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The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 15

15 May 1997

Final Wrap Up

INDIANAPOLIS: There were a lot of great saves at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. High winds blew the cars around like hot dog wrappers. It didn't matter. It was time to get is some practice laps before this weekend's qualifying round.

Mark Dismore and Tyce Carlson did their work early. The two PDM racers quickly put their unqualified cars in the top ten and parked them. Mark Dismore said the team doesn't have spare engines. They needed to just go out and find the speed. They did. Dismore and Carlson both ran in the 210 mph range.

The quickest non qualified car/driver today was Blueprint Racing's Sam Schmidt. He lapped the track at 211.989 today. Schmidt planned to qualify last weekend before an engine leak sent him to the garage area.

Johnny O'Connell came out in Scott Sharp's car late in the day. He was quickly up to 207 mph in a "shakedown cruise". O'Connell was named to drive for the ailing Sharp earlier this week.

There were a total of 18 cars on the track. Rookie Claude Bourbonnaise made progress in his rookie testing.

It appears the field will be full on Saturday, with last chance efforts to make the big race being made on Sunday, or "bump day".

Some New Faces....Finally

INDIANAPOLIS: The past few days have been like the movie Groundhog's Day. Every day has been a repeat. The same cars.... the same top ten. It was beginning to look like there would not be enough car/driver combinations to fill the thirty-three starting positions. Twenty-three cars qualified this past weekend, leaving ten spots open for "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing".

The day began slow with high winds and cool temperatures. By the lunch break today, there had been more than enough unqualified cars on the track to fill the field for this year's Indianapolis 500. New names and cars debuted on the pit road all morning. The list included veterans and rookies alike.

PDM Racing has been especially busy. After having a car demolished last week in practice, the PDM racing team brought out two cars today. Tyce Carlson and Mark Dismore were on the track before lunch getting the cars up to speed. Carlson is replacing the injured John Paul Jr in the number 18 Klipsch/Tnemec/Overhead Door/Aurora. Mark Dismore has been running this morning in the backup car that was originally assigned to Carlson by PDM.

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Johnny Unser made his first appearance today in the Hemelgarn Racing/Delta Faucet/Infiniti. It was announced last week that Unser would be driving the car. The Hemelgarn team has been concentrating on the primary car of Buddy Lazier. The defending champion of the 500, Lazier has been the fastest car on the track the last two days. The Hemelgarn team is now ready to get the Infiniti powered car of Unser's up to speed for this weekend's qualifying effort.

The shortage of engines and engine parts has forced the delays. Many of the teams are running minimal laps to reduce wear and tear on their speed machines. It appears it is time now for the teams to make their moves to get some track time. There is only one more day of practice (after today) and two days of qualifications for the May 25th race.

Top speeds posted for the unqualified cars today show Tyce Carlson on top with a lap of 210.590 mph. Second fastest is his stable mate Mark Dismore at 210.389. Johnny Unser has toured at 208 mph. He is driving a car that has exempt status. Unser needs a speed of only 203 mph to make the race.

Others drivers that are not qualified, but have enough speed to make the race include Billy Boat, Billy Roe, Sam Schmidt, and Marco Grecco. Dennis Vitolo and Claude Bourbonnais are close to getting the speed they need to break into the field. Additional car and driver combinations will materialize as the curtain draws closed on qualifying for the 81st Indy 500.

Luyendyk: Portrait Of A Relaxed Master

Arie Luyendyk is cool with three "O's". His style is relaxed to say the least. After spinning and lightly tapping the wall earlier this month, Luyendyk said, "It was a bit tense out there". Arie was traveling over 200 mph when he started to spin.

In 1996 during practice, he circled the two and a half mile speedway asphalt at a speed of 239.260. His casual style showed through as soon as he returned to the pits. He commented in a monotone statement, "On the backstretch, I looked down at my speedometer and, I'm really going fast now..."

He also set the official one and four lap track records last year during qualifying (practice laps are not considered "official"). Luyendyk ran his four laps at an average speed of 236.986 mph.

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Luyendyk has always been a fast man at Indy. In 1990, he blistered the track record with a speed of 185 mph for the 500 mile journey. His competitors blistered their tires trying to catch him. He continues to hold that record.

He will hold these records for quite some time. The new rules implemented this year by the IRL have reduced speeds significantly.

This year, Luyendyk has picked up where he left off at the speedway. He has been the fastest of the day every day he practiced. He took the last couple of days off. His car is race ready. If you are in Vegas...don't expect to make lots of money by betting on the "Flying Dutchman". Luyendyk has to be the favorite.

A veteran of 12 Indianapolis 500's, Luyendyk has started from front row three times. He holds the race record, the qualifying record and the practice record. What other records are there? "Well, IRL champion would be nice" say Luyendyk. Luyendyk picked up major sponsorship at Indy when Miller Lite and Sprint came on board. This will go a long way in helping achieve the championship goal.

Early Morning Practice:

The track opened a bit late this morning. There has been an annoying spitting drizzle off and on, but the track is still dry. There have been warm up laps mainly. None of the cars have been over 200 mph.

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel


Copyright 1996– The Auto Channel.

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