IRL: Motegi: AGR Dan Wheldon Saturday report

Wheldon to start 5th in AGR debut. MOTEGi, Japan (April 12, 2003) -- Dan Wheldon made the biggest jump up the time charts in morning practice to claim the fifth starting spot for tomorrow's Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. After...

Wheldon to start 5th in AGR debut.

MOTEGi, Japan (April 12, 2003) -- Dan Wheldon made the biggest jump up the time charts in morning practice to claim the fifth starting spot for tomorrow's Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. After rain showers interrupted and finally canceled today's qualifying session, Wheldon's strong run during the morning practice was good enough to put the #27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone on the inside of the third row. After rain canceled the qualifying session, IndyCar Series officials set the 24-car starting field based on combined practice session times.

Wheldon's best lap at 206.020 mph (26.5605 s) came during this morning's session. The native Brit makes his 2003 debut driving in place of Dario Franchitti, who was injured last week in an off-track incident. Wheldon, a 2003 IndyCar Series Rookie- of-the-Year contender, was scheduled to begin his season at Indianapolis behind the wheel of the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam entry. Wheldon stepped into the #27 car after it was learned Franchitti would be unable to compete this weekend.

Scott Dixon will start from the pole after setting the fastest time of the weekend at 206.996 mph (26.4353 s). Wheldon's teammate, Tony Kanaan, will make his third start in as many races on the front row. Kanaan will line the #11 Team 7-Eleven car up in the second position after posting a lap at 206.775 mph (26.4636 s). Wheldon's other AGR teammate, Michael Andretti, will start tenth with a best lap at 204.863 mph (26.7105 s). Tora Takagi will start third, posting a best lap of 206.747 mph (26.4671 s).

The Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi will take the green flag tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. local time (11:30 p.m., Saturday EDT). ABC Sports will broadcast the event on a tape-delay basis on Sunday, April 13th at 1 p.m. ET.

Dan Wheldon , Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola
"The Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola crew has done a great job this weekend. I know I still have a lot to learn but as the race progresses I'm sure I'll catch up pretty quick. The team has given me a lot of confidence and they allow me to believe that I'm going to do great in the race."

Kyle Moyer , Team Manager, Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola
"Dan did a great job today and I think the time he posted in qualifying may have put us even further up the grid but we happy we to be starting fifth. He was able to get some more time on the track and he is proving to be a fast learner. The Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola team has done a great job this weekend. They have had to change the car to fit Dan and we all have had to get used to the subtle differences between Dan and Dario. I think we have a good race car and I like our chances for tomorrow."

-AGR-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam