WHELDON POSTS FAST TIME AS "500" VETERANS TAKE TO TRACK INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 10, 2005 -- IRL IndyCarÂ® Series points leader Dan Wheldon took advantage of the new surface at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to post the fastest time as...
WHELDON POSTS FAST TIME AS "500" VETERANS TAKE TO TRACK
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 10, 2005 -- IRL IndyCar® Series points leader Dan Wheldon took advantage of the new surface at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to post the fastest time as veteran drivers began preparations for the 89th Indianapolis 500.
Wheldon, driving the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, lapped the 2.5-mile oval in 39.6811 seconds, 226.808 mph. Scott Sharp was second fastest in the No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone with a lap of 39.7160, 226.609 as speeds climbed throughout the day.
In all, 22 drivers eclipsed Buddy Rice's 2004 four-lap pole average of 222.024 mph.
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm excited to be back here. This is my favorite race. Honda will probably get mad at me because Motegi should be, but the Indianapolis 500, to me, means an awful lot. It's great to be back." (About his best lap): "I was fortunate on my quickest lap. I fell into a draft, which I took. I think the biggest thing I notice about the Speedway this year is the competition level. It seems very, very close between not just what you would perhaps call the big teams, but I think there are lot of people that could be very, very competitive. With the testing restrictions that we have in the Indy Racing League, it enables people to spend a little more time to build up to speed and focus on each individual day and catch us out. The competition level is the biggest thing that struck me, certainly this year, and I expect it to get even tighter. I'm pumped up to be back here."(About racing at Indianapolis): "I think this year is going to be a fantastic race, and I think every driver is looking forward to it from the standpoint of being back and having the competition being so close. Anyone's that's not been to the Indianapolis 500 before, this would be a great year to come."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I am so enthused to come here with this team. It is what I have always dreamed about. This is my favorite race track. To come here and feel like I have this effort behind me really gives me confidence walking in, so it is great to have this kind of a first day to back that up. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Tomorrow night, no one is going to care who was fastest on Tuesday night, so it's all about keeping it going. We are going to work through our long list of things we need to learn, and hopefully, that will put us in the position we need to be on Saturday."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm pretty satisfied with our day, and the car feels good. We were quickest there for a bit, and we know we are heading in the right direction. We'll be changing engines tonight, and I expect we'll be even faster tomorrow. There were a lot of cars running today, and there's more rubber being laid down, so it'll just get faster throughout the week I think."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "For our first day in our new Pennzoil Platinum Chevy, we were quite happy. Everything ran well, and we accomplished everything that we hoped to. Today was just the start of a long month of hard work. We'll do some analyzing tonight and get ready for another long day tomorrow. For sure, we'll find some more speed and steadily climb higher on the speed charts."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards Johns Manville): "It was a good start for us today. We were able to shake down both the primary and backup cars, and we made some suspension adjustments. Overall it was a pretty normal first day, and I think everyone is pleased with the start of our Indy 500 program for 2005. We still have a few more days to work on a lot of things before qualifying on Saturday. It's great to come to Indy with an experienced and well -repaired team."
RICHIE HEARN (No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Racing Special Panoz/Chevrolet/Firestone): (About experience of being back in a car): "I was sitting in the car for a long time (during track inspection Tuesday afternoon) and when I went back out, going into Turn 3, these big drops (of sweat) came down into my face. It was like it was raining in my helmet."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It has been a great feeling returning to the Speedway as the defending champion. I have been here a couple of days with the Rookie Orientation, and Danica did a great job in completing that process. Today was more of a systems day with us running the primary and the backup cars. We want to make sure everything was running properly on both of our cars. I did a little work on the primary car in the afternoon, but we'll concentrate on finding more speed and other areas on Wednesday. It is going to be a long month, and I know a lot of people are excited early in the month, but I learned last year with this team that we map out a plan and we stick with it. So I'm very confident that this Honda/Panoz package will be fast and that we will be a factor on race day."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "This is our first practice day at Indianapolis, and obviously, our setup is great. My teammate Scott Sharp also did very well. My primary car and my backup car are both good. I am very happy to get up to speed quickly. We had quite a lot of downforce on the car today, but the car is already quite fast and quicker than last year. If we took off more drag and downforce, I think we can be close to 230 mph for qualifying. I am very comfortable driving on this track with the new asphalt. This track is very difficult, and you need to concentrate every day to do your best."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The first day of practice went well, and it was a great way to spend my 30th birthday. I haven't run here since last year, so I'm very happy we ended the day in the top-three. We were able to work on several things to try and find the limit and make sure the Marlboro Team Penske car is consistent. I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 95 Panther/Jonathan Byrd's/ESPN 950 AM Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was a good start. As a team we just started working together, and this is a learning process. We wanted to run very consistently, so we went according to our plan. It's been a great beginning. We were dialed down pretty hard, and every lap we ran was in clean air, and we never got the sniff of a draft."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We worked mostly on the qualifying setup today. We'd like to be a bit faster, but at least we were able to try a number of different things on the Marlboro Team Penske car. We've got to stay focused and just try to get the best car we can. We still have some work to do, but it's a long month and hopefully we'll be good enough on race day."
WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9 a.m. Public Gates Open
Noon-6 p.m. Indianapolis 500 Practice (all drivers)
6 p.m. Track Closes
*** The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ABC at 1 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.