DAY 4 TUESDAY, MAY 6
At 11:30 a.m., when the track opened to all competitors, Tony Stewart was first on the track in the #2 Glidden/Menards/Special, followed by Roberto Guerrero in the #21 Pennzoil-Pagan Racing Dallara Infiniti. At 12:17 p.m., Eliseo Salazar in the #7 Copec/Cristal/Scandia entry turned a lap at 208.846 miles an hour, fastest of the day. At 12:24 p.m., Stewart turned a lap at 209.531, fastest of the day. Stewart upped the top lap speed to 212.349 at 12:39 p.m., 213.675 at 12:56 p.m. and 214.337 with a trap speed of 222 at 1:10 p.m. Arie Luyendyk in the #5 Treadway Racing Wavephore Miller Lite entry turned a lap at 213.210 at 1:43 p.m., second fastest of the day. Robby Gordon in the #42 Coors Light entry turned a lap at 214.301 at 4:16 p.m., second fastest of the day. At 4:46 p.m., Luyendyk turned a lap at 214.777, fastest of the day. At 4:49 p.m., Luyendyk turned a lap at 216.455, fastest of the day. At 5:24 p.m., Luyendyk turned a lap at 218.707, fastest of the day. At 5:51 p.m., Gordon turned a lap at 215.569, second fastest of the day.
ARIE LUYENDYK: "I think when you have a good team and a good engineer like Tim Waldrop and I get around this place pretty good, I don't think we are that far behind. I'm glad we didn't test for 20 days. It's too cold." (about speeds compared to last year): "The corners have less grip than the cars last year. They move around a little more and the wind affects them more. The straightaways are much slower. We're going top speed for this type of car." (about engine reliability): "I keep an eye on oil pressure for my own sake. I was told by my engine builder, Jack Roush, it's been rebuilt and okay." (about going into Turn 1 on one occasion): "Oh, did you see that? I thought a tire was going down...not the case. It's really complicated to explain. It was in the setup of the car."
ROBBY GORDON: (about the differences between the old cars and these cars): "Today I didn't run a flat-out lap. I think this car might be a little easier to save than the old ones. We're trying to run a lot less downforce because we don't have the horsepower. At least the G Force is pretty durable. I can't comment on the Dallara because I haven't driven that one." (about the difference between testing last month and now): "When we get the balance right, we'll be back up to 218. I have no doubt." (about the makeup of the team): "The majority of the guys on my team are from my off-road team. We've also got some guys from Roush and some others. Felix (Sabates, the car owner) basically cut the deal loose to me. He said, You know what to do.' He's let us run the program. As long as we can stay this high up on the charts, we're okay."
TONY STEWART: "We've had a lot of new experiences today. It's the first day in the month of May we've been out and the first day on the new tires. It's taking some time. It's part of the deal. When you switch tires, then you have to change your setup. It just takes some time to get adjusted, that's all."
USAC Rookie Orientation Program Chronology 9:29 a.m. #97 Greg Ray passed first phase of driver's test. 9:37 a.m. #16 Sam Schmidt passed third phase. 10:27 a.m. #97 Ray passed second phase. 10:28 a.m. #16 Schmidt became third driver of month to pass fourth phase. 1:12 p.m. Kenny Brack became the first 1997 rookie to pass the final observation phase of the driver's test and was approved to drive. Veteran observers for the test were Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser and Johnny Parsons. "It was great to get pointers from such great drivers as Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford," Brack said. "They felt my driving overall was stable and consistent. It was great to get their view on the track." 2:57 p.m. #17 Affonso Giaffone passed the first phase. 2:58 p.m. #30 Robbie Groff passed second phase. 3:04 p.m. #17 Giaffone passed the second phase. 3:47 p.m. #97 Ray and #17 Giaffone passed third phases. 3:49 p.m. #30 Groff passed third phase. 4:13 p.m. #97 Ray passed fourth phase. 4:17 p.m. #17 Giaffone passed fourth phase. 4:47 p.m. #30 Groff passed fourth phase. 5:29 p.m. #30 Groff became the second driver to complete the final observation phase of the driver's test. Veteran observers for the test were Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser and Johnny Parsons. 6 p.m. #97 Ray, #8 Sospiri, #17 Giaffone became the third, fourth and fifth rookies to complete the final observation phase with the same veterans observing. Sospiri was one lap short and Ray and Giaffone were two laps short, but USAC Chief Steward Keith Ward and the veteran driver observers approved their completions.
