INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After a long, soggy morning, the Sprint Cup Series finally took to the track for qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 2 p.m. Sam Hornish Jr. was the first car on track after heavy rain overnight and occasional showers during the morning cleaned off the rubber that had been laid down yesterday. Hornish set the initial bar at 50.166 seconds with a speed of 179.404 mph.
The third car out was Mark Martin who backed up his practice speeds Friday (July 24) with a lap of 49.436 seconds at 182.054 mph. When it was all said and done, 43 more drivers took a shot, but none had a big enough bullet to knock Martin off of the pedestal. He is now the oldest driver in any event to win a pole at Indianapolis.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who was second fastest in the second practice session Friday ended up second fastest in qualifying as well. Montoya’s lap of 49.778 was good for 180.803 mph, but was still more than three tenths of a second slower than Martin. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the third fastest car despite being sick all week with a lap of 49.843 and a speed of 180.567 mph.
In the post-qualifying press conference, Earnhardt acknowledged, “We had a good car yesterday and ran a good lap, so knowing what we drew we had a good shot.” Asked about the learning curve with Lance McGrew he added, “The races and weekends can’t get here fast enough. Either the weekends aren’t coming fast enough or we aren’t progressing enough because I enjoy working with Lance and can’t wait to learn more with him.”
The Wood Brothers part-time effort seems to be paying off very handsomely for Bill Elliott. Having to qualify into the field on speed Elliott went out and turned a lap of 49.901 seconds and 180.357 mph. David Reutimann was 24th in practice yesterday, but rebounded very impressively to come home with a top-10 starting spot. His lap of 49.940 and a speed of 180.216 mph was good enough for fifth on the starting grid.
Brian Vickers has owned qualifying as of late, having won the last three pole positions that were settled on the track. Unfortunately for him, the track continued to heat up throughout the session and Vickers best lap ended up sixth at 49.969 seconds with a speed of 180.112 mph.
Kurt Busch had hopes for a run at the pole leading into qualifying after a seventh-place run in practice Friday. Unfortunately, there was a suspension problem on his car that caused the entire machine to porpoise up and down through all four corners and resulted in him posting a horrible lap of 51.303 seconds.
Second-place qualifier Montoya was disappointed with qualifying: “I hate that we had to go so late because I thought we had a car to challenge Mark, but the draw hurt us.” As far as the work they’ve put in on the car he added, ”We unloaded great and the only thing we’ve changed was 20 pounds of spring in the right rear. I hate that we’re going to practice again because more people are going to learn more things.”
Martin was ecstatic in his press conference: “There is no one having more fun than me.” He added, “I like making history.”
After his run he made a comment that he could have run faster if he wasn’t so old. When asked if he didn’t think it might have actually cost him time if he was younger, he went over his qualifying lap. In turn 3 it was loose and scared him a little. Coming through turn 4 it was loose and eventful. He sailed the car into turn 1 and it was eventful. Turn 2 was also eventful as was turn 3. After exiting turn 3 he saw a flash of the No. 5 on the back of the wrecker. Just that flash made turn 4 uneventful. Had it been eventful, it would have been faster.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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