Bubble teams take a dive during Saturday's crash-filled qualifying runs

Updated: May 14, 2008

AP Photo/Tom Strattman

Mario Dominguez was just one of the drivers to give his team some extra work on Saturday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mario Dominguez and Max Papis, should they bump their way into the field for the 92nd Indianapolis 500, will owe their respective crews a few extra cold ones. On Saturday, they turned a qualifying day into a full day of work on Gasoline Alley.

Dominguez, of Pacific Coast Motorsports, drove below the white line in Turn 1 and made light contact with the SAFER barrier at just before 11 a.m. Five minutes after the track went green following that crash, Papis and his Rubicon Race Team had the unluckiest of incidents, hitting hard into the Turn 3 wall just as the checkered flag flew, signaling the end of the one-hour morning practice.

Come Bump Day on Sunday (ABC, 1-3 p.m. ET; ESPN2, 4-6:30 p.m. ET), they'll be driving rebuilt cars. Dominguez's repairs were finished late Saturday, while Papis' car remained under construction.

"This was an unbelievable effort by my crew," said Dominguez, a longtime Champ Car driver and Indy 500 rookie. "We didn't run, but we proved we are survivors and we will be back tomorrow and find our spot in the show."

Papis added, "I have a lot of confidence with my guys, they are coming up with a solution and we'll see what happens."

If they make a qualifying attempt, they'll go one step further than Phil Giebler. He also crashed Saturday, in his first day of work in the late-developing American Dream Motorsports Panoz-Honda, the only Panoz in the field.

Giebler, the 2007 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, was trying to quickly work up to speed with an hour and a half left, turning his fastest practice lap at 218.336 mph when he spun into the Turn 1 wall. Giebler was admitted to Methodist Hospital with bruised lungs and the team was fighting a long-shot battle to piece together a car in time for Jaques Lazier to try to qualify Sunday.

With the American Dream team likely out, three drivers remain with chances to bump their way into the 500 field and get a shot at the $50,000 prize awarded to the 33rd qualifier: Dominguez, Papis and, surprisingly, A.J. Foyt IV.

Foyt, a four-time 500 starter with a high finish of 14th in 2007, shouldn't be in any real trouble to make the field. His top speed of the month, 223.652 mph on the morning of Pole Day, is 20th in the field.

Saturday he ran 220.972 mph on the first lap of a qualifying attempt, but he encountered loose handling on the second lap and waved off the attempt. A second attempt later in the day was axed before his out-lap was completed.

All Foyt needs to do Sunday is run faster than 215.506 mph, the time Marty Roth turned in late Saturday to claim the 33rd spot. Roth, like all other drivers on a qualifying day, would get three attempts to bump his way back into the field.

"I've been on the bubble before. I'm no stranger to it," said Roth, who crashed during the 2006 Bump Day. "I'm sure it is going to be an exciting day tomorrow as long as the weather stays nice."

That, for once this month, doesn't appear to be a problem as far as rain goes, though the same winds that perplexed drivers Saturday could return. Roth turned 222.126 mph in practice Saturday morning, but that speed was nowhere to be found in his qualifying run.

"My revs were nowhere near up to the revs I needed to pull down that back straightaway. I'd exit Turn 2 and I would drop in speed rather than accelerate," Roth said. "The wind was gusting. Looking at the afternoon, it was fairly plain to see just about everybody fell way back and wasn't close to the times they were posting this morning."

That was the case for Buddy Lazier, who ran 219.238 mph in the morning, but landed on the second-to-last spot on the grid at 217.939 mph. He and his Hemelgarn Johnson team could find themselves in the Bump Day crosshairs Sunday.

"We were certainly hoping for more than that [217]," said Lazier, trying for his 14th consecutive 500. "The weather changed and affected a lot of guys. I think it affected us more."

But Lazier's team should get a full night's sleep Saturday, which may be more than Papis' crew can say.

