CHAMPCAR/CART: Indy 500 practise as seen from Turn 4 (5/16)

The Monday practice session after the first weekend of Time Trials is usually a quiet day at the Speedway and today was no exception. There were only 18 cars on the track, turning a total of 603 laps. The Fast Five:...

The Monday practice session after the first weekend of Time Trials is usually a quiet day at the Speedway and today was no exception. There were only 18 cars on the track, turning a total of 603 laps. The Fast Five: 1- Fittipaldi-(3T)-226.421, 2-R Gordon-(9)-224.781, 3-R Gordon -(15)-222.327, 4-R Gordon-(24)-221.965, 5-J Villeneuve- 221.609....Mark Smith, Jim Crawford and Pancho Carter were the only drivers on the track that haven't qualified. None of the three broke the 220 barrier...The first weekend of Time Trials held a number of surprises, with some drivers coming out winners and others coming out losers in the quest for speed. The two biggest winners and, to me, the two biggest stories of the weekend were Al Unser Jr winning his first oval pole and Lyn St James qualifying on the second row. While Jr was expected by many to be the slowest of the Penske qualifiers because of his past history, he showed the ability to turn the quick lap with the money on the line. Circumstances may have worked to his advantage, but a winner must take advantage of favorable circumstances and that's just what he did. If anyone would have told you that Lyn St James would outqualify such notables as Mansell, Mario and Luyendyk, what would you have said? It was easily the biggest surprise for me this weekend. I noticed that she was gaining on it near the end of last week and looking smooth as the speed increased, but I never would have put her in the second row. Quite a job for the often maligned St James...Dick Simon must be quite happy, getting excellent performances Matsuda and Vittolo in addition to LSJ and Boesel. Both Matsuda and Vittolo ran their fastest laps of the month on Saturday. That's peaking at the right time. Matsuda had been running rather erratic lines during the week, but he excited the crowd by running smooth and faster than they expected. Being the first qualifier on Saturday, the crowd really got behind him and he said that he felt their enthusiasm and responded with a good run...I think it's safe to say that the rumors of the Penskes sandbagging were overstated. While the cars can carry a fast speed into the corner, it seems that they are struggling to maintain that speed THROUGH the corner. If the cars were as dominating as expected, we would have seen it when Emmo qualified. Those cars are not impervious to track conditions....It will be interesting to watch Tracy work his was up through the field on May 29th...Villeneuve proved, once again, that he is a fast chip off the old block. He has established himself as the favorite for rookie of the year honors....Robby Gordon was very disappointed with his qualifying run. He lost 6 MPH between practice and qualifying. Among the other drivers who lost the most in the game were Mansell, Mario, Vasser, Fabi and Tracy....As I predicted, the Rahal/Hogan Honda team find themselves in the position of being the slowest cars in the field. They decided that they had gotten all they could out of the cars and took very borderline speeds. I look for them to be ready to run with something other than the Honda next Sunday if necessary...The safe month continued with Scott Goodyear having the only crash of the weekend. Thankfully he is OK...With only 3 positons remaining in the field, it looks like there may be a fair amount of bumping this weekend. In the old days, this is the time we would see deals being made for backup cars, but not so much anymore. I guess that the equipment is getting too expensive to put at risk. That's too bad. It was always nice having a mini "silly season" during week two. Dave in Turn Four

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Series INDYCAR