Wheldon Tops Kentucky Speedway Qualifying Record During Indy Racing League "Test In The Bluegrass"
Andretti Green Racing driver Dan Wheldon topped the speed charts during the 15-car Indy Racing League IndyCar Series "Test In The Bluegrass" at Kentucky Speedway today.
Wheldon, driving the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone of injured teammate Dario Franchitti, bettered the series track qualifying record set last season by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Sarah Fisher. Wheldon's fastest lap of 221.638 mph topped the current series record of 221.390 mph by 0.248 of a second.
"I did drive for Panther (at Kentucky Speedway) before the race ("The Belterra Casino Indy 300") last year and then tested for a day here with Andretti Green Racing two or three months ago," the soon-to-be 26-year-old Wheldon said. "We just kind of carried the program on from there. Obviously, by having Tony (Kanaan) around it's been a big help.
"The track has changed a bit in the past few months. The team did a really good job in making it a smooth ride, but I still think we have a bit of work to do from that standpoint. We've been pretty quick at most places we've been to, but we haven't put it together for a full weekend and not make any mistakes."
Wheldon is the regular driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone machine and has made four of a possible six series starts this season. Of those, three have come in the No. 26 and one in the No. 27. He posted his season-best finish of seventh in the No. 27 at Twin Ring Motegi (Japan) on April 13.
Franchitti announced yesterday that he was opting for back surgery and would miss the remaining 10 races of the 2003 schedule. Despite today's performance and a strong finish in the No. 27 earlier this season, Wheldon said he expects to wheel his regular No. 26 ride in the series next stop at Richmond, Va., on June 28.
"Obviously, it's unfortunate to not have Dario in the car. He's been around a long time and he's won. I just stepped in because he wasn't able to drive this test and he's going to focus on rehab. From Richmond, we'll do every race in the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car. Sometimes we do jump around. The team is very big and that's the good thing about this place (Andretti Green Racing). If Dario's car is available and it's in the best interest of the team for me to run it, then that's what we'll do."
Series drivers ran a total of 1,968 laps during their six hours on the track. Scott Dixon (220.553 mph), Tony Kanaan (220.238 mph), Tomas Scheckter (220.186 mph) and Indy 500 Champion Gil de Ferran (219.687 mph) rounded out the top five in the session.
The series returns to Kentucky Speedway August 16-17 with the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series for "The Bull Country Radio Pole Night" and "The Belterra Casino Indy 300." The next event at Kentucky Speedway takes place July 11-12 when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series stages "The Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by The Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers."
Tickets for both weekends are on sale now. Visit http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com for complete schedule and ticket information.