Speedway, IN – The Belardi Auto Racing team got its first taste of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 this past weekend, and what an exhilarating time it was.
After an incident in turn 2 damaged the No. 33 car on Fast Friday, the crew stayed working in the garage all night and was able to finish the car around 4 A.M. Saturday morning. Being the first car in line for technical inspection, proved to be the first of many honors bestowed upon the crew.
With practice beginning at 8 A.M. the team and car were on pit lane and ready to go at the first sight of the green flag. Right away James was able to run a 226 MPH lap (with a tow) so the entire team knew the car was back to where it had been the previous day. After a short time in pit lane to change tires, Davison went back out on to a clear track to get a read on where we were by ourselves.
Having run a high 224 MPH lap, the team was very nervous going into qualifying, not sure if that speed would be fast enough to make this year’s starting field. After going back to the garage and really thinking hard on changes that could be made to wring more speed out of the car, the engineers came to a decision.
Lining up in lucky number 13, James quickly got suited up and in his car to mentally block out any distraction. Watching car after car fly past the team on the front straight away we finally were getting closer to having our shot at the 2.5-mile oval.
The clouds began to cover more and more of the sky and the temperature dropped the team knew instantly that mother nature had different ideas. As we sat second to go out in the qualifying line, the rains came, and they came hard.
With the rain completely wetting the track it would be about a 2.5 hour wait until the track officials could get it completely dry and race ready.
Finally, able to line back up in the qualifying line, the team had to wait for 1 car to go before making our first attempt. After James Hinchcliffe made his run, James got final instructions from crew chief Greg and was off to run his 4 lap, 10 mile run.
The lap 1 speed for Davison was a number the team had wanted to hear all month long, a 225.545 MPH. Once he had completed the remainder of the laps, James pulled the car into pit lane and began the media madness that takes place when you qualify at Indianapolis.
The team along with James was on pins and needles the rest of the day, waiting to find out if the speed they posted would be good enough to make it into the field of 33. After a brief rain shower shut down track activity, cars began to make their way back on track around 4:30 in the afternoon leaving 1 hour and 20 minutes left in the day.
The AJ Foyt with Byrd/Belardi/Hollinger crew wheeled the No. 33 out to pit lane to jump in line and wait and see if they would need to go out and make a banzai run. The clock was slowly ticking down, and run after run by Conor Daly, Pippa Mann, and Oriol Servia, it was looking like we would ourselves have to go out and make a run in the high heat of the day.
As Mann pulled on track and the final gun sounded, we knew that if she could not beat our average of 224.798 MPH we would be locked in to the field. Waiting to hear her first lap speed, the crew was over the moon when the call of 223 MPH rang out over the loud speakers. The following 3 laps were music to the ears of the guys who had spent all night repairing the damaged race car to be out in time to qualify. We had made it into the Indianapolis 500!
As Sunday dawned and with the fear of missing the show gone from everyone’s mind, the team decided to play it safe and opt out on practicing and run a conservative setup for qualifying later that afternoon.
With the qualifying rules, the field is inverted based on speeds from the first day, which meant we would be going out first.
Not to be concerned with the speed, the crew told James to just go run smooth, safe laps and bring the car back in 1 piece. To the shock of everyone on the crew, James went out and on his first lap did a 227 MPH lap! His laps following were very consistent, and we ended up with an average speed of 226.2 MPH, almost 2 MPH faster than our first day attempt.
As the crew waited out the remainder of the day waiting to see where we would line up, they were delighted to see that a lot of other cars ended up being slower than the No. 33. When qualifying was finished and we saw our name up on the board in 19th, everyone let out a big cheer. A whole 14 places higher than the previous day.
The team has 2 more chances to dial the car in for the traffic it will face come May 27th, but the hard work and blood, sweat, and tears has paid off we are in the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on May 27th and will be live on the ABC Network beginning at 11 ET.
About Belardi Auto Racing: Belardi Auto Racing is an organization comprised of experienced individuals in the racing industry with an aggressive growth strategy and a strong commitment to finishing up front. No stranger to winning, team members have been achieving success in both the amateur and pro ranks for a decade, winning numerous junior formula car races and championships. Based in Brownsburg, IN, Belardi Auto Racing won the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship and has scored multiple race wins in both Indy Lights and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, including the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis and prestigious races like the Long Beach Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Toronto Indy and events at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile, Pocono, Road America, Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca.