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Patrick gains more confidence from fast run

5/27/2005

INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick set the pace on Carburetion Day, and Buddy Lazier's hopes of winning his second Indianapolis 500 (ABC coverage, noon ET) suffered a setback.

Patrick ran a 225.597-mph lap in the Pioneer/Argent Panoz-Honda to
claim fast time of the day honors, and Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and
Sam Hornish Jr. also topped the 225-mph mark.

Carb Day practice being cut in half from previous years to only one hour was not a factor, as no driver ran more than 28 laps in the final tuneup
for Sunday's 200-lap race.

"We didn't want to put more than 15 or 20 laps on the engine before
race day," Patrick said. "We weren't trying to be fastest, but it's
always good for confidence."

Lazier suffered the day's only mishap less than 10 minutes into the
day's action when he drifted wide exiting Turn 4 and hit the SAFER wall, causing moderate right-side damage to the No. 95 Jiffy Lube Dallara-Chevrolet out of the Panther Racing stable. The team expects to make repairs in time for the race so Lazier doesn't have to start from the tail end of the grid in a backup car.

"I heard a click and a big snap, and it just took off to the wall,"
Lazier lamented.

Meanwhile, Patrick's run through May continued without any glitches. She said by getting strong results on the track, she can keep possible detractors at bay.

"I was told, if I did well, this kind of thing would happen," she said. "But to be top fold of USA Today twice? I wasn't expecting that."

Just last month, Patrick also wasn't expecting to come to Indy and become a legitimate threat to win as a rookie.

But this week, she's changed her tune: She does expect to win on Sunday. Patrick admits she doesn't have as much experience as most of her rivals, but she has a team capable of winning and her belief in herself also is rock solid.

"Do I think a rookie can do it? Oh yeah," she said.

One driver who wouldn't mind seeing Patrick win is Tomas Scheckter. If he can't win himself, he's going to be rooting for Patrick.

"She's a great girl," Scheckter said. "I'd like as well to [see her win], it would piss off a lot of the boys here."

Carnegie plans to call race
Tom Carnegie's streak won't end.

Carnegie, the legendary public address announcer for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, plans to be back in the booth and calling race action for the 60th straight year in this Sunday's Indy 500.

Carnegie, 85, was released from Methodist Hospital on Thursday, a day after being admitted because he felt ill during an on-stage interview that was part of Community Day activities at the track.

"I'm feeling fine," Carnegie said. "Everything is fine. They believe it was dehydration. The doctors did a lot of tests, and there is no problem with my heart."

Carnegie's voice is known worldwide, having called every Indy 500 since 1946. His notable phrases include, "Heeee's on it!" when a driver begins a qualification try, and "It's a new ... track ... record!"

While Carnegie was missed during Friday's Carburetion Day activities, he still had a presence at the track as fans competed in an event dubbed the "Tom Carnegie sound-alike competition."

The winner was Stephen Gray of Brownsburg, Ind., who had plenty of practice belting out Carnegie phrases while growing up just 10 miles from Indy Motor Speedeway.

"Having heard Tom Carnegie all my life, it's hard to believe that he's been doing the race for 60 years now," Gray said. "He's someone that all of my family members and friends have tried to imitate and just have fun with all of the times that we're at the track."

No orange juice, please
When Emerson Fittipaldi shunned the traditional winner's milk in favor of orange juice after his 1993 Indy 500 triumph, the Brazilian driver angered many fans.

Emmo was a citrus plantation owner at the time and was trying to help business, but the stunt blew up on him.

Tony Kanaan follows Fittipaldi in a long line of successful Brazilian race car drivers that includes Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran and Rubens Barrichello.

But while Kanaan grew up admiring Fittipaldi and hoping to emulate him on the track, he said he doesn't plan to follow Emmo's lead should he reach the Winner's Circle on Sunday.

"It's got to be milk, it's a tradition," Kanaan said. "I might put it in a Big Gulp cup and put some Hershey's chocolate on top, but it's going to be milk."

Rulers of the pits
Roger Penske knows a little something about Indy, presiding over 13 Indy 500 winning efforts.

And the owner of the Marlboro Team Penske knows one reason for his success is fast pit stops.

Sam Hornish's Penske crew won Friday's Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge, beating out Bryan Herta's Andretti Green Racing crew in the final round.

"We have worked on this," Penske said. "We have worked on it at home. We've spent a lot of time this week, and our guys are practicing. We have pit stop practice every week back at the shop, and I think it pays off.

"It is similar to what we are doing down in NASCAR. Conditioning makes a difference. Timing is everything. Sam did a terrific job bringing it in right on the marks."

Rocking Indy
The Black Crowes entertained fans with a Carb Day concert, but they weren't the only rockers at the track.

Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, has been enjoying the scene at the Speedway this week. On Thursday, Bennington was given a ride on the track in the IndyCar Series two-seater car.

He came away impressed.

"Speed," he said. "Lots of speed. Lots of louid noises. Big crowds. The Black Crowes are going to be awesome. I will be here for race day.

"[Thursday], I got to ride in the two-seater. I did a couple of laps 175 to 180 miles per hour. I started going to sleep it was so relaxing. I think I might sponsor my own team."

Justin Hagey is motorsports editor for ESPN.com. John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.