Nemechek fastest in testing July 16; Johnson fastest overall T. Bodine, Fittipaldi unhurt after separate contacts with SAFER Barrier INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 16, 2003 - Joe Nemechek turned the fastest lap on an extra day of NASCAR Winston...
Nemechek fastest in testing July 16; Johnson fastest overall
T. Bodine, Fittipaldi unhurt after separate contacts with SAFER Barrier
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 16, 2003 - Joe Nemechek turned the fastest lap on an extra day of NASCAR Winston Cup Series testing July 16 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, circling the legendary 2.5-mile oval at 181.029 mph in the No. 25 UAW/Delphi Chevrolet.
Rusty Wallace was second fastest in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge at 180.989, while Nemechek's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson was third in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet at 180.157.
Johnson remained fastest overall among the 38 drivers that have taken part in private test sessions at IMS on either July 8-9 or 14-16, after recording a lap of 182.028 on July 15. Tony Stewart's track record, set during qualifying for the 2002 Brickyard 400, is 182.960.
Persistent thundershowers and storms washed out all but 37 minutes of practice July 15, so NASCAR granted teams another day of practice. Weather conditions today were sunny with light winds and a high temperature in the mid-80s - more to the liking of teams and similar to what drivers will encounter when they return for the 10th Brickyard 400 on Aug. 1-3.
"It's a perfect day today," Nemechek said. "It's just something you go through, you fight the weather every once in a while.
"It's been a very good test; we've learned a lot. We brought one new car (and) one car we ran at Pocono, and both were very fast. (We) just did a lot of stuff in race trim, did a few qualifying runs this morning, found a couple things, and the car drives really consistent. If we can do that when we come back, we may have a shot at pole."
The only accidents to take place during 2003 NASCAR testing at IMS occurred approximately 30 minutes apart in the morning.
At 9:40 a.m., Petty Enterprises driver Christian Fittipaldi was approaching the apex of Turn 2 when the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge veered right and made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier. Fittipaldi was unhurt, and despite the incident, he was pleased with the team's progress.
"We don't know exactly what happened," he said. "Either something broke on the car or a tire blew as I was coming through the turn. Then suddenly, the car just went straight, just washed out from underneath me, and I hit the outside wall.
"I hadn't even (considered) that I hit the SAFER Barrier. It was still pretty hard. As long as it works, if you guys say, it's safer, I'll take it. It was still pretty hard.
"Since we arrived the first day we only got better and better, today we're running race runs with 15 lap tires on it, and it wasn't bad. We're just getting more and more competitive. We learned a good amount of stuff from the first day to today."
Thirty minutes later, Todd Bodine hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1 in the No. 154 National Guard Ford.
"Blew a right front (tire)," Bodine said. "No warning, no nothing. Don't know if we ran over something, or what."
Bodine said he believes the Speedway's SAFER Barrier, the Speedway's energy- absorbing barrier system that was installed in May 2002, saved him from injury.
"Hallelujah - Tony George, thank you," Bodine said of Speedway President and CEO George. "That hit should have hurt, and I don't even have a headache. Nothing. I feel like I just climbed out from practice. Thank you, Tony George, that's all I can say."
Elliott Sadler and the Robert Yates Racing No. 38 M&M's team will test Thursday. Drivers scheduled to test next week include Jeff Burton (July 21-22) and Ryan Newman (July 22-23).
Reserved-seat Race Day tickets for the Brickyard 400 remain available. Tickets and parking can be purchased on the World Wide Web via www.imstix.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.