DREYER & REINBOLD - Indy 500 Qualifying Notes
HILDEBRAND CLOCKS THE 21ST SPOT IN LATE QUALIFYING DRAMA,
KARAM MUST VIE FOR LAST ROW SPOT ON SUNDAY
Hot, windy conditions throw a curve to many teams including DRR
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 18, 2019) – J.R. Hildebrand made some big-time drama Saturday in the first round of the 103rd Indianapolis 500-Mile Race qualifications by taking his No. 48 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Salesforce Chevrolet Dallara race car to the 21st spot in the 33-car starting field for the 200-lap classic set for next Sunday, May 26.
Hildebrand, the 2011 Indy 500 runner-up and “Rookie of the Year,” made his third and final qualifying attempt a dramatic one with just four minutes left in the qualification session which ran from 11 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. EDT Saturday at the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Fighting 88-degree heat and some 20-mile-per-hour winds, all of the teams in the mid-afternoon qualifying runs had their hands full with the changing conditions. Finally, late in the day, Hildebrand and his DRR Salesforce crew dialed in the No. 48 machine and recorded times of 228.786, 228.210, 227.594 and 227.050 for a four-lap average of 227.905 m.p.h.
Previously in the day, the Colorado racer uncorked a 229.211 lap in his first qualifying attempt but the winds affected his first four-lap average to a 226.83 m.p.h. He improved to a 227.158 in his second timed laps before notching the 227.905 at 5:45 p.m.
While Hildebrand made the impressive late day move, his teammate, Sage Karam of Nazareth, Pa., will have to qualify on Sunday for positions 31 to 33 after a tough day in his No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet Dallara. Karam made five separate four-lap runs in the afternoon with a best average of 226.951 m.p.h., and just missed the 30th qualifying position.
Six drivers will vie for the final three starting slots at 12:15 p.m. EDT Sunday, weather permitting. In addition to Karam, those drivers include two-time World Formula One Champion Fernando Alonso, former Indy 500 pole winner James Hinchcliffe, 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward, Max Chilton and Kyle Kaiser.
Following the Last Row and Fast Nine qualifying Sunday, Indy 500 practice for all cars will take place from 3:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT.
“We knew we had the speed in the car from the other runs in qualifying,” said Hildebrand. “It was a matter of sticking it all together. Conditions were super tough today, especially if you had a late draw number. I was happy for a little bit of a cloud cover and, by my second lap, the whole track looked to be covered. I’m really happy for the Salesforce team and we’ll get back to the garage looking to do whatever we can do to get the 24 car in the race on Sunday. Today was stressful for the top 30. In the past at ECR, I was on the bubble of the top nine but this was a different level of stress today. I’m happy for the whole team with a solid late run.
“We all knew we had the speed. But with these hard conditions, it was tough for all of the teams. In our first qual run today, the conditions with the wind were just awful. So, we went right back out and tried it again. I’m glad the conditions improved at the end because our Salesforce guys have been working hard to get the car right. I knew all week we had a good car. We were hoping for good conditions today because we felt we had a shot at the end of the top nine. But the heat (88 degrees) and the wind really affected the cars today. You saw that many of the top guys ran early. You saw us run big laps in the early stages of our three attempts today. But it wasn’t easy out there by any means. The stress in the 10 to 30 positions is tricky. There were a lot of cars in line for top 30 as well as top nine who wanted to get out there when the conditions were better. Being on the top 30 bubble was much more stressful than I anticipated.”
“We don’t really know what happened today,” said Karam. “We ran the identical setup to JR’s car. I went right before him at the end and he went quick enough. My car just wouldn’t go. I was flat all four laps. It’s unfortunate because leading into today, we felt we had a really solid car under us for a qualifying run. We were confident coming into qualifying. The track wasn’t good in the early afternoon. We tried all different types of trim levels today. We will look over all of the data tonight and get ready for Sunday’s qualifying. My rookie year in 2014 I came from 31st to ninth. And I know we have a good race car. We just need to get a fast car Sunday to get in the show. Not sure about Sunday’s weather, we have to make our one attempt the best ever for the DRR WIX Filters team.”
The 103rd Indy 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 26, at 12:15 p.m. EDT and will televised live on the NBC network.
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CONTACT: Tom Blattler,Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 317.525.5692
Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.