Indy 500 opening day notebook

The only driver who finished ahead of Buddy Lazier in last year's Indianapolis 500 was Juan Montoya, who led 167 laps of the 200-lap race to score the biggest victory of his career.

Indy 500 opening day notebook

Lazier is back as the defending Indy Racing League champion and is hoping to score his second Indianapolis 500 win this year. Lazier won the 1996 Indy 500 just two months after suffering a broken back in a crash at Phoenix
International Raceway.

"We have struggled a little bit in 2001, even though we've been competitive, and we have had a podium finish," Lazier said, referring to a third-place finish at Phoenix.

"My manager and engineer called today a learning day. I think it really was. We learned some important things today, some set-up intricacies and maybe some things we've been struggling with. It was a very positive day for us. The race car felt really good on fast laps and my motor was pulling hard."

Lazier had the third-fastest lap of Sunday's opening day of practice for the 85th Indianapolis 500 with a lap at 220.221 miles per hour in a Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora.



As reported earlier this week on Autosport.com, NASCAR Winston Cup driver Tony Stewart will be announced as one of the two drivers for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing at a press conference on Monday morning. Stewart will compete in his fifth Indianapolis 500 and will attempt to compete in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina the same day.



Another driver hoping to win his second Indianapolis 500 is Eddie Cheever, the 1998 winner of the race. Cheever had the second-fastest lap on Sunday at 220.968 mph in a Dallara-Infiniti Indy 35A.

"I only ran for a couple of hours early in the afternoon, but so far, so good," Cheever said. "We're using the same Infiniti engine that we had for the test here in mid-April and the car is fast on the straightaway. It's not as good as we want in the corners. We tried some things on the car that didn't really work. The back end is moving around too much, and it was pretty windy.

"Of the three days we've run here this year, we haven't had one day with great conditions. Today, it was windy and dusty, and everyone is still just getting settled in. You try really hard to not peak too early in the first week before you qualify, and there are a lot of things we are trying to learn. We have a good game plan and today was a positive day for the team."



Al Unser Jr, who is attempting to win his third Indianapolis 500 this year, was the 13th quickest on Sunday with a lap at 216.639 mph in a G Force-Aurora.

"Today was a good opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Unser said. "We ran later in the day and did what we needed to do, which was work on getting comfortable with the car. I feel good with our direction and the team is in good spirits and working hard."



Arie Luyendyk is back at the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since he retired following the 1999 race. He spent last year's race as a color commentator for ABC Sports. Luyendyk was seventh quick on Sunday at 219.481 mph in a G Force-Aurora.

"I'm excited to be back in Indy," Luyendyk said. "Today, it took some time to get up to speed in the car because of windy conditions. I just wanted to take my time and get comfortable with the car. I do not think that it is important to be at the top of the speed charts on the first day, but it was nice not to be too far off the pace for the day.

"We ended up calling it an early day. We didn't feel like we could learn any more about the car once again because of the windy conditions."

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