Record times are getting lapped in hurry, as Indy fever mounts

May 05, 1992|By Charley Hallman | Charley Hallman,Knight-Ridder

INDIANAPOLIS -- How many different ways can you say stunned? Or surprised? Or startled?

First Roberto Guerrero, then Jim Crawford, then Michael Andretti and finally Crawford again upped the speed ante at the old brickyard yesterday, and when the day was done, the lap record was up to 233.443 mph.

Crawford's green-and-white Lola-Buick race car toured the 2 1/2 -mile Indianapolis speed palace on 16th Street in 38.555 seconds, and this happened five days before the first day of qualifications for the 76th edition of the Indy 500.

The speed jump was remarkable.

Until this month, no one had done better than a lap of 228.530 mph, achieved by Al Unser Jr. two years ago.

Last year's speeds were considerably slower. Gary Bettenhausen was the fastest race qualifier, at 224.468 mph.

Through yesterday, 10 drivers have exceeded Bettenhausen's mark. Crawford, his teammate Guerrero; Michael, Mario and John Andretti; Bettenhausen and his teammate Nelson Piquet; Scott Brayton, Rick Mears and Stan Fox of Janesville, Wis.

And three of them -- Guerrero, Michael Andretti and Crawford -- have broken through the 230-mph barrier.

"The car got around, so maybe there's more," Crawford said after making his record run just seven minutes before the speedway closed at 6 p.m. "But you have to remember, today, we had nearly ideal weather conditions. It was cool, and there was almost no wind."

The lap "was pretty simple," Crawford said. "I was trying to be careful, and that's what makes it even more enjoyable."

There's no question that Crawford has an advantage at Indianapolis. The Scotsman has driven 10,000 to 15,000 miles in testing the past five years, helping to engineer the stock-block Buick Indy V6 power plant.

"I've learned an awful lot about the place," he said. "But this car is great. It's a tribute to the designers at Lola and at Buick that it runs as well as it does."

Guerrero said: "It's pretty sad when you go 230 mph and you're 3 miles an hour off the pace, but Jim's my teammate, and he got to try some things late in the day we couldn't do on my car because we were parked for the day."

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