First Day of Qualifications
Saturday May 20, 2000
I decided to travel light today, no camera, no cooler, etc. I only carried my stopwatch and a 1/2 pint of Jack Daniels in my jacket.
I got to the track about 10 a.m. and came in the 30th street entrance. Q95 radio said the infield was open. However, they made me park in the north 40. Two hours later I could see there was still parking available in the first turn and that cars were still coming in off of 16th street!
I had promised this sorority chick I knew that I'd show up and sign in as a track employee for them so her sorority could make some money - $1400 - to give to charity. I walked my ass off all over that place trying to find them or where to check in. All to no avail. Oh well, I tried.
I went up and sat in Section 17 of Penthouse E. I sat next to a cool old guy from South Bend. I got to the seat right as quals were starting! I saw Jimmy Kite hit the 1st turn wall hard. He was ok. Also saw Harrington smack over in 4. I had to go meet some friends over by the tower at 1:30. At that point, Salazar had the pole at 223+ mph. Everytime I went up to the plaza behind the tower, there was a band jammin on the stage. That was alright.
I led my friends back over to the first turn. We sat in Penthouse B this time. The track had a really good attendance today I thought, even though it was super overcast and cold. When we got up there to our seats, I found Pablo had taken the pole! Then we saw someone else hit the first turn wall (Memo Gidley?) Next thing you know, its practice. It keeps going on and on. The conditions were perfect for qualifying; I couldn't understand why nobody was - there was only 13 cars qualified by this time. Although they'd driven down from Muncie, my friends only stayed about an hour and then they were ready to leave! It was pretty cold I guess...
I stuck around untill 4 and then I had to get home and get my yardwork done.
Later I heard that Greg Ray barely snatched pole position and the $100,000 prize away from Juan Pablo Montoya.
[Special thanks to Wheels who made me an awesome CD to listen to on the way into the track today! Smashmouth, Bob & Tom and some Zappa!]
Brian, D.R. and I got to the track later than planned today thanks to the poor service at several McDonalds. We entered off 16th Street but they made us park in Turn 3 infield. We stepped out of the car about 11:30. Today was Armed Forces Day and they had lots of army equipment about. Big Huey Helicopters flew over us. As we walked toward the first turn, we saw some parachutists floating down towards the tower, streaming blue smoke behind them. I didn't take my camera today either.
We walked over and sat in Penthouse E. As usual, I got there just in the nick of time as the first car was pulling out to qualify. My timing at the track is getting scary. Anyway, a couple guys came out banged that 1st turn wall again today. Seems like the first to hit it was Billy Boat. Late in the day, A.J. Foyt gives his old driver a car and Billy went out and made the show.
We had a lot of clouds today, but also some sun. It was less windy and cold than yesterday. The crowd was about half or a third from what it was Saturday.
Matsuda hit the wall and was injured. He was filling in for the injured Tyce Carlson. Their team, Beck Motorsports, ends the month with four wrecked race cars!
There was not a lot of qualifying during the day. Once in awhile, someone would be ready to qualify and they'd stop practice and then do a track inspection, and then let them run. Things picked of course by 4:30.
I was friends with Andy Hillenburg back in high school, so I kept a close eye on him all day whenever he'd come out and practice. I was praying he'd get up to speed, but he'd only come out and do a lap or two at speeds around 205-210. So I was pretty concerned he was not going to get in the show. So far, the slowest qualifying speed was 219 mph. Yesterday, Andy even hit the wall in the morning practice.
Well, about 5:15 pm he comes out to qualify (6:00 pm is the cut-off time for qualifying.) There were still a few spaces open on the grid and a lot of people would soon be rushing to get in.
Andy went out and ran a bunch of 218's! Wow, what an improvement! And it just might be enough!. Brian and I cheered from the top row corner of Penthouse B. It seemed he looked up and saw us on his warmup lap.
He was 29th I think on the grid of 33. Lynn St James came out and bumped him down a notch. Then someone else and then someone else until he was in 33rd and last position! Andy was now on the bubble!! And guess what? Time ran out and Andy Hillenburg made the race! We watched them talk to him after his run up on the huge TV's. I couldn't hear what he said, but it was obvious he was really happy and maybe a little surprised. I know I was. I'll never forget that qualifying run. I wish I could have been down in the pits with him afterward, but I was too far away. What a great day!
Here is a picture of Andy's car taken on Race day.
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