pole and Michael was behind me.
"We got to a real tight corner and he tried to go by me. I
said, 'No way.' But he gave me a little love tap and went by. I was
really mad for a minute. Then I thought, "That's my boy."
The two Andrettis were teammates for several years with
Michael Andretti, who has the most wins among active drivers in
American open-wheel racing, will retire following the May 25
Indianapolis 500 to focus on running his new Andretti Green Racing
team. The 40-year-old driver began his Indy Car career in 1983.
His 63-year-old father, who retired following the 1994 season,
said at a retirement party for Michael on Saturday night, "I know
he wants to be like (team owners) Carl Haas, Roger Penske and Chip
Ganassi, but he's going to be Michael.
"As a driver, he loves to see the checkered flag. He'll be the
same as an owner."
Michael Andretti qualified at 227.739 mph Sunday for his 14th
start at Indy. His best finishes were second in 1991 and third in
The foam barrier that Billy Boat blew to
smithereens did its job.
The Styrofoam-like material attached to the concrete wall that
separates the track from the pit entrance absorbed the energy from
the hard impact, producing a spectacular, debris-strewing crash but
only slight back pain for Boat.
He was examined at Methodist Hospital and released later
Saturday afternoon. Boat is expected to get medical clearance to
make a qualification attempt May 18.
"It worked very well, because the attenuator stayed in place,"
said Kevin Forbes, director of engineering and construction for the
Speedway. "The car didn't redirect the attenuator. It did exactly
what we hoped it would do. It stayed intact for the full duration
of the impact."
The attenuator was installed in 1992 after three crashes against
the pit wall from 1986-91. The form-fitting foam is the same
material used inside drivers' helmets for safety.
Boat, who started from the pole in 1998, was the slowest
qualifier each of the past two years.
Tomas Scheckter, who qualified for his second
Indy start, was allowed a few extra laps Sunday after his car
brushed the wall during the first of two practice sessions.
Scheckter was not injured.
"The wind just pushed the car a little," he said. "You run so
close to the walls here that an extra foot or two will change your
line. We'll be fine."
Scheckter, son of 1979 Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, came
back later and qualified at 227.769 mph. Last year he started 10th,
led 85 laps before crashing with 28 laps to go and was named Indy
co-rookie of the year with Alex Barron.
More than half of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
was without electricity for a brief time Sunday when a power line
outside the track failed.
Affected areas included the scoring and timing tower, the media
center, Gasoline Alley suites and the track's television compound.
"The power outage was only for about two seconds, but it took
us a few more minutes to send men out around the Speedway to reset
some of the breakers," said Kevin Forbes, director of the track's
engineering and construction.
Indianapolis Power and Light Co. said the outage resulted from
possible lightning damage during storms that washed out
qualifications on Saturday.
Helio Castroneves, the two-time defending
Indianapolis 500 winner, celebrated his 28th birthday with a
surprise cake from ABC Sports. But that wasn't his only surprise.
Laughing, his face covered with cake and frosting, Castroneves
turned to announcer Gary Gerould and said, "Can we go to a
Castroneves was the fastest qualifier Sunday with a four-lap
average of 231.725 mph and will start the race from the pole