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May 20, 2013

500 field fills up quickly on Bump Day

INDIANAPOLIS — In just over an hour, the field for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 was complete on Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Josef Newgarden was the fastest second-day qualifier, while Katherine Legge became the 33rd car in the field, and a devastated Michel Jourdain Jr. never got the chance to make the race.

Newgarden’s qualifying run averaged 225.731 which put him on the inside of row nine.

Legge logged just 20 laps before qualifying in the third entry for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Legge’s seat was confirmed less than 48 hours before she took her qualifying run, which averaged 223.176. She sat in her car most of the final hour of qualifying, ready to make another attempt if Jourdain bumped her from the field.

Rahal-Lettermen-Lanigan spent most of the day trying to get a car drivable enough for Jourdain to make a qualifying attempt.

Jourdain’s car had issues all week, and he nearly lost control Sunday when the team tried to use a setup from teammate James Jakes’ car. The team changed it to Graham Rahal’s setup, but it was not any better.

Rahal himself, instead of working on race trim for his own car, took Jourdain’s car out for a run. He could do nothing with it either. While the engine was fine, the car had no handling so the team made change after change all day — including a new rear wing and undertray — but nothing worked.

At 5:44 p.m., Jourdain climbed from the car. Clearly distraught, Jourdain could hardly find the words.

“The guys tried so hard. Some days it felt better, but it was never there. We changed whatever we could. It was just impossible to drive. I mean couldn’t go flat-out,” the driver said. “The only thing was do something stupid and put the car in the wall, you know … not make the race anyway, so there’s no point in that.”

Legge, relieved that she did not have to make another qualifying run, felt for Jourdain. “Obviously, it is not nice for him not to have the opportunity, but I am happy to be in the field,” she said. “I do feel really bad for him.”

Schmidt, Legge’s owner, also felt for Jourdain, but praised his driver’s effort.

“This place creates all kinds of emotions. My heart just goes out to Bobby [Rahal] and Michel, but [Legge] was all in and loved the car. I know she’s a finisher and doesn’t matter where she starts,” Schmidt said. Last year, Legge started 30th but finished in 22nd place.

Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, also made the field in the 32nd starting slot with a four-lap average of 223.442.

The 45-year-old has not raced since the cars were the old Indy Racing League cars. In his last Indy 500 in 2008, Lazier also started in 32nd place but finished 17th. The Lazier Partners Racing entry did not get track time until Friday. “We were definitely sweating it today. It’s a huge learning curve, but a lot of fun,” he said.

Another driver who had to make the field Sunday was rookie Conor Daly. Daly crashed on Thursday, got no track time on Friday because of rain, and was unable to make the top 24 on Pole Day. He turned in four consistent laps about 223 for an average of 223.582. He was not happy about starting 31st on the grid and wanted to go back out to try again. “We were just too slow. I compete to win,” he said.

Newgarden was the top Honda qualifier of the day, while Lazier was the slowest Chevrolet. Sebastian Saavedra was the only other Chevy of the second-day qualifiers.

There will be no on-track activity until Thursday, when the Indy Lights begin practice and qualifying for the Firestone Freedom 100.

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