IRL: Indy500: Practice Day Three Report

by staff Indianapolis, IN (May 15, 2000) - Speeds took a huge jump from yesterday as practice continued for the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. While Eddie Cheever and Al Unser Jr were the only ...

by staff

Indianapolis, IN (May 15, 2000) - Speeds took a huge jump from yesterday as practice continued for the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. While Eddie Cheever and Al Unser Jr were the only drivers to attain speeds of 220 mph yesterday, the fourth day of practice saw 13 drivers run over 220 mph mark.

Robby Gordon topped the speed charts today with a lap of 223.120 mph, the fastest lap turned at the Speedway this year. Gordon ran 34 laps in the No. 32 car, his fastest lap coming just before he parked the car for the day.

Gordon, who will do double duty on race weekend, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the 600 mile NASCAR race later that evening in Charlotte, made his first attempt at speed today. Yesterday, Gordon ran three laps before quitting for the day. Today he ran a total of 84 laps, splitting his time between the No. 32 car and Greg Ray's No. 1T backup car.

"I did quite a few laps today," said Gordon. "I don't think we ran the most laps by any means. Tom Knapp (Menard's team manager) has a very defined schedule that he wants to follow here. Greg (Ray) is to work on qualifying setup the first two days, and I'm to work on race setup."

"Tonight, the speed I have to give that credit to Greg."

While driving Ray's No 1 car, Gordon managed to turn in a lap at 217.770, fast enough to place 25th on the speed charts.

Ray's best lap, good enough to place third on today's speed chart, was set early in the afternoon in the same car Gordon used bump the top speed of the day to 223. Gordon recorded his lap three minutes before practice ended for the day. Ray best lap in the No. 32 car, set at 2:35 p.m., was recorded at an average speed of 221.735, two tenths of a second slower than Gordon.

Al Unser Jr., who set the top speed on opening day, continued to run quick, setting second fast lap of the day. "Things are going pretty well right now, and we are having a good time out there," said the two-time Indy 500 winner. "It is starting to get competitive, and the week has only begun. I think that qualifying is going to be one of the best shows yet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We are right there with everyone at the moment, but we are still going with our game plan of making sure that we get into the show."

Eddie Cheever, fastest yesterday at 220.881 mph, was fourth fastest today with a lap at 221.506 mph. "I don't think anyone out there is trying to get top time," Cheever said, "we're just trying to find out what the cars will do."

"It's very early still. It's only Monday, and the fun and games start on Saturday."

With the changing track conditions, Cheever thought he missed a little bit on his setup "We didn't quite get the balance right at the end, but we think we've found something that should give us speed tomorrow. We did a bunch of laps above 221 mph by ourselves so it's a good indication of what we can do in qualifying. If I can repeat that in qualifying I'll be very happy, but it's not quite as fast as we can go. We still have a little more work to do."

Scott Harrington rounded out the top five today, turning in a lap at 221.397 mph. "The conditions are good," said Harrington who has placed no worse than sixth after three days of practice at the Speedway. "We've made changes every day, and it's starting to pay off. We are picking up every session."

Jason Leffler was the fastest rookie of the day, turning in the ninth fastest lap of day at a speed of 220.448 mph. "Things went pretty good today," said Leffler, who competes full time in the NASCAR Grand National Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. "We made some changes form yesterday and things went pretty well. I feel comfortable in the car, but you never want to feel too comfortable here, as others have told me, because it can reach up and bite you."

Chip Ganassi teammates, Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya made their first appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since their return from racing at Motegi, Japan. Both drivers shook down their primary and backup cars with Vasser topping the pair with his lap of 220.146 mph in his primary car.

"We just shook the cars down," said team owner Chip Ganassi. "They've all got new engines, so we wanted to see how they work. The crew isn't here yet. They get in tomorrow, so we'll hit it hard tomorrow."

Notes: Tyce Carlson was replaced at the Hubbard-Immke Racing by Hidesi Matsuda after Carlson suffered a concussion and ankle injury in practice yesterday. Carlson was not cleared to drive through Sunday. In the press conference announcing Carlson's replacement, team owner Jim Immke announced his contract to drive for the team had been extended by three years.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jason Leffler , Robby Gordon , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Al Unser Sr. , Tyce Carlson , Scott Harrington , Chip Ganassi