IRL: Indy 500: Day nine practice report

WHELDON FASTEST AS TEAMS TURN ATTENTION TO RACE SETUP INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 18, 2005 -- IRL IndyCar® Series points leader Dan Wheldon recorded the fastest lap during practice May 18 as teams' preparation for the 89th Indianapolis 500 ...

WHELDON FASTEST AS TEAMS TURN ATTENTION TO RACE SETUP

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 18, 2005 -- IRL IndyCar® Series points leader Dan Wheldon recorded the fastest lap during practice May 18 as teams' preparation for the 89th Indianapolis 500 turned to race setups.

Most of the 22 qualified drivers in the field turned laps on a busy day on the 2.5-mile oval. Wheldon's best lap in the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone was clocked at 39.5918 seconds, 227.320 mph, during the afternoon as several cars ran in tight packs.

MBNA Pole Award winner Tony Kanaan was second fastest at 39.7372 seconds, 226.488 mph, in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Adrian Fernandez was third-fastest at 39.7156 seconds, 226.042 mph in the No. 5 Investment Properties of America Panoz/Honda/Firestone.

Kenny Brack and Jimmy Kite turned their first laps of the month. Brack was seventh fastest in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda Firestone with a lap of 39.8628 seconds, 225.774, fastest of the non-qualified drivers.

Teams turned 2,499 incident-free laps on the busiest practice day of the month. The previous high was 1,717 laps on May 12.

A total of 58 cars are now at the Speedway, 56 have passed technical inspection. Thirty-four drivers have been on track to date. There were nine yellows for 1 hour and 11 minutes. There were 2,499 incident-free laps today and a total of 8,996 laps this month. This was the busiest practice day of the month. The previous high was 1,717 laps on May 12.

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POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (About being quick in practice last week): "I think I was so upset by my qualifying performance, I forgot all about that. We're obviously trying to focus on the race, but you know the Indianapolis 500 better than anybody, it's the most competitive race in the world, and I think it's probably going to be the most exciting race for a long, long time. That's what we're building for, but with the competition level it's going to be a tough one." (About starting position meaning very little these days): "It does. Certainly if you have a fast car, you can come through. The Indianapolis 500 is a very special event for me. Not only do I want to perform well in the race, I certainly want to perform well in qualifying. When you have the goods to do it, obviously I think Andretti Green Racing give you a good race car, Honda have got good engines, and to start 16th was a little disappointing, but we're focused on the race now."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Today was all about getting ready for Race Day. We ran full fuel tanks, and we tried to run in traffic. All our runs were aimed at learning how the car is reacting in traffic. I am pretty happy with the way the car reacted, but we still have room for improvement. I thought our team had a wealth of experience at Indy before, but now we have added Kenny Brack to drive for Buddy. From my perspective as a rookie it is great to have three former Indy 500 winners who can give me advice and help leading up to the race."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 21 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "I think today was an extremely successful day for the Playa Del Racing team. I'm really happy with the car. It's about time we had a day go our way. We finally had a day to truly evaluate what the car needed to go better, and it did. We had an old practice motor in the car, and I know our new motor will be stronger. We were in race trim today, and things went really well, so that bodes very well for our effort."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was a good day overall. Right now, all three of us are working together to perfect our race setup. Each one of us likes our car a different way, but right now we're gathering all the data we can for next weekend. The Pennzoil Chevy will be strong, but it's a long race, and we're going to focus on making sure all three of our cars on solid when the race starts."

TOMAS ENGE (No. 2 ROCKSTAR Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was very nice day. So far I'm pretty happy with how I'm making progress in traffic. We found a very good setup for the race, so that combined with our great Chevy engine will help us in the race. There is still some time to learn what it's like in the race conditions, but this day was very productive." ROGER YASUKAWA: (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "Today we got the T-car out, which is brand new to the team, and it took us a little bit of time to get it ready. It basically was a shakedown run for us, since when you have a new car you come across different minute variations, and we wanted to make sure everything was in sync before we started doing long runs. Obviously, the crew spent quality time on the car, so it's a better decision to be safe and be sure everything is right. If the weather cooperates tomorrow, we should be doing many long runs and drafting practice."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 95 Panther/Jonathan Byrd's/ESPN 950 AM Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We didn't get as many miles today as we wanted, but it's good for me as a driver to get as many laps as I can around this place. This year's rules, the new track surface, everything is giving me more info as a driver. We're working to collect all the data we can because all of our cars are capable of winning this race. I'm getting more comfortable in the draft because we've only had a few laps in dirty air. We've still got plenty of time, and I've got a good opportunity and I want to make the most of it."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 5 Investment Properties of America Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Unfortunately, we found something on the car that had limited our speed for qualifying. Now that we found it, the car is pretty quick. It is pretty good. Right now, we are just working on judging how much downforce we need. We improved the car a lot from this morning, and I am pretty happy."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "This is our first full day working on the race setup. I had a little bit of a problem in Turn 2 with the car being neutral. We made a change, and the car was better, but at the end of the day, the car had the same feeling. Our times were OK, but sometimes there was too much push or too much loose. We will continue to work more on the setup this week and look at my teammates' setup, as well. I am confident we will have a good car for the race."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "A really great day. I think this is the most I have ever worked on race setup, and we have only had one day. We still have two more days to work on it. I have never gone through as much stuff as we did today, or run as many laps or had as much traffic. That's what it is all about, trying to simulate every possible scenario that you could possibly face on Race Day. The Delphi car really ran well, and we made a lot of great changes. Literally, almost every change we made was a positive one. We are just pecking away each day with how to make the race car a little bit better."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "We really made some improvements today, I feel. The car was good all day, and at the end, I could run 20 laps wide open. We're just lacking a little bit of speed for some reason. We're hoping that in the race we can keep it flat."

