Gordon Pole Contender
May 10, 2003 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Gordon turned his top lap in the No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara in sunny, warm conditions during the last 30 minutes of practice. He became the fifth different driver to lead one of the six practice days leading up to Pole Day.
Rookie Dan Wheldon led two days, including Thursday with the top speed of the month, 232.202 in his No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara. Other daily leaders besides Wheldon and Gordon were Scott Sharp, Tora Takagi and 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack.
Qualifying for the MBNA Pole starts at noon (EDT) Saturday. Robbie Buhl is the first driver in the qualifying line – determined in a blind draw after practice Friday – in the No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara.
Gordon’s speed was the fifth fastest of the event, marking him as a strong contender for the pole and the accompanying $100,000 bonus.
“We came here to win the pole,” Gordon said. “Being quickest in practice is nice, but that’s not when it counts. We’ve been chasing a loose car all week. Today, we made some chassis adjustments and changed some of the dynamics of the car. That seemed to help settle the car down and gave the car a good balance.
“I think I’ll have a good car, both for qualifying tomorrow as well as for the race.”
Race Day is May 25. Full-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Gordon will attempt the “daily double” of racing in the Indianapolis 500 during the day and then flying to Charlotte, N.C., to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening.
2001 Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole winner Sharp was second fastest today at 38.9899, 230.829 in the No. 8T Delphi Dallara. Scott Dixon was third at 39.0094, 230.714 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.
Wheldon was fourth at 39.0170, 230.669, while two-time defending winner Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five at 39.0368, 230.552 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara.
While Castroneves will attempt to qualify in a Dallara chassis, Marlboro Team Penske owner Roger Penske announced this morning that team driver Gil de Ferran will drive a Panoz G Force chassis in qualifying.
There were 33 cars on track Friday, turning a total of 1,068 laps.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk was released in good condition from Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after crashing early during practice in the No. 20 Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force.
Luyendyk will be re-examined Saturday at the Clarian Emergency Medical Center at the track.