"We'll work until it is done tonight," said Jim Freudenberg, co-owner of Rubicon. "Sam Schmidt Motorsports had a lot of spare parts. Chris [Griffis], the team manager, was scrambling through the garage to get parts. Dallara and the [IRL] have helped us out, so we're just trying to get it back together."

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.



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Fisher returns to race as owner

Sarah Fisher


Sarah Fisher has suffered through one of the longer months in Gasoline Alley, but all's well that ends well, in this case 22nd on the grid for her seventh Indy 500 after a qualifying run of 221.246 mph.

"It wasn't what I wanted. As a driver, I'm a little disappointed in the weather, it hurt us on Lap 2, I had to lift a little [off the throttle] to get the car settled down to turn to not hit the fence," Fisher said. "As an owner, I'm glad I did that."

The owner of Sarah Fisher Racing has had one eye on the ledgers and one eye on the speed charts all month -- make that two eyes on the bottom line, at times. The primary sponsor she signed prior to the month of May has yet to deliver a cent, leaving Fisher, husband Andy O'Gara and father-in-law John O'Gara struggling to make ends meet with the team.

"You've got to give somebody a lot of credit to be able to have the passion to spend your life savings to come and feel the magic of Indy," Davey Hamilton said after his 18th-place qualifying run. "She's been here before, it's not like she had to do it to put another notch on her belt. She has passion, her whole family has passion to risk their well-beings in life to be able to feel this."

Sarah Fisher Racing's plight has become a cause celebre locally, with an ESPN-affiliated sports radio station holding a fundraising "Sarah-Thon" and total strangers pressing small checks and bills into Fisher's hands to the tune of more than $5,000.

"It's just funny, every time someone hands me something I hand it off to either my dad or my father-in-law and say, 'Here's more petty cash, we can have water this week,'" said the three-time IndyCar Series most popular driver. "It's been amazing that people do that. I had a couple people walk up that are more well-to-do, writing checks for $1,000, saying, 'This is out of my personal savings account, I love what you do, I love you being a role model for my kids, I want to help.' It makes me pretty emotional to think that I would have a fan base that would do that."

She rewarded those fans and herself by qualifying for the race, where all starters are guaranteed a minimum of $270,000. It will take more than that to keep the team going -- SFR hopes to run at Kentucky and Chicago -- but Fisher can't imagine doing anything else.

"I do look at the numbers a lot as they change throughout different things. It's pretty close, we're still in the red," Fisher said. "It is what it is. I love racing. I don't care. I've been at ground zero before and have had to start all over and I'm not afraid to do it again."

Quote of the day

Will Power


Will Power got the job done Saturday, putting his KV Racing Technology car in the field. But that was about it after a trying week for the Indy 500 rookie.

In first-day qualifying last weekend, Power didn't make the top 11, though he was a contender. A winner in April at Long Beach, Calif., in the Champ Car finale, Power on the 2.5-mile oval in May has stood out as one of the strongest rookies, and on Thursday and Friday was the fastest among nonqualified drivers.

But a crash Friday damaged his car and his spirits, and Saturday after qualifying a lackluster 23rd, Power admitted he wasn't the same driver.

"It's real nerve-racking. When you hit the wall, until you do that, you don't know the feeling," said Power, sixth in IndyCar Series points. "It's an instant where it just happens, and you have no chance to catch it and no warning. That's what makes you really nervous. Mentally, it's the toughest because of the fact that you could really hurt yourself and also the fact that you watched your team have to work all night to rebuild the car, you're thinking, 'Man, if I go out and do that again tomorrow …'"

Unprompted, Power continued, talking about the challenges of the season for the Champ Car transition drivers.

"This year, you're fighting for your career," he said. "We've been thrown into this, in the deep end, absolutely. If you don't perform, you're out, your career's done. You've worked your whole life, and you can have a few bad wrecks on ovals because you were pushed into it so fast. The way everything's come together, you're finding yourself having to learn very quickly. No testing or anything, you just have to get in there. That's what makes it tough. We have to deal with it."

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