IRL: Kanaan creeps up Indy speed chart

IRL: Kanaan creeps up Indy speed chart

It was a sunny, hazy, warm and breezy Day 4 of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, with 29 car and driver combinations working to find speed as they prepared for Saturday's MBNA Pole Day. Where fast laps of 220mph were a benchmark...

It was a sunny, hazy, warm and breezy Day 4 of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, with 29 car and driver combinations working to find speed as they prepared for Saturday's MBNA Pole Day. Where fast laps of 220mph were a benchmark on Sunday's opening day of practice, today the speed to beat was much higher.

Tony Kanaan.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Tony Kanaan's 20th lap of 222.668mph at 11:49 this morning put everyone else in the weeds, although teammate Dan Wheldon's 221.767mph tour of the historic 2.5-mile Brickyard oval shortly before the start of Happy Hour was the closest anyone would get.

Honda drivers continued to romp as preparations for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race gained intensity, hogging six of the top ten slots in the 1567 total laps logged. As temps hovered in the middle 80s and the 15- 20mph gusts changed drivers' mode of attack, only three minor incidents impacted the seven hours of practice.

Vitor Meira needed a tow-in after running out of methanol just 36 minutes in; Tora Takagi brushed the wall just after noon. Scott Sharp needed a tow- in from pit out. That was it for today, good news for the safety brigade.

Kanaan, two-time winner of the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Phoenix race made only 29 tours of the IMS oval today and admitted teammate Bryan Herta gave his #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda a good tow to achieve two consecutive laps of 222.6 this morning. "For sure everybody has more to come," Kanaan admitted. "We have to get the most out of our car and qualify at just the right time" to achieve MBNA Pole position this Saturday.

"Obviously we were working on qualifying setups this morning. The number looks pretty big but we are just finding speed day by day. Tomorrow morning," Kanaan said, "we'll forget all bout what happened today."

The Indy Racing League's new chassis settings "ask a lot more from us to drive these cars," than did last year's specifications. "We drivers are always asking for more speed, but these settings are a step in the right direction."

Dario Franchitti.
Photo by Dan Helrigel - IRL.
Ever the team player, Kanaan considers the chassis adjustments made for himself, for Wheldon, Herta and Dario Franchitti "our setup". While he agrees that, right now Honda looks to be winning the horsepower war, "Toyota is not asleep and neither is Chevrolet."

Wheldon, in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda is starting to realize how difficult it is to find speed at IMS. "This place can make you chase it sometimes and I think everyone wanted to make sure today was a good day." After a tough Tuesday, "You have to make sure you're on top of it for that particular day because Wednesday doesn't count toward qualifying. The only day that matters," this week anyway, "is Saturday."

Roger Yasukawa earned third place in the waning minutes of the day, bringing his #16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda to the stripe at 221.248mph on his 53rd of 55 laps. After spending the first three days "trying to get the basics of the car, today we were able to trim it out a little bit more. It feels very good even in the windy conditions," Yasukawa noted.

Adrian Fernandez dropped out of the top three for the first time since practice began, earning fourth place in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda this time around. Still, the Mexican thought it was "another great day" for his team. "Conditions were a little bit hotter and windier than yesterday, but still the car is performing beautifully."

2003 IndyCar Series champion drove the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to fifth place, logging his 220.941mph lap on his 57th of 64 laps, also late in the afternoon and accomplished, significantly without a tow.

Yesterday's speedster, Kosuke Matsuura was sixth today in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda realizing, "Today was not as good as yesterday. I did my best lap on old tires, but the time was quite good." Matsuura's 220.605mph lap came within the first hour of seven allocated to practice, his fifth of 62 total laps.

Buddy Rice continued to run well with the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda, one of three from Rahal-Letterman Racing. He agreed the windy conditions "played games with the teams this afternoon, but the car feels pretty good." Good enough, in fact for seventh on the speed charts at 220.530mph.

Tomas Scheckter.
Photo by Dana Garrett - IRL.
Continuing to hold the top slot for Chevrolet, Tomas Scheckter again worked with the #4T Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevy and earned the eighth best speed of 220.434mph on his 20th of 32 laps. The South African speedster "had a great morning with our Chevy and learned some good things," but then made some changes this afternoon that just didn't work out.

Marlboro Team Penske's duo of Dallara/Toyota racers finished the top ten, with Sam Hornish Jr. in #6 leading the #3 of Helio Castroneves. Hornish set his 220.228mph lap on his 20th of 99 laps; Castroneves' tour of 219.925mph also came early, on his 19th of 62 laps.

The Red Bull Cheever Racing duo of Alex Barron (#51T Dallara/Chevy) and Ed Carpenter in the #52T machine took up the next two slots, followed by Robby Gordon's #70T Dallara/Chevrolet.

Gordon is off to Richmond to practice and qualify his NASCAR Busch Series Chevy and will return to Indy on Saturday for qualifying. "We're back in the game, where we were before the crash" on Monday. "It feels a lot better to go away knowing we have a good car," Gordon said. His primary car is in the paint shop and will be ready for qualifying when he returns.

There was still no sign of Access Motorsports on the pit road today, but Greg Beck has intimated he might have an announcement tomorrow or Friday about his driver and sponsor for the race; Beck's car won't try to qualify this weekend but he expects to be up and running for next weekend's final time trials with an American behind the wheel.

It's unlikely Panther Racing will run a third car this year, but Robbie Buhl let on that his second car (#23) will likely be on the qualifying line when Bump Day comes around. PDM Racing are still working on finding the right combination for their Dallara/Chevy, as well.

Once again the weather prognosticators didn't get it right and sunshine prevailed for much of Day #4 in testing for the Indy 500. Will the clear weather hold through MBNA Pole Day? Will speeds creep up to the 225mph mark? Most drivers are hedging on the magic number it'll take to grab pole position, as temperatures are expected to drop by at least 10 degrees from what we saw today.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske