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Practice cut short by rain, more in forecast

5/14/2004

The weather changed Helio Castroneves' plan
Thursday in practice for the Indianapolis 500, but it didn't slow
him down.

Rain shortened the scheduled seven-hour session at Indianapolis
Motor Speedway to just under four, with more of the wet weather in
the forecast for Friday -- the last full day of practice before pole
qualifying.

"Because of the weather, today we tried to play a little bit
like it was Friday,'' said two-time Indy winner Castroneves. "We
don't know what the weather will be like Friday, so we tried a
little stuff that we were supposed to test tomorrow.''

Whatever it was his team tried, it appeared to work well when
Castroneves topped the day's speed chart with a lap of 221.156 mph.
It was the best lap for his Toyota-powered Dallara since practice
opened Sunday. The race is May 30.

With the sometimes-heavy rain washing away a lot of the tire
rubber accumulated on the track earlier in the week, speeds slowed
a bit Thursday for most of the drivers.

But things did pick up during the final hour of the day, with
cool temperatures, light winds and overcast skies making conditions
nearly perfect for speed.

The fast lap by Castroneves came with about 20 minutes left in
the session and just moments after Rahal Letterman Racing's Roger
Yasukawa posted a 221.093 and two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish,
Castroneves' Team Penske teammate, hit 220.956 in his fastest lap
of the week.

"The good news is that I'm happy with the car,'' Hornish said.
"Having said that, Pole Day often throws a curve ball with respect
to track and weather conditions. So, hopefully, we'll get a chance
to run tomorrow.''

Yasukawa also was happy.

"The track picked up grip at the end of the day,'' he said. "I
think the track will get faster as the rubber gets built back up on
the track.''

Castroneves was also fastest on Monday after running second
Sunday to IRL champion Scott Dixon.

"Unfortunately, I did have a tow,'' Castroneves said of his
fast lap. "Each time I went out, somebody came out of the pits in
front of me and I couldn't get a lap by myself. But I thought,
`Just be happy you're on top of the list.'

"And there was a significant improvement in my car. We were
pretty close to the same time today. So, even if I did get a tow,
with these weather and track conditions, that's still an
improvement.''

The practice ended abruptly about five minutes early when Scott
Sharp spun and slammed into the energy-absorbing SAFER barrier in
turn one. His car sustained heavy damage, but Sharp, a former Indy
polesitter, was not injured.

Buddy Rice was fourth fast Thursday at 220.778, followed by Tony
Kanaan at 220.733, Vitor Meira at 220.666 and rookie Kosuke
Matsuura at 220.646.

Kanaan, who drives for Andretti Green Racing, remains the
fastest this week with a lap Wednesday at 222.668.