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Local driver slated to start 32nd at Indy

From staff reports

Jimmy Kite, 29, made his first attempt since 2003 to make the Indianapolis 500 today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The Stockbridge, Georgia-resident put in four laps at an average of 218.565 mph to place the No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Toyota-powered Dallara 32nd on the grid for the 89th running of the "500".

Kite, who was named as the driver of the Ron Hemelgarn-owned Indy car after injuries sustained to Paul Dana (St. Louis) in practice for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on May 13th, earned a spot in his fifth Indy 500 in his first attempt to qualify the car.

Kite's time was the 32nd fastest of 44 attempts made thus far at the 2.5-mile oval with one day remaining in the four days of Time Trials to make the May 29th race. As has become a hallmark for the Missouri native, Kite's 10-mile qualification attempt showed his immense car control by running unbelievably consistent laps.

He opened the four lap run with a time of 41.1718 seconds on the green flag round, the quickest of the four, a 41.1620, followed on lap two. The third and fourth laps were 41.1708 and 41.1983 respectively. The total time on track was 2:44.7107 averaging 218.565 mph.

"It isn't quite the speeds we wanted to see, in fact this is the slowest I've ever qualified for Indy, but we have a great race car," Kite said. "The Ethanol Hemelgarn guys have been working really hard and have given me a really consistent racecar. It feels really good and I think we'll be really strong in the 500. But that was all that we could get out of it today. It's great to be working with Tim (Wardrop, team engineer) again and we have been real focused on the race."

Should Kite's time stand as one of the 33 fastest through 6 pm on Sunday, it marks the second time in his career that he has started the race on the final of the eleven, three-car rows. However, Kite, who came-up through the short-track, open wheel ranks, is used to fighting for positions over the 200 laps of the Indy 500.

In his most recent start in the "500", 2003, Kite also qualified 32nd and raced his way to 13th, the most positions gained by any driver in that race. In his rookie appearance at the Speedway in 1998, Kite became that year's fastest rookie qualifier but did it on the final weekend of qualifications and started 26th. He charged to 11th.