Wheldon sets practice pace

Dan Wheldon shot back to the top of the timesheets in practice for the Indianapolis 500 yesterday (Thursday) when he recorded the fastest lap seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1996

Wheldon sets practice pace

The Briton's fastest lap averaged 232.202mph, the fastest anyone has gone at the circuit since the IRL introduced its new chassis and engine regulations for the 1997 season. Tora Takagi also broke the 232mph-barrier, with a best lap of 232.007mph.

But Wheldon, who used a tow from Scott Sharp to set his time, wasn't getting carried away with his time. "I got lucky," he said. "It's nothing to get excited about when you get one of these laps. My mum would kill me if she knew I was going 232.

"This is not easy to break in to. It's so competitive. If you look at how close the times are, it's unbelievable. If I can pull this off on Saturday [in qualifying] I'll be really popular."

Others who turned in fast laps under cool, overcast conditions on Thursday were the Marlboro Team Penske drivers, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. Both topped 231.5 mph. But while they were both powered by Toyota, they were in different chassis - Castroneves in a Dallara, de Ferran in a G Force.

Wheldon's teammate, Tony Kanaan, continued to impress with his ability to get up to speed quickly. In just his third day of practice since being cleared to drive after his Motegi accident, Kanaan posted the fifth fastest lap of Thursday's session.

The battle between the three engine manufacturers continued to rage with some intensity. Wheldon's Andretti Green car is powered by Honda and Takagi's car by Toyota, both Japanese manufacturers broke the 232mph barrier.

By contrast, Chevrolet continued to lag behind its Japanese automotive rivals. Jaques Lazier was the fastest Chevy on Thursday, but his 228.402 mph lap was nearly 0.65 seconds behind Wheldon's fastest lap and just the 16th-fastest lap of the day.

A.J. Foyt IV hit the wall late in the session, the only wreck of the day. Buddy Rice spun out early in the session, but didn't hit anything. Neither driver was injured.

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