Through the first three days (May 3-5) of the 17th USAC Rookie Orientation Program, seven drivers ran 336 laps, raising the total laps since the program's inception to 20,017 and the total mileage to 50,042.5. Through today, 692 laps of ROP have been run totaling 1,728 miles.
Steve Kinser, the 14-time World of Outlaws sprint-car champion, was named to drive the #44 One Call/Menards/Quaker State Dallara/Oldsmobile Aurora for Sinden Racing Services. The announcement was made in the Trackside Conference Room. Owen Snyder was named chief mechanic on the car. Kinser passed his driver's test in one day in 1981, but crashed May 15, the day before the final qualifying weekend and has not practiced at Indianapolis since then. Kinser tested an A.J. Foyt Enterprises car at Walt Disney World Speedway prior to the running of the 1996 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World.
STEVE KINSER: "I hope we can get around here smooth. We'll be out Thursday for sure and there's a chance for tomorrow evening." (about his schedule): "First of all, I'm going to continue running my sprint car. We may have to miss a race or two. We just got the point lead on that thing so we wanted to try to keep the Quaker State car in front of (that)."I've lived in Indiana my whole life and have never seen an Indianapolis 500. I got started racing and every (Race Day for the) Indianapolis 500, I'm racing some place else. Growing up, I told everybody at school that I was going to race at the Indianapolis 500 some day. I think with all the success we had with the sprint car, I got to making a fairly good living and those dreams, I lost them a little bit. If nothing else just to get in an Indianapolis 500 and run it one time, I could always talk about it in my racing career."
BRAD BENGE (One Call Communications Executive Vice President): "We're proud to bring Steve Kinser and Sinden Racing to the Indianapolis 500. We believe an Indiana owned and operated company ought to take care of an Indiana owned and operated race team."
At 9:47 a.m., Jeff Ward in the #52 FirstPlus Team Cheever entry had an engine problem going into Turn 3, did one complete spin over 555 feet to hit the wall with the right rear, then came off the wall 150 feet and stopped in the north chute warmup lane. The car sustained right rear suspension damage. Ward was examined and released from Hanna Medical Center and was cleared to drive. "(I'm) fine," Ward said. "We have a backup car and we'll get back out there today. I just pulled out and the oil line blew. Nothing I could do. I was just trying to keep it off the wall. As you see, it was just a light tap."
Pennzoil Products Company has posted contingency awards totaling up to $170,000 to eligible entrants and drivers of the "500." Pennzoil, the official motor oil of the Indy Racing League, the Speedway, the "500" and the Brickyard 400, supplies fuel and oil to IRL teams carrying a Pennzoil decal on their cars. The awards package provides for $25,000 for the pole, $100,000 for the winner and $150,000 for winning from the pole for cars carrying the decals. If no participating team wins the pole, race or both, Pennzoil has guaranteed $100,000 in qualifying, race and the "Stop. Go. Pennzoil Crew Members Challenge". The announcement of the awards package was made Monday by Thomas E. Floyd, chief marketing officer for Pennzoil.
Pennzoil Pagan driver Roberto Guerrero will share lunch Thursday with some of the IRL's youngest fans. Guerrero invited the first-grade class from Northwood Elementary in Mooresville to lunch in the Nissan Motorsports suite at the Speedway. Last year, the students in teacher Beth Durrett's class wrote to Guerrero after watching him practice. Guerrero was so taken by his newest fans that he wrote each of them a personal letter. "Since they each had individual questions and comments, I just had to write back to each one of them," Guerrero said. This year's first-graders will be joined by their parents as part of an annual school outing and will watch practice from the suite. Guerrero will visit with the students 10:45-11:15 a.m., just prior to his first practice session of the day. Nissan is providing the lunch and media representatives are welcome to join Guerrero and the students at Tower Suite No. 5.
Doors to the Hall of Fame Library in the Speedway's museum building opened for the first time today, honoring the donation of 500 books and boxes of clippings and other literature by Charles Saylor of Columbus, Ohio, on his 73rd birthday. The library will be open to researchers by appointment. The literature donated by Saylor goes back to the 1920s. "I've been searching for years to find a place for my father's books," Saylor said. "Charles M. collected them for many years. I have no idea why he collected so many books but I know he had no place to put them. The only thing I've collected are programs from the 500s I've attended and a few extras from other racing events." Ralph Kramer, director of the Hall of Fame Museum, said, "It has taken six months to get us where we are today and in six more months we'll be even further. We still have another third of the books to catalog then we'll get the old records on to a database." Greater Speedway Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Raymond A. Dault presented Saylor with its Act of Kindness Award. In 1996, the chamber's award went to Mari Hulman George, chairman of the Speedway, for the "Save Arnold" Barbecue for Special Olympics of Indiana.
