IRL: Indy 500: Billy Boat day five practice report

INDIANAPOLIS, May 8 - Billy Boat and rookie Buddy Rice made gains Thursday in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but two-time winner Arie Luyendyk was struggling. The 1990 and '97 winner lost a little speed Thursday, barely topping ...

INDIANAPOLIS, May 8 - Billy Boat and rookie Buddy Rice made gains Thursday in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but two-time winner Arie Luyendyk was struggling.

The 1990 and '97 winner lost a little speed Thursday, barely topping 226 miles an hour (226.019), but he was confident a solution to the problems with the Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force Toyota was at hand.

"We were slow today and I'm keeping my fingers crossed," Luyendyk said. "We know why we're slow but I think we've found the problems with the car. Something on the car was in a different place than it should be. Hopefully, that will cure the problem."

A late-afternoon run to confirm the solution was cut short, but not before Luyendyk got a feel for the improvement in the car.

"We just got to make one late run, then I came in to change something and we just ran out of time," Luyendyk said, "but I got the feeling that we're going in the right direction."

Boat picked his speed up to 227.322 in the Pedigo Chevrolet Dallara/Chevrolet and was optimistic about the team's gains.

"I feel real good about the progress we made today," he said. "We kind of put all the good things we've found into a bucket, put them all together and really came away with a combination that not only picked us up on speed, but we've also been really consistent."

Boat was confident that a little help from the engine maker was all the team needed.

"We just have to hope that we can squeeze everything we can out of the engine," he said. "We're getting new parts daily and hopefully Chevrolet is going to be able to find us a little bit more (of speed) at the end."

Rice, a rookie, got a bit of a thrill on the pit lane in the first turn, but shook it off to turn a fast lap later in the day at 228.269 in the Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet.

"My throttle spring broke this morning, that was a little exciting," he said. "When I jacked the throttle, I did a loop down the pit lane and just touched the grass."

Rice said the team was able to get through the programs planned for Thursday with no problems after his spin.

"We're more or less ready to qualify," he said. "We have a little bit of stuff we'd like to try; nothing of any major magnitude. It's just little stuff. We'll probably try to put everything together and go out (Friday) and do a couple mock qualifying runs and see exactly where we are."

Rookie Dan Wheldon was the fastest driver in Thursday's practice, turning a lap at 232.202 in the Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda. Another rookie, Tora Takagi, was second at 232.007 in the Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota. Two-time defending "500" champion Helio Castroneves was third with a lap at 231.595 in the Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota.

Practice continues Friday at the 2 ½-mile oval, with the opening two rounds of qualifications set for Saturday and Sunday and the 87th running of the "500," to be aired live on ABC Sports, on Sunday, May 25.

-www.billyboat.com

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Tora Takagi , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn