IRL: Indy500: Carburetion Day

Ken Plotkin - Indianapolis, IN, May 24 2001 - 34 cars took to the bricks today in the final practice session for Sunday's 85th running of the Indianapolis 500. While "Carb Day" is intended simply as a final test session - leak ...

Ken Plotkin -

Indianapolis, IN, May 24 2001 - 34 cars took to the bricks today in the final practice session for Sunday's 85th running of the Indianapolis 500. While "Carb Day" is intended simply as a final test session - leak checks, full tank runs and so on - and not a speed contest, the faster teams like to show off what they have.

Pole sitter Scott Sharp topped the charts at 223.678 mph, the only driver above 223 mph. He ran only 19 laps.

"Obviously, it's the last chance to run hard," Sharp said. We wanted to confirm the race-starting setup was strong right out of the box. The car was real strong, and we didn't need to stay out any longer."

Second fastest was CART champion Gil de Ferran, returning to the Indy 500 six years after his sole appearance as a rookie in 1995. Gil ran 43 laps, the most of any driver today. His top speed of 222.757 mph came on his next to last lap. "Overall, I'm very happy with the car. It's handling very well. I'm very comfortable with where we are at. Now we just have to wait three days until the race. We know what we have, and what we have to do."

Rounding out the top three was IRL champion and former Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier, at 222.392 mph. "I felt the practice went quite well. We ran a speed that we were able to get a good feel for, gear wise. It's a pretty fast day out there, faster than I thought it would be. At this stage we're not going to make too many changes. We did a fair amount of practice last week with our backup car and wanted to make sure that it transferred over to this car."

On-track activity went smoothly. The session began 27 minutes late because of wet spots from overnight rain, and was run under yellow for the first few laps. Once green, the yellow came out only three times: once when Cory Witherill's car car smoked from a loose oil fitting, once for a tow-in when Jeret Schroeder's car stuck in sixth gear, and once for debris.

Witherill's problem was fixed in the pits, and the team went on to log 30 laps. Cory, the first Native American to make the 500, is excited about Sunday's race. "Pretty crazy. Thirty three cars going into Turn 1 - all I can think is pretty crazy. I have been running Mickey Thompson off-road stuff and sprint cars for years, so I'm pretty sure Lap 1 will be something like that."

Schroeder wound up running only 12 laps today. "Once the gearbox was apart, we found the problem actually did more damage to the rest of the gearbox. So we are taking our time putting it together properly. The car is handling good in heavy traffic. I have a good motor, and hopefully we will be running in top gear and better than we were today."

After on track activity and an exhibition run of several dozen classic Indianapolis racers (including a two-seater from the 1920s, Foyt's 1961 winning roadster, and the famous six-wheel Pat Clancy Special), the "over-the-wall" teams shone in the Coors Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge.

Not content with pole and fastest Carb Day practice time, the Kelley Racing #8 team won the Challenge. "The Delphi guys have been practicing, and it really paid off," said driver Scott Sharp. "But there's one more race we have to concentrate on."

Chief mechanic Robert Perez praised the crew. "They have given us all their resources. Basically, I'm just the director. They are the ones who sacrifice, from their effort to their families."

Team owner Tom Kelley is equally proud, but takes nothing for granted. "We are here to win. The guys are intense, they fight hard, and they work hard. I am so proud of the Kelley guys. I don't know what you can ask for as far as drama. Come Sunday, we have to have luck on our side. Things can happen sometimes that are beyond our control."

While the Kelley #8 team's final round time of 9.20 seconds was the fastest of the day, their victory was helped by a fluke bobble from second place Galles Racing #3. "It was the right rear guy," driver Al Unser Jr. explained. His nut took off, and he had to take one off his belt. The team proved today that they're one of the best out here. In the race, you know it's going to come down to pit stops."

Today was the final on-track activity on the Speedway until Sunday, when the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 takes the green flag at 11:00 am EST.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Cory Witherill , Gil de Ferran , Jeret Schroeder