The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 6
6 May 1997Indy practice is in full swing. The television cameras outnumber race cars two to one up and down the pit lane. Drivers are busy balancing their driving and marketing skills. They happily provide interviews and sign autographs in between their 200 mph bursts of speed. The typical Indy crowd has arrived. The business suits, the housewives, and the common laborer are all here to enjoy conversation, sun, and speed. Even some of the local short track drivers have arrived with hopes of landing a ride in the world biggest motorsports event. Yes, this is Indy.... and it is the place to be in May.
A year ago, Arie Luyendyk was the fastest man at Indy. It appears that he is planning to continue that tradition. Luyendyk reeled off a quick lap of 216.455 just before the 5 o'clock hour arrived. The expected yellow light for debris came out just as Arie completed his hot lap... setting up for the final hour of practice known as "happy hour". The shadows slowly gobbled up the main straightaway cooling the track, and the lap times began to drop. By the end of the day, six of the top ten speeds came after 5:20 PM.
At 5:25 PM, Arie blazed a lap at 218.707. These laps topped the mark set by Tony Stewart earlier in the day. Luyendyk, Tony Stewart, and Robby Gordon sit atop the speed chart. Stewart and Gordon had the top practice speeds during tires tests in April.
The track opened to the veteran drivers on schedule at 11:30 AM. The safety patrol was busy blowing whistles the rest of the day as a steady steam of cars and equipment was moved between gasoline alley and the pits. By days end, a total of 26 cars had made appearances on the track. This is a large number considering last night it was reported that only 34 of the 64 cars entered were physically at the track. More cars arrived at the track today, but they are not "race ready".
Jeff Ward was the first driver to test the concrete at Indy as rookie orientation was winding down. Ward was not at full speed while going into turn 3, as a puff of smoke was visible from the back of the car. The car snapped loose entering the turn. Ward did a full spin and then tagged the wall with the right rear of the First Plus/Team Cheever machine. The rookie driver from San Juan Capistrano, CA was uninjured in the incident. He returned to the track in the afternoon using his back up car.
The track will re-open at 11:30 AM Wednesday. There is a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.
1. Arie Luyendyk, (218.707)
2. Robby Gordon, (215.569)
3. Tony Stewart, (214.337)
4. Buddy Lazier, (214.128)
5. Scott Sharp, (214.041)
6. Robbie Buhl, (213.843)
7. Tony Stewart (2T) (213.412)
8. John Paul Jr., (212.555)
9. Buzz Calkins, (212.339)
10. Scott Goodyear, (211.282)
Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel