Sunday, May 25, 2003

Drivers warned to keep start safe


Indy notebook

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Brian Barnhart looked over his right shoulder and spoke to Indy 500 polesitter Helio Castroneves, yet his plea for safety was for all of the drivers.

"Helio, I want you to use the pace car for exactly what it is, setting the pace," the IRL's director of operations said at a public drivers' meeting Saturday.

Castroneves and 31 of the other 32 drivers were on a bleacher behind Barnhart for the 40-minute meeting along the main straightaway.

The only driver missing was Robby Gordon, who was in Concord, N.C., to practice for tonight's NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.

Barnhart outlined the schedule for the 500 and reminded the drivers of the 100-to-110 mph speed limit as they come through the third and fourth turns toward the green-flag start. He warned the drivers not to crowd as they jockey for position.

Barnhart also warned the drivers against getting too anxious.

"In the 86-year history of this event, I've never heard a driver say, 'I won that race because of a great move or a great pass I made in the first turn of the first lap,' " he said. "Use your head, be patient, make good decisions."

SPARKPLUGS

Michael Andretti, whose sponsors include Jim Beam Brands, donated $10,000 to Butler University for its new Alcohol 101 Plus program. ... Lacey Minchew, Miss Teen America, was a guest of driver Jimmy Kite for the 500 Festival Parade on Saturday. Kite lives in the south Atlanta suburb of Stockbridge, Ga., while Minchew lives in Marietta, north of Atlanta. ... Comedian Dennis Miller sat next to former car owner and STP president Andy Granatelli at the meeting. ... Astronaut David Wolf , who has made three trips aboard the space shuttle, spoke at the meeting. "By the way," he noted, "I turned my last lap a shade under 18,000 (mph). But these guys are a lot closer to the ground, so it must feel a lot faster."

Track tidbits

Facts and figures of the 87th Indianapolis 500 race today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

DISTANCE - 500 miles; 200 laps around the asphalt-on-brick Indianapolis Motor Speedway track, a 2 1/2-mile rectangular oval.

SANCTIONING BODY - Indy Racing League; also open to CART, USAC, NASCAR, SCCA, Formula One and other drivers through

international FIA listing.

RACE CARS - Open-cockpit, open-wheel and single-seat, with 3.5-liter, 670-horsepower normally aspirated V8 engines.

PACE CAR - Chevrolet SSR, driven by Herb Fishel, executive director of GM

Racing.

START - Noon EDT from a flying start, following warmup, parade and pace laps.

FINISH - Standings are unofficial until posted by the IRL.

POLE POSITION - Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Toyota, 231.725 mph. Will start first, the inside of the front row.

SLOWEST QUALIFIER - Airton Dare,

G Force-Toyota, 223.609 mph. Will start 33rd, the outside of the 11th row.

FASTEST ROOKIE - Scott Dixon,

G Force-Toyota, 230.099 mph. Will start fourth, the inside of the second row.

SLOWEST ROOKIE - A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Toyota, 224.177. Will start 23rd, the middle of the eighth row.

DEFENDING CHAMPION - Castroneves, who averaged 166.499 mph to win his second straight race at Indy. No one has ever won three in a row.

FORMER WINNERS IN RACE (4) - Al Unser Jr. (1992, 1994), Buddy Lazier (1996), Kenny Brack (1999), Castroneves (2001, 2002).

ROOKIES IN RACE (9) - Dixon, Foyt, Dan Wheldon, Tora Takagi, Tony Renna, Roger Yasukawa, Shinji Nakano, Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira.

YOUNGEST IN RACE - Foyt, turns 19 on race day (Born May 25, 1984).

OLDEST IN RACE - Al Unser Jr., 41 (Born April 19, 1962).

FIELD AVERAGE IN QUALIFICATIONS - 227.125 mph (Record 228.648 mph, 2002).

QUALIFICATION RECORD - 236.986 mph, Arie

Luyendyk, 1996.

RACE RECORD - 185.981 mph, Arie Luyendyk, 1990.

PURSE - Depends on attendance and accessory awards; 2002 payoff was a record $10,028,580, of which winner Castroneves received a record $1,606,215 for Team Penske. The former records were a $9,615,325 purse in 2001 and $1,568,150 to winner Luyendyk in 1997.

CROWD - Estimated at about 400,000. Speedway never discloses attendance but admits to at least 275,000 reserved seats in permanent stands and room for 100,000 or more in the infield.

TV - Televised live by ABC (Ch. 9, 2), with Bob Jenkins, host; Paul Page, anchor announcer and play-by-play; former driver Scott Goodyear, analyst; Jack Arute, Gary Gerould, Jerry Punch and Vince Welch, pit reporters.

MORTALITY - There have been 66 deaths at the speedway, including pre-500 races of 1909-10. Last death was May 17, 1996, when pole-winner Scott Brayton was killed in a crash during practice.

THE TROPHY - Sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy, which carries a bas-relief bust of each winner; 92 pounds; 4 feet, 4 inches tall; insured for $1 million.

By the numbers

11

Rows that have at least one driver with an IRL victory

20

American drivers in today's race

6

Brazilian drivers in today's race

3

Japanese drivers in today's race

$85

Cost of most expensive ticket

$35

Cost of cheapest ticket

6:42:08

Time it took for winner Ray Harroun to complete 500 miles in the first race in 1911

3:00:10.8714

Time it took for winner Helio Castroneves to complete 500 miles in last year's race

8

Times in 86 races the winner has started from spot 20 or higher

1906

Year Indianapolis Motor Speedway was founded by Carl Fisher




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