IRL: Motegi: AGR Dan Wheldon Friday report

Wheldon 12th after first day of practice in Japan. Motegi, Japan (April 11, 2003) -- Dan Wheldon posted the 12th-fastest lap today at Twin Ring Motegi during the first day of practice for the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300. Wheldon piloted the ...

Wheldon 12th after first day of practice in Japan.

Motegi, Japan (April 11, 2003) -- Dan Wheldon posted the 12th-fastest lap today at Twin Ring Motegi during the first day of practice for the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300. Wheldon piloted the #27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone to a fast lap of 203.236 mph (26.9244 s) around the 1.5-mile Honda owned facility.

The 24-year-old is driving in place of Dario Franchitti, who was injured last week in an off-track incident. Wheldon was signed by Andretti Green Racing in November 2002 and was scheduled to begin his 2003 season at Indianapolis behind the wheel of the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam entry. Wheldon was already in Japan performing public relations duty when he learned he would drive in place of the injured Franchitti.

Practice took on added importance this afternoon as a rainy forecast for tomorrow's qualifying session looms. If qualifying is rained out, the grid for the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 will be set based on today's practice times.

Scott Dixon posted the fastest speed of the day at 206.996 mph (26.4353 s). Wheldon's teammate, Tony Kanaan, was second quick on the day (206.484 mph, 26.5008 s) with his Team 7-Eleven partner Michael Andretti seventh (204.863 mph, 26.7105 s). Kenny Brack was third fastest, posting a best lap of 205.571 mph (26.6185 s).

Qualifying for the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi begins tomorrow at 1 p.m. local time (Midnight EDT). Round 3 of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series will be broadcast on ABC on a tape delay basis on Sunday, April 13th at 1 p.m. ET.

Dan Wheldon , Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola
"I definitely don't have as much experience as my teammates and that is showing right now. I don't think we are where we want to be, but we are close. As the weekend continues, I'm sure we'll improve the Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola car and we'll definitely be closer to the front. Driving Dario's [Franchitti] car really isn't much different than driving my own. I actually tested this car last week, so I have a bit of familiarity with it. It was a big surprise to learn that I was driving this weekend and I have to say getting in the car this morning has been the highlight of my trip so far."

Kyle Moyer , Team Manager, Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola
"Today wasn't too bad especially when you consider Dan wasn't supposed to race this weekend. We concentrated on our race setup and only ran in qualifying trim late in the afternoon session. Dan is on a steep learning curve and I know he learned a lot during today's practice. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and give Dan more time on the track."

-AGR-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam