SPEEDWAY – At least there was one car to bump. That’s wasn’t the case a year ago.
But the drama of the final day of qualifications at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was still a bit short of excitement, for the person just out of the field couldn’t muster an attempt to get into the field.
With his speeds in the mid-to-high 210’s all day, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Michel Jourdain Jr didn’t even make an attempt to try and bump the 33rd car in the field driven by Katherine Legge in the final hour on Sunday afternoon. After a few short test laps around 5 P.M., Jourdain climbed out of his #17 Office Depot Honda-powered machine as the team decided not to run to the qual line for one final try.
“It was going to be very hard. All week we struggled. Right away, I didn’t feel the car very well, you know, but when you’re only driving once a year, it’s just so hard to know,” said Jourdain of the day. “It’s just a feel thing, and some days it feels really well and getting a little better every day and it was just a low point.”
Jourdain tried a number of things to try to get the card up to speed but all to no avail. The team switched an engine, tried the setups of teammates James Jakes and Graham Rahal along with various other tweaks to the car but to no avail. That’s why the decision was made at 5:45 P.M. to take the car back to the garage rather than make a desperate qualifying attempt in the final minutes.
“I mean couldn’t go flat out — with more force and — it was, just, you know, the only thing, keep trying was do something stupid and put the car in the wall, you know,” said Jourdain. “Not make the race anyway, so there’s no point in that.”
With Jourdain failing to find speed Katherine Legge found herself in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 after a whirlwind weekend. She gained the sponsorship needed to get in the Sam Schmidt Motorsports car during Saturday’s pole day and was only able to get out on the track for morning practice in her #81 Honda-powered machine.
Even with just 24 laps under he belt Legge was able to put up an average speed of 223.176 miles and hour, which was plenty good enough to get over a struggling Jourdain.
“I haven’t slept in like three days, so I’m going sleep tonight, which is good,” said Legge. “It’s been a long day, but it’s been a great day and a great opportunity. So just happy now, relieved to be in the field.”
Still a lot of work remains to be done in little time for Legge, who was able to run 50 laps in the afternoon. Carb Day will be her last chance to get track time before the 500 mile race on Sunday afternoon.
“I have no idea what the car is like trimmed out,” said Legge. “We’ll have to go and do that, and there would have been another couple of miles an hour in it, so I think we were confident we were in the field.”