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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Castroneves tops Indy charts on last practice day

May 10, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 10, 2002 – 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was the leader of a stunning burst of speed during Fast Friday practice for the 86th Indianapolis 500, recording a top lap of 38.7785 seconds, 232.087 mph in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Castroneves was one of 13 drivers to exceed 230 mph today, the first laps above that barrier at the Speedway since 1996. It was the second day this week that he has led practice, as he also topped the speed charts Monday. Castroneves, who celebrated his 27th birthday today, enters Pole Day presented by Marsh qualifying Saturday as one of the favorites to win the MBNA Pole.

“We did talk about the pole and also how we want to be in the race,” Castroneves said. “It’s great when you start achieving the speeds that are competitive. But I’m still thinking it’s going to be five guys, five or six guys, that are going to be competing for pole position. I hope I’ll be one of them.”

Qualifying for the MBNA Pole starts at 11 a.m. (EST) Saturday, with practice beginning at 8 a.m. The No. 30T 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone driven by rookie George Mack will be the first car in the qualifying line.

Robbie Buhl was second in practice today at 38.8596, 231.603 in the No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold G Force/Infiniti/Firestone. Rookie Tomas Scheckter was third at 38.8601, 231.600 in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

Bruno Junqueira was fourth at 38.8725, 231.526 in the No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone. Junqueira was the first to break the 230-mph barrier today. 1998 Indy winner Eddie Cheever Jr. rounded out the top five at 38.9810, 230.882 in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone as Infiniti-powered drivers took three of the top five spots.

Other drivers faster than 230 mph were 2001 IRL Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone, reigning IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr., two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., Tony Kanaan, Raul Boesel, Gil de Ferran, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack and 1996 IRL co-champion Scott Sharp.

Fast Friday definitely lived up to its name, as only three drivers had topped 229 mph before today. The fastest lap entering today’s practice, conducted under sunny skies, was 229.808 by Laurent Redon on Tuesday.

Rookies Max Papis and Alex Barron were unhurt and cleared to drive after separate accidents this afternoon.

Papis spun in Turn 1 and made contact with the outside retaining wall and part of the SAFER barrier in the No. 53 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Barron spun in Turn 1 and made contact with the SAFER barrier with the rear of the No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

This was the busiest day of practice so far, with 36 drivers in 46 cars turning 1,692 laps.

Quotes

Results

Rank

Car

Driver

C/E/T

Time

Speed

Lap

Difference

Laps

1

3

Castroneves, Helio

D/C/F

38.7785

232.087

25

 

