Indianapolis, IN (May 13, 2000) - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated opening day for the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500 this afternoon by hosting Family day at the famous 2.5 mile race track. While musicians, jugglers and acrobats ...
Indianapolis, IN (May 13, 2000) - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated opening day for the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500 this afternoon by hosting Family day at the famous 2.5 mile race track. While musicians, jugglers and acrobats performed on the plaza behind the new tower, daredevils of the speedway circled the track at speeds approaching 220 mph.
When the gun fired at 6:00 p.m. signaling the end of the first day of practice, Al Unser Jr. found himself atop the speed charts with a lap at 217.223 mph.
Unser drove both his primary and back up cars today, setting his fastest lap of the day in the backup car.
"It was windy, real windy between the hours of two to four," said Unser. "When we put that lap in, the wind had calmed down to just about nothing and the conditions were just perfect. It's opening day so the main objective today was just to get the instrumentation correct on the car, make sure there are no oil leaks, water leaks and the engine runs good. We accomplished that with both cars, the primary car went off without a hitch. I came out with the primary car when the wind was really bad. That's the reason why that car didn't run so quick."
Driving the primary car earlier today, when windy conditions prevailed, Unser's best lap was clocked at 211.934 mph.
Stephan Gregoire was second fastest today. He was the only other driver to run 217 today.
Buddy Lazier was third fastest with Eddie Cheever fourth fastest. Cheever was involved in the only on track incident today when a mechanical failure sent his Infiniti-powered Dallara into the turn two wall. "The car wanted to go straight and I wanted to turn left. The car won," Cheever said with a smile.
Cheever noted that his perspective on crashes has changed since he's become a car owner. "When I used to drive someone's car, I used to think, this is going to hurt. Now I think, this is going to cost a lot."
Scott Harrington's lap of 216.471 mph, set early this afternoon, held up to put the Louisville, KY driver fifth fastest on the day. "We waited until late in the afternoon to go out because we were finishing some things up," said Harrington.
"We ran some warm-up laps on the apron, came in and checked things out. Then we ran a few laps at medium speed and did a second check out on the car. We did a five lap run at speed and the car was good. We came in and made a slight (tire) pressure change and did another five lap stint at speed. My second lap by was a 216.4, which was second quick time of the day at that point. Today doesn't pay anything so we decided to put it up. I would have liked to stay out and try to go faster but we can do that tomorrow."
Tyce Carlson recorded a lap at 215.538 when gusting winds made high-speed runs difficult. "It was little scary out there early today," said Carlson. "The rain last night washed all the rubber off the track. Then with the winds, I'm happy with the 215".
Jimmy Kite was another driver setting a fast time early in the day when conditions were less than perfect. "We had a plan, we were just going to shake the car down, do an installation check," said Kite. "They let me do a run and after three laps I was flat. It felt so good."
Kite acknowledged his was not trimmed out for speed. The lap at 214.592, tenth fastest on the day, surprised Kite and the team. ":We have the car loaded down with downforce so the wind didn't bother me today. I'm confident for the race now because I know if we put that setup on for the race, I won't have any problem with turbulence. Tomorrow I'll open that thing up a little more and see if we can't move up on the charts."
Practice for the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500 continues tomorrow from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Joe Leonard will sign autographs tomorrow from 2:00-3:00 p.m. and will drive a parade lap around the 2.5-mile speedway at 3:45 p.m.
- motorsport.com staff