Giebler, Duno comprise small Indy rookie class

Giebler, Duno comprise small Indy rookie class

Giebler, Duno comprise small Indy rookie class
May 20, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -It didn't take much for Phil Giebler to become the fastest rookie qualifier for the Indianapolis 500.

The 24-year-old Californian crashed during his first qualification attempt Saturday, but he played it safe in his hastily rebuilt race car and joined the field Sunday as part of the smallest rookie class at Indy in 28 years.

His four-lap average of 219.637 mph was well below his pace a day earlier, before the crash, but it still was fast enough to better the 219.228 by the only other rookie in the 33-car lineup, Venezuela's Milka Duno.

Giebler will start the May 27 race in the final spot, on the outside of the 11th row; Duno will start from the middle of the 10th row, even though she had a slower speed, because she qualified a day earlier.

``It feels quite a relief to get in the show. Especially for the team. They all worked very hard,'' Giebler said. ``It hasn't been the easiest week.''

The former Indy Pro Series driver passed his rookie test two weeks ago but did not get back on the track for practice until Thursday. He had three laps at more than 221 mph, but he lost control and spun into the wall in the second turn during his first qualification attempt Saturday.

``Being a small team, we don't have a huge inventory of parts,'' said Giebler, who drives for Playa Del Racing. ``A lot of teams helped out. We couldn't have done it without them, and we got in the field without damaging anything else.''

His Panoz race car had moderate damage to the right side and rear wing, but the crew worked until about 1 a.m. Sunday and was back at work in the morning after just a few hours sleep.

``They had to take the whole car apart and rebuild it,'' Giebler said.

His first lap Sunday was over 220 mph. He slowed to 219.921 on the next lap and then to 219.256.

As he began the fourth lap, all he was thinking was ``Stay away from that wall. ... Just don't push it too hard.''

His final lap was his slowest, at 219.167 mph, but it was good enough to get him in the lineup.

The two rookie qualifiers were the fewest since 1979, when Howdy Holmes was the only first-year driver in the lineup.

ON THE BUBBLE: Canadian Marty Roth, who owns his own Roth Racing team, was the slowest qualifier at 218.922 mph and will start the race from the outside of the 10th row.

``We were debating whether to throw it in or let it stand,'' Roth said of the possibility of withdrawing his speed and trying to qualify again. ``Everybody's times were coming up. We were just waiting it out to see who jumped into line. If we had to do it again, we would have.''

Jimmy Kite, who was bumped from the lineup earlier, was the last to make an attempt just minutes before the 6 p.m. gun ended the qualifications.

Kite's first lap was just over 217 mph before he called off the attempt, preserving Roth's spot in the field.

``We were watching all the times. You just never know,'' said Roth, at 48 the oldest driver in the lineup. ``To see what he (Kite) was doing was a relief to me.''

READY IF NEEDED: Rookie Milka Duno ended up as the second-slowest qualifier and had to sweat out the final hour to see whether her speed would be good enough.

``My team told me to be ready to put the helmet on in case I would need to go. It wasn't necessary, and this is what's good,'' the 35-year-old Venezuelan said. ``There was a little tension.''

Duno qualified at 219.228 mph on Saturday and didn't even practice on Sunday.

``We knew we had a good car,'' she said. ``I have confidence in myself.''

REGULAR ROBERTO: Right on schedule, sort of, Roberto Moreno is back in the Indianapolis 500.

The 48-year-old Brazilian has become a once-a-decade Indy regular, qualifying for his first start since 1999 and just his third in 22 years.

``Basically, we had one day to get me comfortable running here in higher speeds,'' said Moreno, a last-minute replacement with Chastain Motorsports for injured driver Stephan Gregoire.

Moreno, 19th as a rookie in 1986, left Indy racing and drove in Formula One for several years. His next appearance at Indianapolis was in 1999, when he was 20th. That also was his last IRL start until an 18th-place finish on the road course at St. Petersburg, Fla., last year, when he subbed for Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter.

``It's been eight years since I raced last, and the team did a good job getting me up to speed,'' said Moreno, who had 69 laps of practice before qualifying on Saturday.

His four-lap average of 216.229 mph was second-slowest in the field at the time, though, so he withdrew it and requalified on Sunday at a bump-proof 220.299.

``We've been playing with the car. I wasn't comfortable with it, so we went back to full downforce and tried to balance the car in the last practice,'' he said.

LUGNUTS: Thirty-six drivers combined for 12,799 laps of practice since the track opened May 6. The busiest was Vitor Meira, who practiced 516 laps - 472 in his own car and another 44 preparing Panther Racing teammate John Andretti's car. ... During practice before the final qualifications, Marco Andretti stopped on the backstretch when his wheel came loose, and teammate Dario Franchitti forced another yellow for a tow-in when he ran out of fuel. ... Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., administered the oath of enlistment to 61 military recruits during the annual Armed Forces Day program before Sunday's qualifications. ``This is a nation of great destiny and leadership if we maintain our ideals and our sense of service and patriotism,'' Lugar told the recruits. ``These are difficult times in the public debate. ... We know we have the safety to have that debate because others have come forward.'' ... Ellwood Stofflet, John Andretti's maternal grandfather, died Saturday at 88. ... Larry Foyt, a three-time starter and team manager this year for his father, A.J., took a driver's physical earlier in the week but decided not to attempt to qualify. ``I don't want to do anything to take away from our (No.) 14 and 50 operations,'' he said of Foyt's cars with Darren Manning and Al Unser Jr. ... The 33 starters will be in New York on Monday for a Times Square photo shoot and a media luncheon. They'll practice pit stops Wednesday and be on the track Friday for the final 2-hour Carburetion Day practice. ... The lineup includes six drivers at least 44 years old - cousins John and Michael Andretti, two-time winner Al Unser Jr., and veterans Davey Hamilton, Marty Roth and Roberto Moreno. Last year, only three starters were 40-plus - Unser, Michael Andretti and Eddie Cheever.

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Re: Giebler, Duno comprise small Indy rookie class

INDY 500 Starting Lineup

1  Helio Castroneves

2 Tony Kanaan

3 Dario Franchitti

4 Scott Dixon

5 Sam Hornish Jr.

6 Dan Wheldon

7 Ryan Briscoe

8 Danica Patrick

9 Marco Andretti

10 Tomas Scheckter

11 Michael Andretti

12 Scott Sharp

13 Jeff Simmons

14 Ed Carpenter

15 Darren Manning

16 Buddy Rice

17 Kosuke Matsuura

18 A.J. Foyt IV

19 Vitor Meira

20 Davey Hamilton

21 Sarah Fisher

22 Buddy Lazier

23 Roger Yasukawa

24 John Andretti

25 Al Unser Jr.

26 Alex Barron

27 Jon Herb

28 Jaques Lazier

29 Milka Duno

30 Marty Roth

31 Roberto Moreno 

32 Richie Hearn

33 Phil Giebler

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