26

2

24

Buhl, Robbie

G/I/F

38.8596

231.603

39

+0.0811

47

3

52

Scheckter, Tomas

D/I/F

38.8601

231.600

35

+0.0816

37

4

33

Junqueira, Bruno

G/C/F

38.8725

231.526

16

+0.0940

20

5

51

Cheever Jr, Eddie

D/I/F

38.9810

230.882

34

+0.2025

37

6

21

Giaffone, Felipe

G/C/F

38.9839

230.865

14

+0.2054

22

7

4

Hornish Jr, Sam

D/C/F

39.0146

230.683

47

+0.2361

55

8

7T

Unser Jr, Al

D/C/F

39.0475

230.489

36

+0.2690

42

9

21T

Kanaan, Tony

G/C/F

39.0592

230.419

14

+0.2807

15

10

2

Boesel, Raul

D/C/F

39.1055

230.147

78

+0.3270

79

11

6

de Ferran, Gil

D/C/F

39.1148

230.092

62

+0.3363

63

12

22

Brack, Kenny

G/C/F

39.1178

230.074

20

+0.3393

25

13

8

Sharp, Scott

D/C/F

39.1263

230.024

35

+0.3478

37

14

91

Lazier, Buddy

D/C/F

39.2496

229.302

55

+0.4711

60

15

9

Ward, Jeff

G/C/F

39.2534

229.280

15

+0.4749

17

16

8T

Sharp, Scott

D/C/F

39.2772

229.141

14

+0.4987

15

17

34

Redon, Laurent

D/I/F

39.3106

228.946

8

+0.5321

27

18

31

Gordon, Robby

D/C/F

39.3158

228.916

9

+0.5373

11

19

27

Franchitti, Dario

D/C/F

39.3330

228.815

26

+0.5545

28

20

17

Kanaan, Tony

G/C/F

39.3526

228.702

19

+0.5741

20

21

20T

Hearn, Richie

D/C/F

39.3773

228.558

54

+0.5988

75

22

39

Andretti, Michael

D/C/F

39.3921

228.472

42

+0.6136

46

23

5

Luyendyk, Arie

G/C/F

39.3927

228.469

28

+0.6142

39

24

19T

Vasser, Jimmy

D/C/F

39.3990

228.432

27

+0.6205

34

25

26

Tracy, Paul

D/C/F

39.4577

228.092

82

+0.6792

92

26

11

Ray, Greg

D/C/F

39.5229

227.716

51

+0.7444

52

27

53

Papis, Max

D/I/F

39.5273

227.691

6

+0.7488

6

28

14

Dare, Airton

D/C/F

39.5385

227.626

50

+0.7600

52

29

55

Treadway, Rick

G/C/F

39.5527

227.545

11

+0.7742

35

30

23

Fisher, Sarah

G/I/F

39.6528

226.970

6

+0.8743

11

31

98

Boat, Billy

D/C/F

39.7138

226.621

63

+0.9353

64

32

32

Herbert, Johnny

D/C/F

39.7243

226.562

64

+0.9458

72

33

99

Lazzaro, Anthony

D/C/F

39.8020

226.119

68

+1.0235

81

34

30

Mack, George

G/C/F

39.8397

225.905

67

+1.0612

80

35

3T

Castroneves, Helio

D/C/F

39.8500

225.847

3

+1.0715

4

36

31T

Gordon, Robby

D/C/F

39.8875

225.635

33

+1.1090

44

37

15

Servia, Oriol

D/C/F

39.9227

225.436

46

+1.1442

72

38

39T

Andretti, Michael

D/C/F

39.9934

225.037

11

+1.2149

12

39

19

Vasser, Jimmy

D/C/F

39.9986

225.008

3

+1.2201

5

40

5T

Luyendyk, Arie

G/C/F

40.0163

224.908

24

+1.2378

26

41

6T

de Ferran, Gil

D/C/F

40.1271

224.287

5

+1.3486

6

42

37

de Vries, John

D/C/F

40.3148

223.243

67

+1.5363

75

43

52T

Scheckter, Tomas

D/I/F

40.3853

222.853

8

+1.6068

10

44

44

Barron, Alex

D/C/F

40.4758

222.355

5

+1.6973

5

45

52T

Papis, Max

D/I/F

41.8181

215.218

5

+3.0396

6

46

14T

Dare, Airton

D/C/F

43.9069

204.979

2

+5.1284

3

47

12T

Hattori, Shigeaki

D/I/F

63.4147

141.923

2

+24.6362

2

Quotes

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “A day like today is perfect for driving. The temperature, the amount of rubber on track, and the lack of wind all make for perfect conditions. It’s a lot of fun to drive. You can really hang it out. Three of the four corners are a walk in the park. One of them (Turn 1), you’re just hanging on. There is only so much advice you can offer a rookie at the Indianapolis 500. The most important thing now is that we have so much data that the drivers can analyze. They can really look carefully at what other drivers are doing on track. We are sharing all of that material. I think both of our rookie drivers are doing a good job. They are complete opposites. Max is very methodical in his approach. Tomas drives a lot more on instinct, and he is at a different point in his career. I think if they both have good, clean runs, they will qualify very well. I am sorry that the team created a problem for Max.

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): “My day was very good. Today the conditions improved. The Red Bull Cheever Racing Infiniti is good. We are still saving a little bit for qualifying tomorrow. I did a four-lap run where I think most of them were over 231 (mph). Maybe one of those laps was with a tow. I think if you can get one lap flat out, and the car is good, then you can do four. It’s a little bit different than what I am used to because it is not just a one-off. You have to keep your concentration for four laps.” (What is your prediction for pole speed?) “It depends on the weather. If it rains tonight, it can be back down to 228s (mph), 229s (mph). If it stays like this, it will be the high 230s (mph) or low 231s (mph).”

RICHIE HEARN (No. 20 Grill 2 Go Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Car Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone): “I couldn’t ask for anything better in practice. I ran 75 laps. I did 228.3 mph by myself, truly by myself. I really couldn’t be any happier. It’s been an awesome day weather-wise. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time. I haven’t had a good car here since 1996. When you have a good car, this place is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to putting it in the show tomorrow and getting ready for the race.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “The car's not perfect. We're still sorting it out. I think having more rubber on the track is making a difference in the times everyone is running today. Everybody has got their qualifying engines in, and everybody is trying to make a big move. Right now, the Team Green 7-Eleven car is still a little loose. It has a little understeer, and we are trying to get it neutral. I have a slight push in Turn 1, and the car pushes in the other corners as well. When we try and make a change to get rid of the push, the car gets nervous all the way around.”

