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The Callahan Report: Hewitt and Kite Crash in Opening Day of Indy Practice

10 May 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel
INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Thirty-five cars made on track appearances at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the opening round of practice for the 82nd Indianapolis 500. Two of them tested the hard concrete walls surrounding the historical motorsports facility.

Jimmy Kite crashed late in the day
Jimmy Kite
Late in the day, rookie Jimmy Kite scraped the wall. Kite was uninjured in the accident. He has been cleared to drive. His car suffered only right front suspension damage.

Jack Hewitt, a popular and promising newcomer to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was driving his number 18 PDM Racing Parker Machinery G-Force Aurora through turn 4 when he went a bit too high in the corner. Hewitt lost his lost his steering in the gray area of the track known as "the marbles". Hewitt slammed the outside wall, spun 180 degrees and then backed into the inside wall in front of the pits on the main straightaway. He then slid back across the track (still backwards) and came to rest against the outside retaining wall. Hewitt immediately jumped from the car. He was checked at the infield Hanna Medical Center and released to drive.

Although Hewitt was cleared to drive, the PDM Racing team only has one car entered in the 82nd Indy 500. The car was extensively damaged. If it cannot be repaired in time for this weekend's run for the pole, the team may have to reach deep into their pockets to purchase a new racer.

Robbie Buhl
The Menard Racing Team wasted little time in posting the top speed at the track. Robbie Buhl ran a few laps before setting the top mark of the day at 219.325 mph. Tony Stewart, Buhl's teammate, was 8th fastest on the day. Stewart lapped the famous oval at 215.921 in his primary car. The Menard team is already making their presence known as the favorite(s) for the pole position this weekend. The fastest lap ran in qualifying last year was 218.659 mph.

The second quickest man at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today was veteran and defending champion Arie Luyendyk. Once again, Luyendyk and Team Menard are gearing up for a week long battle during practice. Luyendyk and the Team Menard cars battled last year for the top spot in practice. When it came to qualifying, Luyendyk won the war by sitting on the pole for the 1997 Indy 500. Luyendyk's top speed today was 219.207 mph.

The afternoon practice session was stopped at 3:30 p.m. to pay tribute to a true Indianapolis hero. Parnelli Jones toured the track in his 1963 winning Indy racer. Jones visits this track each year and talked about his fond memories of "The Brickyard" and racing in general.

"I enjoy coming here year after year. Racing is a brotherhood." Parnelli said, "I remember fighting each week on the race track with guys like Foyt and Rutherford. We were intense rivals. But, if you tried to say something bad about any one of us, you had trouble on your hands."

Top Speeds:

1. Robbie Buhl 219.325
2. Arie Luyendyk 219.207
3. Scott Sharp 219.101
4. Jimmy Kite 218.765
5. Eddie Cheever 218.066
6. Mark Dismore 217.759
7. Davey Hamilton 216.648
8. Tone Stewart 216.570
9. J.J. Yeley 216.403
10. Stephan Gregoire 216.351

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article are available for larger viewing in The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery