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Kite Happy to Find a Ride at Indy

May 18, 2002

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Jimmy Kite hasn’t forgotten the disappointment of failing to qualify for last year’s Indianapolis 500.

He thought he would have to live with that feeling for another year until he got the phone call that landed him a ride.

Kite practiced for the first time Friday after stepping into the Sam Schmidt Motorsports/PDM Racing entry previously driven by rookie Anthony Lazzaro. Kite got the No. 99 Dallara-Chevy up to 225.193 mph in just 26 laps.

``There’s plenty to work with there,″ he said. ``It’s a really comfortable car. I think there’s more in the motor, more in the car. I really feel positive about getting it in.″

Kite completed his run on Bump Day a year ago but fell short. He’ll have a chance Sunday to qualify for his fourth career Indy 500 start after getting a phone call late Thursday night.

``If we get this thing in the field on Sunday, I can get this chip off my shoulder and smile for the first time in about a year,″ he said.

In 1998, Kite crashed three times in practice before qualifying and finishing 11th. In 1999, he dropped out with engine problems after 111 laps and two years ago he finished 30th.

He said any result was better than sitting at home.

``The last time I was here, I left with a pretty sour taste in my mouth,″ he said. ``This team has the people, has the equipment and has the engines to put a car in this field and run competitively once we get in this race.″

PDM owner Paul Diatlovich, who made an agreement with Schmidt to share technology and information, said it was difficult to replace Lazzaro.

``The decision doesn’t accurately reflect Anthony’s skill,″ he said. ``Unfortunately, the month has not gone as planned.″

Kite was one of only 26 drivers and 29 cars that made it onto the track Friday for a total of 649 laps.

Robbie Buhl, the second-fastest among drivers who already have qualified, recorded Friday’s fastest lap at 228.077 mph. Airton Dare, a non-qualifyer, was second at 227.435.

Dare said he tried to adjust his Dallara-Chevy for the conditions. Temperatures hovered in the low 50s and brisk winds swept across the track, making it difficult to build speed for Sunday’s final round of qualifying for the May 26 race.

``I think if we run mid-, high-227s, we’ll be all right in qualifying,″ Dare said. ``I think we were pretty solid in that speed. Even if we can go faster than that, we’re not going to risk it and do something stupid.″

A cold drizzle in mid-afternoon shut down the track with about two hours to go, and deteriorating conditions caused officials to finally end the session 35 minutes early.

Twenty-four drivers qualified last Saturday, the first of three scheduled days of time trials. The second round of qualifying, last Sunday, was rained out, making it even tougher on the drivers who hadn’t already gotten into what will be a 33-car lineup.

Bruno Junqueira is the fastest of last Saturday’s qualifiers, winning the pole with a four-lap average of 231.342, while Billy Boat, who has been on the bubble as the slowest qualifier the last two years, was again slowest and in the most peril of being bumped at 226.589.

Kite wouldn’t mind doing the bumping.

``Bump Day seems to be the day when I finally clock in and get to go to work,″ he said. ``Me and Bump Day just can’t away from each other.″

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