AIRTON DARE (No. 14 Harrah’s/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We made improvements on the car, and the motor we have in it is just average, but we were able to fix the problems the car had. We’ll put the qualifying motor in tonight, and we still have downforce that we can trim out tomorrow. We have a solid car that can run 227 (mph) in any condition.”

GREG RAY (No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing/Harrah’s Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We picked a basic setup to fine-tune and made improvements on it today. We were able to run three, 227-mph laps without a problem, so the setup is where we want it and with the better motors in for tomorrow, we should run in the 229s.”

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “I think that we could have challenged for the fast time of the day, but we ended very early. Team Target did a great job today on improving the balance of the car. We have a very good car for qualifying tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens. I was the first car over 231 mph today, and I think that we’ll be good tomorrow. Good enough for the pole, I don’t know. It all depends on the weather and when we decide to make our run.”

JEFF WARD (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “The car is pretty good. We ended early, like the other guys on the team did, and I think we’re as ready as we’re going to be. It’s going to be a real competitive day tomorrow, and it will be exciting for both the drivers and the fans. Team Target has made some huge gains over the week, and most of that is attributed to the teamwork of all three teams. We have shared information across the three teams, and it has made us all better.”

KENNY BRACK (No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We’re finally getting the car where it needs to be. The team has worked to make the Target car better each day, and the results show it. It would be great to be on the pole, but we’re just shooting for a good starting position in the race. If we can turn some laps around what we did today, we’ll be in good shape. I’m excited to get qualifying over with so that we can start to focus on why we’re all here: the race.”

JERET SCHROEDER (No. 10 Cahill Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “The plan right now is to simply shake the car down for Larry Cahill. Robby McGehee got hurt earlier in the week, and he’s a good friend. We’ve raced together for years, and I really don’t have a problem helping them out, so (I’ll) shake the car down and if he can get cleared, the car will be ready for him to jump back in when he’s ready to get back on track.”

RAUL BOESEL (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): (Do you feel confident about your MBNA Pole chances tomorrow?): “Yes. We still have things to do in the car. I feel more comfortable. The speed is starting to come. I’ve started to learn about the team and vice-versa. I feel pretty good right now.” (What is your MBNA Pole speed prediction?): “The way they’re doing right now, they’ll probably do that – 231 (mph), 232 (mph), to my surprise and everyone else, I guess. We’ve done today, 230 (mph), it will be different tomorrow. The weather conditions are perfect right now. So I think it will be around the 231s (mph).”

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “I feel a little more comfortable. Like I said, we’ve just been trying to take it easy and make sure that we take all the right steps and head in the right direction and not have any mistakes. We’re just pretty happy with how things went today, but we know we’re going to have to be a little bit faster.” (MBNA Pole speed prediction): “If we get out. It depends. If it rains all morning, it will probably be back down into the 229s (mph) or 230 (mph), but it all depends on weather.”

AL UNSER JR. (No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We at Kelley Racing are ready for qualifying. Everything’s gone good so far. We had a beautiful day of running. The whole team’s working together really well. You know, I’m very, very happy to be running as quick as we are, and I’m extremely happy for Corteco and Bryant and all of my sponsors. The team’s ready for qualifying tomorrow.” (MBNA Pole speed prediction): “We’ve seen a couple boys out there running by themselves, Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr., in the 230 (mph) area, so weather permitting, it looks like that’s going to be the pole.”

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Thankfully we had a good, clean day today. We improved a lot since yesterday. The Marlboro Team Penske car is handling better, and we were able to find some speed. I think we're ready for qualifying tomorrow. It's difficult to judge how fast everybody will go by themselves, but hopefully we'll be able to qualify in the top 10."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/ Infiniti/Firestone): "Sure, we want to be on the front row, no two ways about it, but at the same time, we don't want to lose sight of everything. This is a new car, and we've been very comfortable with it, realizing you can never afford to be overconfident here. That's part of the fun of this place: the weather, the games, and the race for the pole."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 39 Motorola/Archipelago Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Today was actually a pretty good day. I tried to stay out of the tow so we could see where we were on our own, and I think we're in good shape for qualifying. Based on what we saw today, I think we'll qualify somewhere in the top half of the field. We really didn't make any drastic changes today, we just continued to make small changes and get the car up to speed. We aren't making a run for the pole or anything. We just want to be comfortably in the race."

