Davy Jones, the fastest non-starting qualifier in Indianapolis 500 h
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Davy Jones, the fastest non-starting qualifier in Indianapolis 500 history, is looking for speed. He doesn’t have much time to find it.
The last two days of qualifications for the May 28 race are Saturday and Sunday. But Jones, driving fulltime on NASCAR’s Winston Cup circuit this year, plans to be in Charlotte, N.C., for the Winston Select on Saturday night.
That leaves only two full days of practice to find a few extra miles per hour at Indianapolis.
``It is very frustrating, because obviously your teammates have exactly the same car, the same combination, setup, everything, and they’re out there very fast,″ Jones said. ``We know we have a problem, but there comes a point where you start thinking, `Maybe it’s the driver.‴
Jones’ best speed so far is 223.792 mph last week. Practice was rained out on Wednesday, and his top speed Tuesday was only 217.802. With eight spots to fill in the 33-car lineup before bumping begins, the slowest speed in the tentative field is 225.023 by rookie Eliseo Salazar.
Among the others still struggling for speed are two-time winners Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi. Team Penske on Wednesday borrowed a 1995 Lola backup from Rahal-Hogan Racing for Fittipaldi to use in practice. Unser will continue working with his own Penske car and a 1994 Reynard the team bought from Pagan Racing.
``You’ve just got to keep the morale up and keep the team momentum going forward,″ said Jones, stuck in his garage as intermittent rain hit the speedway. ``I’ve been in this situation before. It’s not the kind of situation I’d hoped to be in, but we just have to do the best we can with what we’ve got.
``For us, we’ve been here for eight days now and we’ve been chasing a particular problem, and I think we just finally found it last night. I just cross my fingers that we’ll go out and the car’s going to be fast and I’m going to have straight-line speed like everybody else and I’ll be able to work on trying to get this car in the show this weekend.
``We think it was a fuel problem where the engine just wasn’t getting enough fuel to run at its maximum horsepower range,″ he said.
If that’s not it?
``We’ve been through everything,″ Jones said. ``We’ve been through the whole turbo system, we’ve changed engines, we’ve changed just about everything on the car just trying to figure out what the problem is. It could just come down to the little black box that controls all the electronics in the engine.″
Jones, whose best finish in three previous Indy starts was seventh in 1989, qualified ninth last year at 223.817 mph. But car owner Kenny Bernstein replaced him for the race with Scott Goodyear, whose own car had been bumped from the lineup. Goodyear lasted only 29 laps and finished 30th; Jones, the fastest qualifier ever bumped from a car, was without an Indy ride until he was hired by the Jonathan Byrd-Dick Simon stable this year.
One of his Simon teammates, rookie Carlos Guerrero of Mexico, has the fastest speed in practice (229.838 mph) among the non-qualified drivers.
``You like to come here and start the month off getting up to speed the first week, fast enough to qualify, hopefully on the front row, or just fast enough to put it in the show nice and solid,″ Jones said. ``Then you concentrate the second week on the race setup and relax a little bit, make sure you have everything absolutely right for the race, the right downforce setup for weather conditions, the right heights with full fuel, and how the car changes from full to empty, and all the staggers in the tires just right.″
But that’s not Jones. Not this week.
``You’ve got to work on trying to get the right setup, the right combination in your car. It’s really hard,″ he said. ``If you work on the car with a high downforce configuration that would be good in traffic and you work on full tanks and your race setup, it’s really hard to go out and qualify. It’s almost like trying to put something ahead of the other.″
Jones, 38th in the Winston Cup standings, also plans to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte the same day as the Indianapolis 500. Last year, John Andretti became the first driver to manage that Indy-NASCAR doubleheader, finishing 10th at Indy and 36th at Charlotte.