INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — IndyCar team owner Dale Coyne had a novel suggestion for his counterpart, Bobby Rahal, with their teams set for a Sunday shootout to determine the final three spots in the Indianapolis 500.
“I told Bobby’s guys, ‘We should just go out and play nine holes and winner takes all,’” Coyne said.
Each of their drivers will get four laps instead.
Rahal, as much of a mainstay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the names Penske and Andretti, had his three full-time drivers — Jack Harvey, Christian Lundgaard and his son, Graham Rahal — among the four slowest cars during the first day of qualifying Saturday. Coyne had the other with rookie Sting Ray Robb, setting up their four-for-three spots last-chance runs at the field.
One will miss the 33-car field in the May 28 Indianapolis 500.
Their 2-hour window for putting together their best four-lap average, hoping to avoid the ignominy of missing out on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” ran concurrently with the dash among the fastest six cars for the pole late Sunday.
“Naturally we feel bad for the drivers,” said Rahal, whose team won the Indy 500 with Takuma Sato just three years ago, when Graham Rahal finished third. “The crew has been working very hard. There’s just something we’ve been missing.”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing got Katherine Legge into the field, just barely, putting her in the 30th and final spot that was guaranteed on Saturday. Yet for a team desperate to find some speed, that was a good enough showing to convince Rahal and the race engineers to take her entire setup and apply it to their other three cars.
“It feels pretty similar to yesterday. I know we changed all the things overnight that we were allowed to do,” Lundgaard said. “It’s a little frustrating that we don’t seem to be able to find some speed.”
Rahal spent time pacing from one garage to the next in Gasoline Alley on Sunday morning before a brief practice ahead of final qualifying.
The stress of bump day isn’t new for him. The 1986 winner was the reigning series champion when he showed up at Indy in 1993. But his team had struggled to find pace all month, and as desperation set in, Rahal went out with just seconds left in qualifying for one last try. His speed still wasn’t good enough to bump Kevin Cogan from the field.
“We’ve been here before. It’s not fun,” Rahal admitted, “but hey, everybody has been here at some point in time. I was just thinking the other day, (James) Hinchcliffe didn’t qualify in 2018, Roger (Penske) didn’t qualify in ‘95, both cars. I didn’t qualify in ‘93. It happens to everybody. So you know, I’ll be glad when the day is over, that’s for sure.”
So will Coyne, who didn’t think Rahal would bite on his convenient suggestion — part of the Brickyard Crossing golf course runs inside the speedway along the backstretch — for putting an end to the day early.
“Winner takes all,” Coyne said, “but I don’t think they were ready for that.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
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