Oh baby! Giaffone goes from diaper shopping to Indy field

Posted: Monday, May 23, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS — Felipe Giaffone went from shopping for baby clothes to the starting lineup of the Indianapolis 500 in less than four hours.

The four-time Indy starter was at a local mall with his wife around 2 p.m. Sunday when he got a call from A.J. Foyt's team asking if he'd like to try qualifying a car for next Sunday's race.

After a hurried trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a quick change into his driving uniform, and just 49 laps of practice on the 2 1/2-mile oval, Giaffone was ready.

His four-lap, 10-mile average of 217.645 mph was the slowest of the 33 drivers who will start the 500-mile race, but it was easily fast enough to bump the 215.039 posted earlier in the afternoon by rookie Arie Luyendyk Jr., who had filled the Indy field.

New Indy qualifying rules this year allowed drivers up to three attempts in the same car on each qualifying day, and the 23-year-old Luyendyk, who passed his rookie test on Saturday, tried to return the favor to Giaffone.

But the son of a two-time Indy winner and a veteran of the Indy Racing League's developmental Infiniti Pro Racing series couldn't do it.

With his father in the pits, watching intently, Luyendyk barely made it out of technical inspection for a final qualifying try, beating the final gun at 6 p.m. by seconds. But he wasn't even close to bumping Giaffone, turning a top lap of 214.123 on the way to an average of just 210.351.

The 30-year-old Giaffone, who qualified fourth and finished third at Indy in 2002, appeared incredulous to have made the race.

''I was here from Wednesday on and there was nothing happening,'' the Brazilian driver said. ''We were going to go home and we were just doing a little shopping when I got the call. I wasn't ready at all.

''I had no credential, hadn't been cleared to drive and I was just shopping and packing and getting ready to go home. I'm still waiting to wake up, I guess. After two hours, I'm in the car and qualifying.''

Foyt, who finally got his son Larry and grandson A.J. IV in the field on Saturday after struggling to find speed since practice began May 8, was delighted with the job Giaffone did, although the two had not worked together before.

''He did a wonderful job,'' said the elder Foyt, who has won the big race four times as a driver and once as an owner. ''Larry had that car up to 216.2, but we didn't know if there was any more speed in it.

''It was just hard for me to understand him. But we'll get better communications before the race.''

The elder Luyendyk, who won in 1990 and 1997 and holds the one- and four-lap qualifying records, said he was proud of his son's effort.

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