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11 Spots Left To Fill In Indy 500 Lineup

Updated:
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ So who's left to fill the starting field at the Indianapolis 500? Led by two-time winner Helio Castroneves on the pole, 22 of the 33 spots were claimed during the first two days of qualifications last weekend.

Three other drivers, including former winner Al Unser Jr., were bumped from the lineup but had speeds that would likely be fast enough to join the field Saturday. Another half-dozen or so, including rookie Milka Duno, did not make an attempt and might wait to qualify on Sunday, the final day, to know for sure what speeds they'll need to land a spot in the May 27 race.

Veteran driver Roger Yasukawa was hired by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing on Tuesday, and still others without assigned rides continued making the rounds of the Gasoline Alley garage area in hopes of getting last-minute deals for other already-qualified teams' leftovers.

Yasukawa, who has driven the past four years and has a pair of 10th-place finishes, will team with Sarah Fisher and former winner Buddy Rice.

Duno, a 35-year-old Venezuelan trying to join Fisher and Danica Patrick as the first trio of women in the race, was set back by a crash during practice on Friday. She's been unable to top her quick lap of 219.830 mph she had on the opening day of practice last week.

The track was closed Monday and Tuesday, leaving three full days of practice before the final weekend of qualifications.

``The plan is that I will be in the car on Wednesday,'' Duno said. ``The guys are working very hard. We hope to have the car ready.''

The slowest among the 22 qualifiers is former winner Buddy Lazier at 221.380 mph. The next-fastest after that, and bumped from the lineup, were Jon Herb, Unser and Marty Roth. Lazier's younger brother, Jaques, made an attempt on Sunday but realized he was too slow and called it off after one lap.

Herb, trying for his first start since 2001, was bumped twice _ by Fisher and Buddy Lazier.

``The car has been pushing a little bit,'' Herb said. ``We have spent our time here trying to get comfortable, and we had a little problem in the practice days, so we weren't able to work on getting all the speed we wanted to.

``I don't think we'll have a problem sticking it up front'' among the third group of 11 qualifiers, he said.

Herb was the only driver besides Duno to crash during the first week of practice and qualifications. Neither driver was hurt.

Others still waiting to make their first qualification attempts include veterans Jimmy Kite, PJ Jones, Stephan Gregoire and rookie Phil Giebler. Kite and Jones have not even practiced yet, while Giebler's only track time came during the rookie testing more than a week ago.

IRL president Brian Barnhart said he expected 35 or 36 drivers would be available, meaning another four or five who don't yet have rides could be getting calls in the next few days.

The most likely candidate could be veteran John Andretti, who drove in seven races at Indianapolis from 1988 to 1994 but has spent the last dozen years in NASCAR. Andretti, who was at the track over the weekend, reportedly is close to a deal with Panther Racing to join Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura, who have already qualified.

Others mentioned for possible rides include veterans Alex Barron, P.J. Chesson and Richie Hearn.
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