Originally created 05/11/02

Kanaan, Brack join 229 club at Indy



INDIANAPOLIS -- Indy rookie Tony Kanaan sure liked this. He was the fastest driver in practice for the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan and 1999 race winner Kenny Brack - both regulars in the CART series - topped the speed chart Thursday, the fifth day of practice for the May 26 race, the cornerstone event of the rival IRL.

After a 90-minute rain delay - the fourth straight day in which the start of practice has been late - the sun came out and 33 drivers in 40 cars got on the 2 1/2 -mile oval for a total of 1,446 laps.

Kanaan's 229.503 mph was the fastest and ranks second only to the 229.808 turned in by rookie Laurent Redon on Tuesday. Brack joined the elusive 229 club with a 229.025.

"I need to thank Jimmy Vasser," Kanaan said. "That was his tow for the whole lap. The car's consistent at 227.6, and that's pretty good."

The G Force-Chevrolet the Brazilian drove Thursday is actually Mo Nunn Racing teammate Felipe Giaffone's backup.

"I need to take him out to dinner tonight and talk him into letting me keep the car," Kanaan said, laughing.

Before Thursday, Kanaan's best lap was 225.529.

"I wasn't comfortable at all until today to run in traffic," Kanaan said. "I didn't have any confidence in my car and I didn't have any confidence in myself. It's a new place for me. Every day it's getting better and more comfortable."

Brack, who missed the last two Indy races after switching to the CART series, said his fast lap was "good for the confidence of the team and for myself."

Thursday was easily the fastest day since practice began Sunday, with six drivers over 228.

Helio Castroneves, the defending Indy winner, improved his best lap to 228.738, followed by Jeff Ward at 228.571, Bruno Junqueira at 228.610 and defending IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. at 228.294.

The only other driver over 228 this week, defending pole winner Scott Sharp, got up to 227.175 in Thursday's session.

Rookie Tomas Scheckter, in his second day on track after sitting out the first three days as penalty for unsportsmanlike driving in a race in Nazareth, Pa., turned a lap at 227.599.

The new "soft" wall safety system got its third test of the week when Mark Dismore crashed hard in turn one late in the day. He was able to walk away from the wreck but was taken to Methodist Hospital for observation after being diagnosed with a concussion.

Both PJ Jones and Robby McGehee, who hit the wall earlier in the week in separate accidents, wound up with cracked vertebrae after backing into the wall.

McGehee hopes to return to the track in time to qualify for the 500. Raul Boesel, who took Jones' place, took some laps Thursday and reached 224.722.

Qualifying to fill the 33-car field is Saturday and Sunday and again May 19.