RICHIE HEARN (No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Racing Special): "The most important thing for the race is to get the car working good in traffic. That's what we were working on today. The Meijer car is good by itself, but we need to keep working to get it handling good in traffic. We made progress today, and that's the most important thing."

ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We tried a lot of things for the race today, and we were able to make some decisions. We're going to change an engine and hopefully get out tomorrow. If not, we have two more days to set it up, so I think we got ahead of the game on setup today. Hopefully, we'll be able to run with more traffic next time. It seemed like every time we were in the garage, the big packs were out there. It was good, though."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Now that we're in the field, we focused 100 percent on preparing for the race. We tried to get a good base setup on the Marlboro Team Penske car. We wanted to see how the car handled over long runs and at different fuel loads. We learned a lot today, and hopefully we'll continue to make gains tomorrow."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We worked on the race setup of the Marlboro Team Penske car today to make sure it handles well both in and out of traffic and that it is good throughout the entire fuel load. So far, I'm happy with the progress we've made and I think we're in good shape. We also had the chance to do some pit stop practice today, which went well. My crew has done a great job for me in the pits this year, and hopefully things will continue to go as smooth for us on Race Day."

KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was fun. It really was. I enjoyed myself a lot. Obviously there are a lot of things in the first day of practice you have to get used to again, small procedures that have changed, dashboard layouts, light systems and stuff like that. Driving the car, I think it went really well. I think it took me four laps or five laps to be flat around here. I think that says a lot about the team, of course, and the car. It's a great combination, which I knew before coming here." (About getting up to speed so quickly): "I think what allowed me to do this, the team is a very good team. The car is very well-balanced. They've got a good package in the Panoz and the Honda engine. If it's well-balanced, then it's easier, of course. If it's not, then it's harder. I kind of knew that the car was good before making the decision to come back. I wouldn't probably have been here unless this particular situation had arose. You've got to know the team, you've got to get in a car that's good, otherwise to do it like this is not ideal. I feel that this opportunity is good, and I think I can get into it quickly and be competitive. We'll see." (About today's objective): "We worked on race setup all day. We're trying to find downforce levels for the race so we know where we need to be. We need to work on getting the mechanical package for the car where it needs to be. That's the total objective. It would be no point worrying about qualifying since we're one week late for qualifying. We got to get in the show, but I think if you start 23rd or 33rd, over 500 miles it's going to be very marginal difference. We're going to stick it in the show, take some downforce out of it obviously come Saturday and get up to little faster speeds and this and that. We need to work on race setup. That's what we're here for, and that's what everyone will remember from the Monday after Memorial Day."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The XM Satellite Radio team had a pretty good day. There are some things that we would obviously like to work on, but I am much, much happier with the car in race trim than I was in qualifying. We had a lot on our plate today to try and accomplish, and we got through everything, so it was a really positive day for us."

JIMMY KITE (No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The frequent flier miles are stacking up fast. We had committed last month to run Charlotte for one of the Craftsman Truck races we're going to run, so I've committed. We have to run tomorrow night and Friday night with that, and then Ron Hemelgarn and the guys, we were actually just swinging by here on the weekend and Hemelgarn and the guys said: 'Hey, don't leave town. There might be an opportunity for you,' and then they called me Monday morning and said, 'Hey, do you want to drive an IndyCar?' Which, of course I do. You know, it's a great team, it's a great opportunity, and I hope I can do them good." (About limited seat time this week): "It's very tough. There's teams that have mileaged motors out every day of the month, and it makes it really difficult to make sure we're really good on Race Day, and it doesn't help that the driver's not going to be here tomorrow and part of Friday. Hopefully, we'll be able to learn from what we ran today. We're pretty happy with the car, and Friday morning we'll go out and run some more and we'll go out Saturday and, hopefully, put the car in. Then we'll have half a day Saturday and all day Sunday to do full-tank runs and try to get me comfortable here and make up for lost time." (About running with team beyond Indianapolis): "We know they're running races after Indy. Basically, the way it was put to me was, just worry about Indy now and after Indy, they're going to decide what they're going to do. But for right now, the only thing they've spoken to me about is Indy."

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The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ABC at 1 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Kite , Adrian Fernandez , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing