Indy 500 practice - day 5

The defending CART FedEx Series champion Juan Montoya was the fastest driver of the day for the first time at day five of Indy 500 practice yesterday (Wednesday)

Indy 500 practice - day 5

A typical Midwestern rain shower washed out Indianapolis 500 practice on Wednesday, giving those who made it onto the track just 33 minutes of practice. That breaks down to one minute per each of the 33 starters who will compete in the 84th Indianapolis 500 on May 28.

Montoya recorded a fast lap of 221.561 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a G Force-Oldsmobile Aurora.

"I think the experience has been really good, the Target cars are really good, but today, we had four flying laps and that was it," said the 24-year-old. "We are trying to make the car better every time we go out, but today we didn't get much time on the track."

Buddy Lazier was second quickest at 221.510 in a Dallara-Oldsmobile followed by Sharp's 220.886 mph in a Dallara-Oldsmobile, Mark Dismore's 220.395 in a Dallara-Oldsmobile and Jimmy Vasser's 219.800 in a G Force-Oldsmobile.

Scott Sharp is still the fastest driver since practice began on Saturday with a lap at 223.936 mph on Tuesday, while Robby Gordon has the week's second fastest lap at 223.120 on Monday in a Dallara/Oldsmobile.

"The cars are a bit different," Montoya said. "They are pretty simple to drive. The reaction of this car is a bit slower than the Champ Car. These cars take a little bit longer to get the speed up, but when you get it up to 223 miles per hour, it's still pretty fast.

"I'm sure it would be very exciting to be here in the CART car because we would be going 230 or even 240. It would be really fast."

Montoya said the key this week is to get the car to run fast by itself for four consecutive laps to qualify into the Indianapolis 500 field this weekend.

"You have to keep your momentum up in order to keep your speed up," Montoya said. "If you have a little blip, it will take a lap to get the speed back. A little blip will cost you 1 mile an hour."

Montoya is hoping to achieve the success of another famous driver from Colombia who raced in the Indianapolis 500 from 1984-99 - Roberto Guerrero.

"I watched him when he raced here and I used to be a big fan of his when he was racing," Montoya said. "You can learn a lot from him, but the track changes so much here.

"My teammate, Jimmy Vasser, gave me some advice and in four laps, I was up to 217, so it has been very simple."

So far, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not intimidate Montoya.

"I don't think the track is narrow, it's just the corner is sharper than what we are used to," Montoya explained. "We are used to big loops but here it's 90-degree corners so you have to use more of the road. It's harder to run side-by-side with someone.

"It won't take me long here to realize who is aggressive and who you can run against. In CART, if you put Paul Tracy on my side, we can run side-by-side for 200 laps and we won't take each other out. But there are some other guys you can't do that with. I'm sure it's the same here."

"It's not about intimidation, it's some tracks are faster than others," Montoya said. "You don't have to be first in the first corner to win the race here. It's 500 miles and you have to cruise for 400 miles then race the last 100 miles.

"I think race day will be very exciting. We will be coming from Nazareth, which is a very small place, then we will come here and see over 400,000 fans in the stands. But, we'll be fine."

Montoya expects a competitive field for the pole on Saturday and his team is hoping to make the car more consistent.

"I don't think it's a problem to stay flat out, but on the first lap on the new tires, even down the straightaway, the car seems to slide more," Montoya said. "It will be critical to keep up the speed for all four laps."

Montoya's race team - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing - is based in Indianapolis, so he is familiar with the city. But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a new experience for the defending CART champion.

Montoya already has an impressive resume with his CART championship in his rookie season. Adding an Indianapolis 500 win to that list would be even more impressive.

"It would be very good, but before you can think about that, you have to win it," Montoya said. "We are a long way from there.

"I'm sure a lot of fans are looking forward to this, but we are not coming here to prove CART is better or anything like that, it's to have some fun. It was Chip Ganassi's decision to come here and that was fine for us. It's a big event. I'm here to have fun and do the best I can out of what we have got. We're going out, making the car better and more consistent, just like we would at a CART event."

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