IRL: Indy 500: Day nine practice report

Takagi leads Indy practice; Luyendyk steps aside for race. INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 14, 2003 -- Rookie Tora Takagi led practice May 14 for the 87th Indianapolis 500, one of two drivers surpassing 229 mph at the Indianapolis Motor ...

Takagi leads Indy practice; Luyendyk steps aside for race.

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 14, 2003 -- Rookie Tora Takagi led practice May 14 for the 87th Indianapolis 500, one of two drivers surpassing 229 mph at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Takagi, who qualified seventh for the race, turned a top lap of 39.1809 seconds, 229.704 mph in the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

"The most important thing I wanted to get started doing today was working on my race setup and to begin fine-tuning the car and the way it acts in traffic," Takagi said. "My fast lap was on my own, and I feel good about how the car runs when I am on my own. But the most important thing, obviously, is to have a good-handling car in traffic."

Gil de Ferran was second at 39.2708, 229.178 in the No. 6T Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, while Takagi's teammate Felipe Giaffone was third at 39.3640, 228.635 in the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

MBNA Pole winner and two-time defending race winner Helio Castroneves was fourth at 39.4301, 228.252 in the No. 3T Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Tomas Scheckter rounded out the top five at 39.5039, 227.826 in the No. 10T Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Jimmy Vasser was fastest of the non-qualified drivers, 11th at 39.8307, 225.956 in the No. 19 Argent Rahal/Letterman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone. This was Vasser's first day on track this month.

Bump Day, the final day of qualifying, is Sunday, May 18. Practice continues Thursday.

"I went out this morning, and in a matter of three or four laps at speed, the car was solid," Vasser said. "I was flat and ran about a 226 on our own. I know that there's a lot more in there by trimming it and putting the qualifier motor in there. The real focus for me today was trying to get to work on a race setup and help the team move the race setup along."

Mo Nunn Racing had two of the three fastest cars on track today, but the team also made news off the track. Two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk does not have medical clearance to drive in the race May 25. He crashed during practice May 9 in the No. 20 Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. A replacement driver will be named soon.

"Since the crash, obviously my back and neck had some pain," Luyendyk said. "I also noticed I wasn't as coherent as I should be. I got back in touch with Dr. (Henry) Bock and concluded it's not in my best interest to race because I don't think I can function the way I should in a race car. I didn't have any desire to be in the car feeling the way I feel."

There were 25 cars on track today, turning a total of 1,637 laps despite two rain delays totaling one hour, 13 minutes. There was one incident, as Shinji Nakano was unhurt after hitting the outside wall between Turns 1 and 2 in the No. 54 Beard Papa's Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

A limited number of reserved-seat Race Day tickets for the Indianapolis 500 remain available. General admission and reserved tickets for practice, qualifications and Race Day can be purchased on the World Wide Web via www.imstix.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing