Bell, Pagenaud Set to Qualify For the Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 18, 2012 –After seven straight days of practice, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open Saturday for time trials for the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, a field of 33 cars will be vying for the top 24 starting positions. At 4:30, the Fast Nine qualifiers will all go out and qualify again, shooting for the coveted Indianapolis 500 Pole Position. Starting positions 25-33 will be determined during Sunday’s Bump Day qualifying.
Townsend Bell will be the first driver to qualify out of the Sam Schmidt stable on Saturday. Driving the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Bell rolls out fourth.
Bell, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., has a top lap of 40.5885 seconds at 221.738 mph in his 212 laps of practice this past week, which ranks him 27th on the speed chart.
His teammate, Simon Pagenaud, will roll off 29th from the qualifying line. The rookie driver from France has a top lap of the month of 40.4065 seconds at 222.736 mph in his No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. His time puts him just ahead of Bell in 26th on the month’s time and speed chart.
Marco Andretti established himself as a strong candidate to win the Indianapolis 500 Pole Position when he laid down a lap of 39.5535 seconds at 227.540 mph, the fastest lap of the month, during Fast Friday practice.
A total of 33 drivers have turned 8,861 laps of practice this week leading into Pole Day Saturday.

Notes and Quotes

Simon Pagenaud

What are your thoughts the night before the first time you qualify for the Indy 500? “Right now, I’m thinking more about how I can make the car go faster through the corners and less about qualifying for my first Indy 500. We haven’t found that happy balance in qualifying trim that we need. These types of days are long and short at the same time. We need to go through everything that we did today and what Townsend did today and see how we can improve. We’re very happy in race trim, but qualifying might be a bit difficult. It’s not frustrating, it’s just racing.”

Townsend Bell

How different was the car with more horsepower? “It was not any different, just a little faster. The balance is all the same. We just lost our way a little bit today. So we need to think hard where we need to get to handling-wise. The power is fine. The straightaway speed is good among the Hondas. You know, we measure ourselves against the other Hondas. But right now, we’re not where we need to be. We need to get it sorted out. I’m confident we can get there.”

What did you say when you pulled the team together when you got back to the garage after the last run?
“I just wanted to tell the guys they’re doing an awesome job and there’s nothing inherently wrong with our car or our motor. The engineers and I just need to get our heads together to get the car to turn. And if it’s not turning, you need to lift. I just wanted to make sure the guys knew they’re giving a great effort and I appreciate everything their doing.”

Happy Birthday

Simon Pagenaud’s car owners, Sam Schmidt and Davey Hamilton, surprised the Frenchman with a birthday cake Friday morning in front of nearly 50 fans and media. Friday was Pagenaud’s 28th birthday. He said driving an Indy car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at more than 220 mph was a great way to celebrate his birthday.