Indy 500: A Danica connection; Coyne qualifies two
By Tina Akouris Sun-Times Media May 24, 2012 3:22PM
IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe can’t seem to escape being asked about Danica Patrick, even though Patrick left the IZOD IndyCar series to race NASCAR full-time. Briscoe’s wife, Nicole, went to Rockton Hononegah High School with Patrick and both hail from Roscoe, Ill.
“It’s funny how so many people don’t know that,” Briscoe said. “Nicole was a couple years ahead of Danica and they were cheerleaders together. When we first started going out, she’d say, ‘I’m going to Roscoe for Thanksgiving.’ And I’d say, ‘Why are you going to Danica’s town?’
“I’m not too familiar with (Danica stories) because I don’t think they were that close. They didn’t socialize too much.”
Briscoe, who was in Chicago on Tuesday signing autographs at an IZOD promotion at Macy’s on State Street, was still awed that he will start on the pole during Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 for Penske Racing. The 30-year old Austrailian has been on the front row before, but has never started from the first position.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Briscoe, who has never won the Indy 500. “It’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last seven years. I’ve been knocked off the pole before, so this felt so good. It’s not like winning the pole at any other race.”
But the only thing that worries Briscoe is the weather. Temperatures for race day are predicted to go into the mid-90s, making even the prerace spectacle uncomfortable.
“Yeah, that’s what my phone told me this morning,” Briscoe said. “I think a lot of it is drinking lots of fluids in the morning and I have a drink system in the car, so I’ll have to remember to drink — it’s easy to forget.”
But back to Danica. Was Briscoe — and others — surprised that she left for NASCAR.
“She eased her way into NASCAR and we all knew she was going to go,” Briscoe said. “It’s been a bit different, but there’s so much else to talk about this year. It’s sort of gone unnoticed.”
Coyne’s team qualifies
They run for Dale Coyne Racing out of Plainfield.
With just minutes remaining in qualifying last Saturday, James Jakes left no doubt he deserved to be in the Indianapolis 500. After narrowly missing qualifying for last year’s race, he was able to find an extra mph of speed on his second qualifying attempt of the day. The Indy rookie locked himself into the 33-car field for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Justin Wilson needed only one qualifying attempt on the day as he posted an average speed of 222.929 mph, which was good enough to put the 33-year old on the outside of row seven.
With a half-hour remaining in qualifying, Jakes was sitting on the bubble when he was bumped from the field by Townsend Bell. Jakes then went back onto track for his second attempt of the day and posted a four-lap average speed of 223.482 mph, which put his No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda in the middle of row six.
“Justin and James both performed brilliantly,” team owner Dale Coyne said. “I can’t say enough good things about what a fantastic job the team and drivers have done. Now we can focus on the race and hopefully bring home a win.”
“I am very happy with the results,” Jakes said. “It is very exciting to make the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, but even sweeter to do it on the first day. Now the team can start working on the race-day setup. The entire Boy Scouts of America team has done a great job giving me a fast car all week long. Hopefully, we can bring home a great finish in the race.”
“Overall it was a pretty good day for the No. 18 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q car,” Wilson said. “It was great that we could get the car locked into the field on the first day. We’ll get right into preparing for the race because I I think we can find even more speed.”
The top 24 cars on qualifying day are automatically locked into the starting field for the Indianapolis 500.
The Indianapolis 500 will begin at 10 a.m. (CDT) Sunday and can be seen live on ABC-TV.