PAUL TRACY (No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We turned our fastest lap of the month today, and Team Green 7-Eleven is making progress on the car. We still aren't where we want to be, but we are seeing improvements. The car still has understeer, and when we try to correct that, the car gets nervous. At times the car has been balanced, but we haven't had the speed. We have a new engine for tomorrow, and we'll see what happens. Obviously, our goal is to qualify quick enough to make the race on the first day, so we don't have any drama on Bump Day."

GEORGE MACK (No. 30 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): “Pretty confident. The car ran well today, but unfortunately, I haven’t had all the week. I only had two days of practice. Things are looking up. I made some major gains today. We are going to put in another motor tomorrow and see if we can run a 227 (mph), and that should get me in.” (MBNA Pole speed prediction): “Somewhere around 230 (mph). It’s a four-lap average, so it could be a 229 (mph) or 230 (mph) or pretty close.”

JIMMY VASSER (No. 19 Miller Lite/Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/ Chevrolet/ Firestone): “We got back to where we wanted to be with the car setup. Unfortunately, we lost some track time today with a couple of problems, but I’m happy with the car now. We might be leaving a little on the table in relation to squeezing the most speed out of the car. I don’t think we’re in a position to go for the pole, but we can get the car in the race solid this weekend. We have a very good, comfortable race car, and I like our chances in the race with this Miller Lite car. The time sheet is a little misleading with all of the drafts, and I didn’t try to get one today. I know we could have gone faster had I tried for a tow. We stopped about a half hour earlier today, too. The conditions were very good today, and the track got better later, which always happens. Our goal is to get the car in the race and then continue our work for the race.”

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "We had a good week of practice. We learned a little bit more everyday, and the Coors Light car progressed. We hope to run our fastest laps of the month tomorrow. In all the years I have been at the Speedway, I love to hear suggestions from those who have been here longer. There is so much to learn at Indy, and the track is so information-intensive that we try to gather as much information throughout the week and apply it to our qualifying and race setups. I don't really have any predictions for Pole Day, but I would imagine that the pole will be set around 230 mph. As far as the Coors Light car, I will be really happy with a strong run that puts us safely in the field."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “The first lap the 231 (mph) was definitely by me. It’s looking close for everyone, not only me, but everybody is looking very close. It’s going to be exciting tomorrow.” (Do you believe Bruno Junquiera was on the conservative side?): “I do believe. I do believe because right now we’re in the same situation. We don’t want to take a chance and test, especially when you have a lot of cars. Tomorrow’s going to be even harder because we have only, I believe, 30 minutes before qualifying. I don’t know. It’s much better, to be honest, much better than last year. Last year, we were concerned to make the race, and right now we’re really getting up to speed. As long as we finish well, I’ll be happy.” (Take us through the qualifying experience): “It’s tough. I imagine it would be like ice skating. You know, when you hear the score of the other competitor. You’re like, ‘Oh boy. Now I have to go ahead and try to go fast.’ It’s tough. It’s a very ke a chance to be on the second day of qualifying.” (If you win, are you planning any variations of your fence climb this year?): “No. Still the same tradition of climbing the fence. I just hope this time Roger (Penske) will go there and climb the fence with me. He said last year, I remember coming back from Japan and he said, ‘If you win that race, I will climb the fence with you’, so he’ll probably have to go twice as high as me.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 17 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/ Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm very satisfied with my entire day today. Our goal was not to leave here with the fastest lap of the day. We want that tomorrow. My primary car did everything I asked it to do. It's as close to perfect as you can get. We were out there on old tires, and I was consistently in the mid-228s (mph) during the hottest part of the day. And then we got the back-up car set up well, too. Felipe had some problems in the morning, but it was good to see the crew did an excellent job getting his car ready for a final run this afternoon. So we're in pretty good shape for tomorrow. This will be my first time doing the Pole Day routine. I don't know how much experience counts for on Pole Day because I don't know what to expect, but I know I'm in the capable hands of people who have been here a lot and really know the ropes. We're definitely going for the pole tomorrow."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/ Chevrolet/Firestone): "I feel much better about things after a kind of rough two days. We had some problems yesterday, and we just never really got going like we wanted to. Today I had a problem early on, and then we lost almost the entire afternoon working on the car. But the guys did an excellent job, and it really helped a lot having a teammate because we did everything to my car that they did with Tony’s (Kanaan) car, and I was able to go fast right away, once we got out on track this afternoon. I'll be OK tomorrow. A lot will depend on the weather. But Morris drew a great number for me, so it'll be good to be able to do my qualifying run early on because they say it's going to rain later in the afternoon."

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Standing Starts are they right for CART

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