INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 23, 2001 - Michael Andretti turned his first laps in a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in six years, but high winds Monday held down speeds for eight drivers preparing in private testing for the 85th running...
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 23, 2001 - Michael Andretti turned his first laps in a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in six years, but high winds Monday held down speeds for eight drivers preparing in private testing for the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Andretti ran about 30 laps and reached an unofficial speed of 217.7 mph in the Motorola/Archipelago Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone entry in southwesterly winds of 25 mph, which gusted to 40.
"There were a lot of anxieties - what was different, what was changed," Andretti said. "By the third lap I was able to go flat-out, so I'm pretty happy. In my mind, I've already achieved what I wanted to achieve, and that's a load off my mind. It's a good race car. It's tricky to drive, just different.
"It was so blustery," he added. "One lap, it's OK. The next lap, 'whoa!'" The track was virtually the same as six years ago, Andretti said. "It's a little bumpier in Turns 1 and 2," he said. "Other than that, except for cosmetically, it's the same. It's funny how your memory works and reflects back when you actually feel it.
"I still feel like I have a little unfinished business here. Would I be going through all this work if I'd won this race in the past? Probably not. But something's driving me."
While all the drivers talked about the wind and curtailed track time, rookie Nic Minassian ran 100 total laps for the day and reached a speed of 217.98 mph on team charts in a pair of Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone machines.
"We wound up as quick as Andretti and those guys," Minassian said. "I went out on new tires and got to Turn 4 and the car went a little sideways, so that was enough. If the wind was consistent, it'd be OK, but it's not.
"We improved the car all day, progressed all day long. The more you drive, the more confidence you get. If it's windy next time, I'll know how to do it because I've been driving in the wind. For somebody like me, you're always learning. It's important to try different lines, try high, try low. I have a pretty good idea where to turn, but I'm still learning. I'm loving it. I'm enjoying it a lot."
Private testing ends Tuesday at the 2 1/2-mile oval. Official practice opens Sunday, May 6, with three rounds of qualifying over the following two weekends, Coors Carb Day on Thursday, May 24 and the race on Sunday, May 27.
INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRIVATE TESTING QUOTES (April 23):
BUZZ CALKINS (Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We already had one day here that we found a decent baseline. We wanted to come out and fine-tune, but it's tough to make small changes and get the feel of the car when it's gusty like this. It puts characteristics in the car, and you're not sure what they mean. We ran 215.6. Before, we ran 219 right off the truck, so we feel pretty good about starting things (in May)."
ROBBIE BUHL (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Team Purex G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "We ran 215. We just kept the car the best we could because of the conditions. We could've gone quicker, but why try it? I'm fighting Turn 3. The way it's gusting, it can hit you in (Turn) 2, hit you in (Turn) 4. We just need to keep putting miles on our motor package. The most we've put on one of our (new Infiniti 35A) motors is 300 miles. Eddie (Cheever) has done more than that."
BUDDY LAZIER (Tae-Bo-Coors Light-LifeFitness-Delta Faucet-Hemelgarn Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "It's just a really, really difficult day with the wind gusts because it's not consistent. One minute, you're loose in the corner, and the next lap, you're pushing. It's not consistently gusting, and it's changing several degrees. But testing's for learning, and we're going to forge forward and utilize the time we have."
GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The car's a lot better today. At the end of yesterday, the car was handling pretty well. Conditions are very difficult with the wind because it's inconsistent. We're learning as we go along. I'm more used to it. It's a matter of getting the right setup than anything else."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Unfortunately, the wind is upsetting a little bit. It's kind of tough to learn. We still have a week in the month of May to learn some things. For me, Turn 2 and Turn 4 are really bad. The rear has a tendency to snap out. Turn 3 is safer because it (the wind) hits you on the front."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We're just testing new things with the car. Because the wind is so strong, it makes the car (wobble). It affects the car at least five miles an hour on the backstretch, maybe more. I have to learn more about the car and more about the track, but we're going in the right direction."