INDIANAPOLIS, May 16, 2003 - Bright sunshine greeted the IndyCar Series teams and drivers on hand for the 11th day of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, set to take place on May 25th at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 16, 2003 - Bright sunshine greeted the IndyCar Series teams and drivers on hand for the 11th day of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, set to take place on May 25th at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The day was fairly uneventful, as qualified drivers worked on their race setups and those still seeking a spot in the 33-car field worked to find the speed necessary to make the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Sharing the track with the Infiniti Pro Series on an historic day - no other racing series has shared the month of May with cars running in the Indy 500 - the Indy cars held two practices, one prior to Infiniti Pro Series qualifying and one afterwards.
Scott Dixon was quickest over the 40 laps he ran in his #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota at 229.966mph. Dixon also practiced in his 9T car, completing 63 laps and logging the third best time of the day of 228.454mph on his 48th tour of the circuit. "I really didn't want to do this many laps. We just worked on the car a little, not too much, changing the balance. The car was great all day."
Despite his insistence that he intended to sit down until Carburetion Day next Thursday, Tora Takagi placed second in today's practice, driving the #12 Pioneer Panoz G Force/Toyota to a quick lap of 228.657mph and stating, "This was our best day of work on our race simulation."
After having a tough time finding traffic to work with Wednesday and yesterday, Takagi said "the car performed very well both on my own and in traffic. Now," he said, "we will take the cars back to the shop and get ready for final practice and the race." If he had his druthers, Takagi would drive all day, every day at the Brickyard, so enamored is he of the track.
Jimmy Vasser used his third day of practice in the #19 Argent Mortgage Dallara/Honda to post the fourth quickest speed of the day at 228.275mph, logging 76 laps and setting his best on his 31st tour of the historic oval. "We made some good gains today," the veteran noted. "The race car feels very good. I'm pretty pumped up right now. This team is very good," Vasser said.
Helio Castroneves was fifth in his #3T Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota at 228.210mph, followed by Dan Wheldon in the #26T Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda at 227.960mph. Wheldon had just returned from testing at Pikes Peak International Raceway as he prepares for the IndyCar Series visit to that track next month.
Second among the unqualified drivers and seventh overall, Vitor Meira logged a total of 138 laps in the #2T Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet, posting a lap of 227.918mph on his 26th lap. Meira was "getting comfortable and trying to make no mistakes. I took my time and there was no need to rush."
Greg Ray continued to learn about his Access Motorsports #13 TrimSpa Panoz G Force/Honda, setting a quick laps of 227.816mph on his fourth of 46 laps today. "We experimented with different setups, both a little bit more downforce and a few different things on the car."
Alex Barron employed his second day in the #20 Meijer Panoz G Force/Toyota to log the ninth quickest speed of the day (227.714mph), turning a total of 61 laps and hitting his best on lap 54. "We worked on race setup all day, and I think we have the car very well-balanced. We'll put our qualifying motor in tonight and come out looking for as much speed as we can find tomorrow."
Rookie Tony Renna was tenth in the #32 Cure Autism Now Dallara/Toyota with a lap of 227.595mph, claiming the team "made some mechanical and aerodynamic changes, trying to put ourselves in a good position for the race. Every day is a good simulation for Race Day because you never know what the weather is going to do at Indy."
There was only one incident today at 3:17pm. A.J. Foyt IV contacted the SAFER barrier in Turn 1 with the #14T Conseco Dallara/Toyota he qualified last Sunday. After a quarter-spin, he came to a stop between Turns 1 and 2, uninjured and cleared to drive. Initially, Anthony thought, "I made a stupid mistake and went into Turn 1 too low."
Later, however, after his car owner and grandfather A.J. Foyt Jr. saw the setup sheet (after getting on young Anthony pretty hard). "I saw there was so much nose-weight on the front end there was no way he couldn't have wrecked. I apologized to him because it was a mistake on the crew's part and mine for not catching it.
"I feel bad for him because the three accidents here this month weren't his fault. One was caused by a cut tire, the qualifying spin was caused by a droop-stop bolt that had backed out and the windy conditions and, now this. I'm just thankful he's been able to walk away from them all," the four- time Indy 500 winner said.
With 55 cars at the Speedway having passed inspection and 58 drivers who have passed their physicals, the tension mounts for the final day of qualifying on Sunday, May 18th.
Tomorrow the Indy cars get one final chance to find some speed before Bump Day. Most of those already in the field would have to agree with Michael Andretti, who allowed that, for his final competition next week, "I'm ready to go. I'm ready to race."