INDIANAPOLIS -- Success hasn't changed Dan Wheldon's approach.
A month after winning his first Indy Racing League event,
Wheldon insists he still abides by the same, cautious philosophy.
"You've got to do what you can do," he said after wrapping up
practice Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "It's one win.
There are too many good cars out there to get excited."
The 25-year-old Wheldon has emerged as one of the most
consistent drivers on the IRL circuit since joining the series
full-time last year.
He won the series' rookie of the year award, was 11th in the
points standings and finished 13 of 16 races. He had five top-five
finishes, including a career-best third in the season finale at
But this has been Wheldon's breakthrough season.
After three races, he leads the IRL standings with 123 points.
Brazil's Tony Kanaan, Wheldon's teammate with Andretti Green Racing, is second at 117.
This year, Wheldon has started from the pole twice, finished
third in the first two races of the season -- at Homestead, Fla.,
and Phoenix -- and won from the pole at Motegi, Japan, last month.
On Sunday, Wheldon, who is from England, again was near the top.
His fastest lap, 218.007 mph, was the best during the first four
hours of practice Sunday. He was off the track when the shade
cooled the front straight, allowing four other drivers to pass him
in the final hour.
He still finished with the fifth-fastest lap of the day and
afterward appeared unfazed.
"It means nothing until Saturday," he said. "It means
something Saturday at 6 o'clock."
Wheldon was referring to the end of Pole Day, the first of three
days of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which will be run on
Making up time fast
Robby Gordon has to make up time quickly because the full-time NASCAR Nextel Cup driver will not be able
to practice here Thursday and Friday.
The Nextel Cup stops next weekend at Richmond International
Raceway and Gordon's cutoff time for making a qualifying run is
Saturday at 3 p.m. ET so he can return in time for the NASCAR
Gordon already had a hectic weekend after finishing 10th in
Saturday night's NASCAR Busch series race outside St. Louis.
Gordon used Sunday's opening day of Indy 500 practice for
minimal setup laps on his primary and backup Meijer/Coca-Cola
Dallara-Chevrolets. In just six laps, he went 215.317 miles per
hour in the primary car.
Earlier, he did 209.733 mph in 11 laps in the backup entry.
"Today's goal was to run both cars and not have any
problems,"Gordon said on Sunday. "It was a good function check day, and
that was Thomas' (team manager-enginer Thomas Knapp) plan all
along. We tried one new setup on the backup car and then went
back to what we learned in the test here a week ago."
Monday didn't go quite as smoothly for Gordon, however. Moments after completing his fastest lap of
the day, Gordon hit the wall Monday during Indy 500 practice.
He wasn't injured.
Gordon, who had just turned a lap at 218.446 mph, lost control
in the second turn, slid across the track, spun and hit the outside
wall with the left side of his car.
He was out of the car unharmed, and the Dallara was hauled back
to the garage with damage to the left side.
It was the first crash in two days of practice for the May 30
Thirty-three cars made it onto the track Sunday,
but the first on the oval had special significance.
Sarah Fisher, the league's most popular driver the last three
years, took the green flag from her mother, Reba.
"Waving that green flag for Sarah meant the world to me, making
this one of the greatest Mother's Day any mom could ask for," Reba
Fisher said. "The hardest part was holding back the tears in front
of everyone. I didn't want to see pictures of me crying up there."
It's been another difficult season for Fisher, who has struggled
to keep a full-time ride the past few years.
She missed the IRL's first three races before reaching a deal
with Kelley Racing to compete in the No. 39 car for this month's
Fisher, the only woman driver in the IRL and at 23 one of
the younger drivers on the circuit, had her best lap of the day
late in the session, turning a 215.358. She was 18th on the speed
chart, just behind teammate Scott Sharp, who had a 215.367.
But it was her speed, not her mother's presence, that made the
"We started off quite a bit different from where we had been at
the open test," she said. "This afternoon, we went back about
halfway on what we had been running at the test and it was a huge
change. We've still got some work to do."
When Fisher made it onto the track, the air
temperature was 82 degrees and the track temperature was 130
As the temperature climbed to 84 late in the afternoon, so did
the humidity, which reached 94 percent.
But unlike Sunday's mini-marathon, track officials reported no
medical-related problems from the heat. Track officials said no
fans were treated at the infield hospital.
During Saturday's 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, 32-year-old John
Washal of Fishers collapsed and died.
Sam Hornish Jr. did not drive Sunday because of an
upper respiratory infection. Hornish, a two-time IRL points champ
who drives for Roger Penske's team, was the fastest in both days of
the open test last month. ... Thirty-nine drivers passed their
physicals by the end of Sunday's practice. Forty-three cars had
passed inspection. ... The 33 cars that made it onto the track was
the most on a scheduled opening day since 1999, when 38 cars turned
Information from SportsTicker was used in this report.