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Unprecedented 240 MPH Laps Possible At Indy

May 10, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The first 240 mph lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is closer than the blink of an eye.

With drivers warming up at about 230 and hovering between 235 and 238 in practice on the historic 2 1/2-mile track, that magic 240 seems almost inevitable.

``I think 240 is quite possible,″ said Arie Luyendyk, the fastest of the fast since practice opened Saturday for the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. ``All you need is an engine with 10 more horsepower and one-tenth of an inch of boost.

``Good weather would also help, so we’ll wait and see,″ added the 1990 Indy winner and only former winner entered this year.

The National Weather Service forecast for Saturday, the first of four days of time trials, called for a chance of showers in the morning and then mostly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-50s. Cool temperatures with overcast skies are perfect conditions for speed.

Luyendyk, driving a year-old Reynard-Ford, brought the speculation about the 240 lap to the surface on Thursday when he made it around the flat-ended oval in 37.851 seconds, a speed of 237.774 mph. That is the fastest unofficial lap ever run at Indy, although official records can be set only in qualifying or the race.

On Friday, he upped the ante, first turning a lap of 238.045, covering the track in 37.808 seconds, then topping that with a 37.616-second trip around the oval that translates to 239.260.

The difference between that lap and a lap at 240 is just over one-tenth of a second.

``You can’t blink that fast,″ Luyendyk said with a grin. ``But I got a little bit of a tow. I know I can do 237 by myself comfortably, but I don’t know how much more I can do without help.″

In fact, 13 other drivers have practiced above 230 this year, certainly putting the track qualifying records of 232.618 for one lap and 232.482 for a four-lap run _ set in 1992 by Roberto Guerrero _ in jeopardy when time trials begin Saturday with pole qualifying.

``With the rule changes next year, if a record is set this year, it’s probably going to stand for a long time,″ said Luyendyk, whose winning speed of 185.981 is the fastest of the 79 previous Indy 500s.

With the new Indy Racing League, founded by speedway president Tony George, now in charge at Indy, this year’s entries are all in cars at least one year old while totally re-designed chassis to house equally new 4-liter non-turbocharged engines are built for next year.

``I don’t think the first year or two we’ll run quite as fast as we’re running now, but they will be over 200 mile an hour cars, and 200 miles an hour is a good speed,″ said A.J. Foyt, a four-time Indy 500 winner and now a team owner. ``As long as you can race, that’s the big thing. People like to see a good race.″

Asked what he thinks about the idea of a 240 lap, Foyt, whose fastest qualifying speed in his record 35 consecutive Indy 500 starts (1958-1992) was 222.798, said, ``Going fast is what racing’s all about. If that’s how fast you can go and keep it out of the fence, that’s how fast you go.

``They got the tires and the downforce and whatever it takes to go that fast here now, so you’ve got to take what you can get. They pay that $100,000 (for the pole) to whoever goes the fastest.″

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