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Rookies Take to the Track at Indy

May 05, 1997|SHAV GLICK

Delayed a day because of rain, practice for the 81st Indianapolis 500 started slowly Sunday despite ideal cool-and-clear running conditions.

Only six cars, all driven by rookies, tested the 2 1/2-mile rectangular oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 500 will be held May 25. New Indy Racing League rules restricted the first three days of practice to first-year drivers.

Vincenzo Sospiri, a Brazilian Formula One driver who was left without a job when the Lotus team filed for bankruptcy last month; and Kenny Brack, a Swedish driver who replaced the injured Davy Jones on Rick Galles' team, both passed the four phases of rookie orientation.

Sospiri, one of five drivers on Andy Evans' Scandia team, had the day's fastest lap of 211.964 mph. The only others over 200 were seven-time national motocross champion Jeff Ward, 205.780, and Brack, 204.9.

Team Menard and Tony Stewart, last year's pole-sitter, announced that Stewart had signed a contract for IRL races through 1998, which will allow him to run both the IRL and NASCAR's Busch Grand National series for Joe Gibbs.

Gibbs signed Stewart to a stock car racing contract last week with plans to move him up to the Winston Cup in 1999.

"I'll probably be in a car six or seven days a week next year," Stewart said. "It'll be like one big road trip, between practicing with two series and racing in two schedules."

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