IRL: Scott Sharp fastest on Indy 500 opening day

INDIANAPOLIS (May 4, 2003) -- Just after one o'clock this afternoon, Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson waved the green flag opening the track for practice for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Scott Sharp.
Photo by McQueeney.
Felipe Giaffone was the first driver to leave the pits, taking to the famous 2.5-mile track under threatening skies. Sam Hornish, who followed Giaffone onto the circuit, was the first driver to complete a lap when Giaffone reported to the pits.

Prior to the track opening for official practice, the five previous winners entered in this year's race, Helio Castroneves, Kenny Brack, Buddy Lazier, Arie Luyendyk and Al Unser Jr., took a ceremonial lap of the track. Castroneves' Penske Racing team, which never fails to capitalize on an opportunity, used the ceremonial lap as their systems check.

Within four minutes Castroneves was turning laps over 225 mph. "We did a test here a few weeks ago so we were able to get up to speed right away. The conditions were pretty much the same as what we had a couple of weeks ago."

Castroneves ended the day second fastest with a lap at 228.088 mph, 0.1166 seconds slower than Scott Sharp's lap at 228.764 mph.

Sharp wasted no time getting up to speed posting his best lap within an hour of the track opening. "I think everyone had some drafting help. I mean, obviously, I did. But nevertheless, it means we have a real good car."

Sharp was one of five drivers completing runs in both their backup and primary cars. After setting the top speed of the day in his backup car, Sharp moved to his primary car, recording a best of 226.263 mph after 13 laps.

"It was a slightly compacted afternoon time-wise," said Sharp. "Everyone expected rain and there was a lot of on track activities."

At 3:26 pm, the threatening skies started to open causing the sixth yellow of the day. The light precipitation intensified forcing Indy Racing League officials to close the track at 4:03 pm.

Tora Takagi ended the day third fastest followed by rookie Dan Wheldon and Michael Andretti.

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