Veteran driver Stephan Gregoire finished 76th overall in the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon last week. His time was one hour, 17 minutes. The overall winner, Patrick Kiptum of Kenya, clocked in at one hour, one minute, 56 seconds. "I work every day to do that time," Gregoire said. "Two months before, I started a special program with track and field sessions. Running fast and running slow, running fast and running slow, lots of practice. I like running. I've been running since I was young. It is good for my sport. It gives me the opportunity to keep in shape mentally and physically. It takes me a lot of mental (energy) to run every day and builds endurance for my sport. And it doesn't take so much time. It is a good sport and it's good for everybody."
25 cars were on the track today, running 929 laps. Cars on track today: #1 Scott Sharp, Conseco AJ Foyt Racing; #2 Tony Stewart, Glidden/Menards/Special; #2T Tony Stewart, Glidden/Menards/Special; #3 Robbie Buhl, Quaker State/Special; #4 Brack; #5 Arie Luyendyk, Treadway Racing Wavephore Miller Lite; #6 Scott Goodyear, Treadway Racing Nortel; #7 Eliseo Salazar, Copec/Cristal/Scandia; #8 Marco Greco, Scandia Royal Purple Alta Xcel; #8 Sospiri; #10 Mike Groff, Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria Bryant Heating & Cooling; #12 Buzz Calkins, Bradley Food Marts; #14 Davey Hamilton, AJ Foyt Power Team Racing; #16 Sam Schmidt; #17 Affonso Giaffone, General Motors of Brazil Chitwood Dallara; #18 John Paul Jr., Klipsch Tnemec Overhead Door Pyle V-Line Earl's; #21 Roberto Guerrero, Pennzoil-Pagan Racing Dallara Infiniti; #27 Jim Guthrie, Jacuzzi Blueprint Racing Dallara; #30 R. Groff; #33 Fermin Velez, Old Navy Scandia Royal Purple Alta Xcel; #34 Alessandro Zampedri, Mi-Jack Scandia Royal Purple; #42 Robby Gordon, Coors Light; #52 Ward; #90 Lyn St. James, Lifetime-TV-Cinergy; #91 Buddy Lazier, Delta Faucet-Montana-Hemelgarn Racing; #97 Ray.
Six drivers passed their physicals today, bringing the total to 37. Those passing physicals today were John Andretti, Paul Durant, Buddy Lazier, Arie Luyendyk, Danny Ongais and John Paul Jr. Those passing physicals Monday were Robby Gordon, Mike Groff, Davey Hamilton, Scott Sharp, Lyn St. James and Johnny Unser.
A total of 37 cars are now at the Speedway, 26 have passed technical inspection and 10 are in the process. 26 drivers have been on the track to date. There were 18 yellows for two hours, four minutes. At 9:03 a.m., the temperature was 48 degrees and winds were from the north at eight miles per hour. At 11:17 a.m., the temperature was 59 degrees with winds from the northwest at nine miles per hour. At 6:22 p.m., the temperature was 64 degrees with winds from the northwest at nine miles per hour. Track temperatures from Firestone tire engineers were 107 degrees at 11:45 a.m. and 99 degrees at 5 p.m.
TOP 10 DRIVERS OF THE DAY
1 5 Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing Wavephore Miller Lite 218.707 2 42 Robby Gordon Coors Light 215.569 3 2 Tony Stewart Glidden/Menards/Special 214.337 4 91 Buddy Lazier Delta Faucet-Montana-Hemelgarn Racing 214.128 5 1 Scott Sharp Conseco AJ Foyt Racing 214.041 6 3 Robbie Buhl Quaker State/Special 213.843 7 18 John Paul Jr. Klipsch Tnemec Overhead Door Pyle V-Line Earl's 212.555 8 12 Buzz Calkins Bradley Food Marts 212.339 9 6 Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing Nortel 211.282 10 33 Fermin Velez Old Navy Scandia Royal Purple Alta Xcel 210.280