INDIANAPOLIS, May 7, 2003 -- Day Four of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race ran at the whim of the weather. After a picture perfect day of running on Tuesday, severe thunderstorms blanketed the Indianapolis area around midnight, ...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 7, 2003 -- Day Four of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race ran at the whim of the weather. After a picture perfect day of running on Tuesday, severe thunderstorms blanketed the Indianapolis area around midnight, washing off any accumulated Firestone Firehawk rubber and adding intrigue to the day.
While storms surrounded the area much of the afternoon, inclement weather at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was moderate, with rain halting the proceedings for just two times -- at 2:01pm for 1 hour and 14 minutes and again at 3:44pm for 29 minutes. Ten cautions were called for track inspection and/or debris.
"We keep working away on our program and the car is getting better and better," Brack agreed. His lap of 38.9544 seconds (231.039mph) came on the fifth of 19 total tours of the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval. Brack's lap gives him the second overall quick speed for the month, but "it's too early to say what today really means."
Dan Wheldon's 231.108mph lap yesterday in the Andretti Green Racing #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda still holds as the best overall. Wheldon did not practice today.
Brack also worked at shaking down the #19 Argent Dallara/Honda Jimmy Vasser will drive, turning in the 19th best lap of the day on his 25th of 34 laps. "We still have a lot of work to do with that car," he noted and said he was unsure whether his and the 1996 CART champ's driving styles were similar, as they've never worked together before this month.
"It's a process, day to day to get to the level where you're comfortable in the car, Brack continued. We were pretty fast yesterday, but we were trying to make the car work first before going for speed," he said.
Second place today went to Scott Sharp, driver of the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota, who was quickest on opening day. Sharp's lap of 39.1118 seconds (230.110mph) came on the 23rd of 66 tours he would make throughout today's practice.
Gil de Ferran was third on the speed chart, taking the #6T Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota down to 39.1501 seconds (229.884mph) on lap 17 of 31. De Ferran was 9th for the day in his #6 Dallara/Toyota as once again, he and teammate Helio Castroneves darted between the Dallara and Panoz G Force entries, still undecided which brand to qualify. Two-time and defending Indy 500 champ Castroneves was quickest in his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, placing eighth on the day with a lap of 39.3246 seconds (228.864mph) on his 24th of 76 laps.
One of the bigger surprises this afternoon was the emergence of Greg Ray and Access Motorsports' #13 TrimSpa Special Panoz G Force/Honda. Fourth for the day with a lap of 39.2091 seconds (229.539mph) on his 11th of 38 laps, Ray said that since he "didn't get track time on Sunday, had some mechanical and chassis issues in the last two days, I'm getting comfortable and just scratching the surface here. We've been looking for a little rhythm here."
As the Texan and team co-owner doesn't have major sponsorship at this point, "We can't afford to get out there and take the big risks in a hurry, so we're just scratching the surface and knocking on the door. I think we'll surprise a lot of people" with their team.
Herta's Andretti Green Racing team owner Michael Andretti sat out the day, resting the #7 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda after being fifth fastest in Tuesday testing. "We're working with 'Plan A' and didn't expect to be testing today. We're sticking to that plan right now. We might have a bit more to trim out for Pole Day on Saturday," Andretti said. The 1991 CART champ anticipates Pole speeds in the 231-232mph range.
Despite wearing a brace on his left wrist and forearm that limits his lateral arm movement, Tony Kanaan hustled the #11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda to fifth place for the day at 39.2234 seconds (229.455mph). "Obviously it was a long day with the rain coming on and off. We made a lot of improvements to the car but I think I'm still behind a little bit from missing those first two days. I feel good and I'm wearing [the brace] in case I do have any problems out there."
Kanaan's arm isn't as much of a problem as his right upper leg and buttocks. While the stitches from that injury have been removed, he's still got quite a bit of pain and limps noticeably. The famous Kanaan smile, though, is omnipresent.
Day two's quick man Tora Takagi drove the #12 Panoz G Force/Toyota to sixth today, logging a total of 56 laps and turning 39.2419 seconds (229.347mph) on lap 54. After trying different setups on Tuesday without great success, the team spent a great deal of time changing the car for the afternoon. "We didn't get to run as much as we wanted, but we are pretty happy with our fast time as the track was slower today than yesterday." Takagi was able to run consistent laps at 228mph on his own, he said.
Scott Dixon "didn't end up running too much today because of the weather, but when we were out there, the car was pretty good," he said. Good enough for 7th for the #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota despite the fact that it was "pretty windy, and we didn't feel that we would gain too much by being out there. He turned a total of 37 laps with his best effort on lap 28.
The top Chevrolet-powered car was wheeled by Buddy Lazier, who turned 90 laps in his #91 Victory Brands/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara. "We are just flat out," he emphasized after running 12th with a lap of 39.5336 seconds (227.654mph). Toward the end of the day, the 1996 Indy 500 champ thought his car was getting loose, telling his team "the rear wants to move out" at corner exits, especially Turn 2.
Indy Racing League titleholder Sam Hornish Jr. is continuing to "work on it, trying to get where we need to be" in his #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet. "Everything seems to be going in the right direction, which is good. For qualifying, we are just trying to be in the first four rows. That's about it," he said after logging the 21st quickest lap in his backup car.
Twenty-six drivers practiced within one second of Brack's quick speed today, turning a total of 1524 laps in the seven-hour session. They'll get another two days to trim out their cars before contesting for the MBNA Pole Position this Saturday, May 10th.