<pre> INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE DAY ...
<pre> INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE DAY #4 FAST FIVE: Driver Entrant Engine Speed 1. Scott Sharp Kelley Racing Oldsmobile 223.936 mph 2. Juan Montoya Ganassi Racing Oldsmobile 222.102 3. Jimmy Vasser Ganassi Racing Oldsmobile 221.733 4. Greg Ray Team Menard Oldsmobile 221.740 5. Stephan Gregoire Simon Racing Oldsmobile 221.397 </pre>
On the fourth day of practice for the 84th Indianapolis 500, Scott Sharp became the fourth driver to top the speed chart. After an afternoon spent dodging rain drops, Sharp ripped off a 223.936 mph lap in Kelley Racing's Delphi Automotive Systems Oldsmobile Dallara to establish himself as a contender for the Indy 500 pole.
Sharp ran the event's fastest lap in the closing minutes of "Happy Hour," that magical time when conditions are most favorable for speed. Ganassi Racing's CART champions Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser shadowed Sharp with laps of 222.102 mph and 221.773 mph respectively in their Target Oldsmobile G-Force entries, while reigning IRL champion Greg Ray was fourth on the speed chart at 221.740 in Team Menard's Conseco Oldsmobile Dallara.
"We weren't trying to go fast until the end, and then we decided it was time to see what the car had," said Sharp. "We took a little wing out, and when the lap time came up on my dash, I said, 'Wow!'"
Sharp came within 1.7 mph of the 225.643 mph track record for a naturally aspirated IRL car set last year by polewinner Arie Luyendyk with a 4.0-liter Oldsmobile engine. Engine displacement was downsized to 3.5 liters at the start of the 2000 season.
"I'm surprised that we're that quick," Sharp conceded. "When we tested here last fall while the 3.5-liter engines were first being developed, there was a big difference in speed - and a big difference in driving the car. It was easy to go flat out all the way around the track, but as the builders have developed the engines and raised the power level, now you have to work pretty hard to go flat. I drive the track very much like I drove it last year with a 4.0-liter engine. The smaller engine doesn't have as much bottom-end torque, but once the rpm gets up there, I don't notice a difference."
Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 engines prepared by Comptech Machine of Eldorado Hills, Calif., produced the three fastest speeds in the Kelley Racing and Ganassi Racing entries. "If you look at the last two years, the Comptech engines have been really strong for Kelley Racing," Sharp reported. "Those guys are busting their tails to delivery us great engines with more power."
Intermittent rain couldn't dampen the steady escalation of speed on the 2.5-mile oval. Twelve drivers practiced at over 220 mph, and 15 racers were within one second of Sharp's fast time. Thirty-six cars were on the track today, with 34 of them powered by Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 engines. A total of 1,121 laps were logged between the rain showers.
Distaff driver Sarah Fisher lapped at 220.881 mph to post the seventh fastest time in Walker Racing's Cummins Special Oldsmobile Dallara, and Lyn St. James was 13th on the chart at 219.974 mph in Dick Simon Racing's Yellow Freight System Oldsmobile G-Force.
Practice will continue through Friday, leading up to Pole Day qualifying on Saturday, May 20, and Bump Day on Sunday, May 21. The 84th running of the Indianapolis 500 will start at noon EDT on May 28 and will be televised live by ABC Sports.