IRL: Day Five: Wheldon whips the competition

IRL: Day Five: Wheldon whips the competition

INDIANAPOLIS, May 8, 2003 - Rookie Dan Wheldon became the first driver to top the time sheets twice during this first week of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, powering his Andretti Green Racing ...

INDIANAPOLIS, May 8, 2003 - Rookie Dan Wheldon became the first driver to top the time sheets twice during this first week of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, powering his Andretti Green Racing #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda to the fastest speed of the month thus far: 38.7594 seconds (232.202mph). His mark was also the top speed turned in Indy Racing League competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1996.

Dan Wheldon.
Photo by McQueeney.
Getting "lucky", as he put it at 4:43pm on a cool, cloudy day, Wheldon managed to turn his fast lap around the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval, thanks to a tow from #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota driver Scott Sharp. At the time, air temps were 65 degrees and tracks temperature was 80 degrees, according to Firestone tire engineers.

Wheldon's quick one (lap 23 of 28 total) took place just four minutes before the sole incident of the day occurred. Rookie A.J. Foyt IV completed a quarter spin to the right in Turn 1 and made contact with the outside retaining wall in the South Chute with the rear of his #14T Conseco Dallara/Toyota.

Foyt would return to the circuit in the #5T Panoz G Force/Toyota, only to join the balance of the 33 car/driver combinations that took to the circuit on the sidelines when moisture ended the day's activities with 11 minutes remaining before the traditional 6pm close of the day. "It was a horrible day," noted the 4-time Indy winner's grandson.

Wheldon admitted the Andretti Green Racing program is very regimented and organized. The team, with four drivers has stuck to its plan for the month and, thus far, hasn't needed to deviate. "If I can back this up on Saturday, I'll be really happy," the Briton said. "I've shown I'm fast thus far but now I have to race well, too. We're getting closer to qualifying trim now and at this track you really have to run so close to the edge."

Another quick driver during the first week of practice, Tora Takagi was second for the day today (after being fastest on Monday), turning a lap of 38.7919 seconds (232.007mph) in his #12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota. Takagi's best came at 2:55pm - on his 27th of 28 laps - when the skies were less cloudy and the temperatures were warmer, at 67 degrees ambient and 94 degrees on the Brickyard circuit's surface.

Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (#3 Dallara/Toyota) and Gil de Ferran (#6T Panoz G Force/Toyota) were third and fourth, respectively, continuing to sort out the two chassis available to them. Two-time Indy 500 champ Castroneves worked on race setup early in the session and then dedicated himself to qualifying trim, logging his best lap of 38.8610 seconds (231.595mph) on his 58th of 70 tours. "The Marlboro car was consistent," he noted, "and we were able to get more speed out of it."

De Ferran had "another good day today," spending the "full practice session working on our qualifying setup. The lap times are very close so we need to stay focused and see how things play out tomorrow and Saturday," he explained, making his mark on his 45th of 46 laps in the G Force, at 38.8656 seconds (231.567mph).

Wheldon's teammate Tony Kanaan earned the fifth-quickest speed in his #11 7- Eleven Dallara/Honda on his 10th of 31 laps today, at 38.9508 seconds (231.061mph). "I was pretty happy with the car, so we decided to stop and not run all day," Kanaan noted. "I was obviously more comfortable today than yesterday and two days ago." Wheldon had nothing but praise for the Brazilian. "He's seriously fast. I was surprised, by the extent of his injury, how fast he came back. Tony is seriously, seriously brave."

Scott Dixon.
Photo by McQueeney.
Quietly, Scott Dixon has continued to be quick in the #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, 6th quick today - and seventh overall for the week - at 38.9661 seconds (230.970mph) on lap 66 of 83. "We found a lot of speed and I think we're sitting pretty good right now. I'm really happy with how the day went."

Wednesday's quick man, Kenny Brack was seventh on the day in his #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda, turning 36 laps and making his mark on the 15th tour of the famed oval. Rookie Tony Renna made the top ten by turning the 8th-quickest lap in his #32 Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Dallara/Toyota out of Kelley Racing's stables. Renna logged 44 laps total, and his 42nd, at 39.0779 seconds (230.309mph) placed him 10th for the week thus far.

Returned from his public relations engagement in California, Robby Gordon went back to the business of setting up the #27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda and said, "Everything has gone according to plan so far and we're working with the car in qualifying trim. My car is comfortable," and he turned a lap of 39.0941 seconds (230.214mph) to back up his claim on lap 24 of 33, good for ninth today.

Sharp took tenth place for the day and is 12th overall in the #8T Delphi Dallara/Toyota, with a lap of 39.0977 seconds (230.193mph), calling it "a great day. We didn't have quite the speed we wanted this morning, but we dug deep, worked hard and looked at data. We were able to help ourselves, taking a lot of big steps."

Jaques Lazier was fastest of the Bow-Tie Brigade, displacing brother Buddy who was quickest yesterday. He settled for 16th on the day in the #2 Menards Dallara/Chevy at 39.4044 seconds (228.401mph). The Chevrolet troops continue to struggle as Sam Hornish had a motor go up in smoke early in the afternoon. His was the 6th of 17 total caution periods. Twenty- three drivers circulated within one second of Wheldon's quick time, with the final driver to achieve that mark Arie Luyendyk in the #20 Meijer Panoz G Force/Toyota fielded by Mo Nunn Racing.

With inclement weather systems continue to permeate the Indianapolis area, the traditional tune-up day preceding MBNA Pole Day could be abbreviated tomorrow. Spotty showers are also forecast for Saturday.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Tony Renna , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske