IRL: Indy 500: Day five practice report

Rookie Wheldon hits 232 in Indy 500 practice; fastest lap since 1996 INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 8, 2003 -- Rookie Dan Wheldon continued to impress at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 8 when he led the fifth day of practice for the 87th ...

Rookie Wheldon hits 232 in Indy 500 practice; fastest lap since 1996

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 8, 2003 -- Rookie Dan Wheldon continued to impress at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 8 when he led the fifth day of practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500.

Wheldon, who was fastest on May 6, turned a lap 38.7594 seconds, 232.202 in his No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, the fastest lap in practice, qualifications or the race since 1996. This came a day after Wheldon didn't turn any laps as he and his team decided not to practice on May 7.

"We definitely got a tow on that lap," Wheldon said. "But it's great for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew to be top of the timesheets again. It's going good, but it's still early in the month. I think the pole (speed) will be around 231 (mph), 232, but it just depends on the weather, really. It's hard to predict.

"I haven't been involved in the race like I am now, so I've got to leave it to the experienced guys: Barry Green, Tino Belli. They're doing a fantastic job for me. I just kind of want to stay away from that and just get in the car when they tell me."

Another rookie, Tora Takagi, who led Day 2 of practice, was second fastest of the day with a lap of 38.7919, 232.007 in the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

A total of 11 drivers topped the 230 mph mark under cloudy skies throughout most of the day.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who is going for an unprecedented third consecutive '500' victory, was third fastest in his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

"This morning we finished the race setup work that we had started yesterday," Castroneves said. "We then ran a couple of stints with the back-up car to make sure everything was OK. The rest of the day we focused on our qualifying setup. The Marlboro Team Penske car was consistent, and we were able to get more speed out of the car. So, overall we are happy with our progress. Tomorrow, we'll continue to work on our qualifying setup to make sure we are ready for Saturday."

Castroneves' teammate, Gil de Ferran was fourth fastest in the No. 6T Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone with a lap of 38.8656, 231.567. Castroneves and de Ferran have driven both Dallara and Panoz G Force chassis this month and their laps today were the fastest this month. The team is expected to make an announcement about their chassis selection at a press conference Friday morning.

Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, rounded out the top five with a lap of 38.9508, 231.061.

The run for the MBNA Pole is now one day away. "Fast Friday" practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 goes from noon-7 p.m. (EDT) May 8 in preparation for Pole Day on Saturday. The 87th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 25.

Rookie A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, was the victim of the second accident of the month in his No. 14T Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. At 4:47 p.m., Foyt did a quarter spin to the right in Turn 1 and made contact with the outside retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2 with the rear of the car. There was no contact with the SAFER Barrier. Foyt was uninjured and returned to the track just before it closed for the day in teammate Shigeaki Hattori's No. 5T EPSON/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

"Today was not too good of a day," Foyt said. "We started off struggling and ended up getting in an accident. It was a horrible day. I'd been running flat out all the way around for the last four laps and coming off the corner, the car stepped out on me without any warning, which was pretty weird. My grandfather just found out from Firestone that it showed a cut tire, which caused me to spin. He put me in (Shigeaki's) back-up car just to give me some laps. The old 'get back on the horse' deal."

Day five of practice was cut short at 6:53 p.m. (EDT) when moisture was reported on the track. A total of 33 cars turned 1,334 laps on the 2.5-mile oval.

A limited number of reserved-seat Race Day tickets for the Indianapolis 500 remain available. General admission and reserved tickets for practice, qualifications and Race Day can be purchased on the World Wide Web via www.imstix.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Shigeaki Hattori , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Dan Wheldon , Barry Green , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske