After the final dress rehearsal before the biggest show in auto racing, everyone seemed to know his lines.
All 33 drivers in the Indy 500 took part in the final practice Thursday, and most left pleased and ready for Sunday's start. Some even left early. "The car is sweet," said Daytona Beach's Lyn St. James, who parked her Lola-Ford Cosworth just 15 minutes into the session. "We're ready to go."
Veteran Mario Andretti, who will be driving in his final Indy 500, turned the fastest lap of the session at 223.708 mph, followed by Scott Brayton (222.905 mph), Emerson Fittipaldi (222.872 mph) and Nigel Mansell (222.552 mph). No driver approached Al Unser Jr.'s pole-winning speed of 228.011. All were saving their cars for the race.
Thursday was a mostly cool and overcast day. The weather Sunday is expected to be warmer with more sunshine.
After changing their minds again and again, Kenny Bernstein's team will put driver Scott Goodyear in the No.
40 Lola-Ford that will start at the back of the field. Goodyear had been the second alternate, and teammate Davey Jones was scheduled to start the race. But Tuesday, Jones replaced Goodyear. Then, after no one crashed Thursday, the team decided to switch back and put Goodyear in the field.
Mansell is treated like royalty in his homeland of England. Well, most of the time. After St. James qualified ahead of Mansell, one British tabloid reportedly ran a headline that read: Mansell Beaten By A Girl!
Quick, fast and in a hurry
Rookie Jacques Villeneuve's team won the pit crew competition. Villeneuve's squad, led by crew chief Kyle Moyer, narrowly beat John Paul Jr.'s outfit. For winning, the Indianapolis-based team collected $25,000. In the final round, Villeneuve's team took just 12.867 seconds to change four tires and do a simulated refueling. Paul's squad clocked in at 13.599 for the same stop.
If you ask Fittipaldi, this might be the best Indy 500 yet. The veteran said this year's field could produce the closest racing to date. "I think this is going to be the most competitive Indy 500 ever," he said. "There are about eight or nine guys who can win."
_ DARRELL FRY