Indy 500: Series Rookie Orientation Day report

FOUR ROOKIES PASS INDIANAPOLIS 500 ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, May 5, 2009) - Four rookies passed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program as preparations began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2009 ...

FOUR ROOKIES PASS INDIANAPOLIS 500 ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM

INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, May 5, 2009) - Four rookies passed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program as preparations began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. The track was open for six rookies to participate in ROP. Three veterans were allowed to complete "refresher" laps.

Mike Conway, Robert Doornbos, Raphael Matos and Alex Tagliani completed all four phases of ROP, demonstrating consistent driving through four speed ranges beginning at 200 mph and increasing in 5 mph increments.

Paul Tracy, a veteran of five Indianapolis 500s who made his last start in 2002, turned the fastest lap of the day at 40.3426 seconds, 223.089 mph around the historic 2.5-mile oval. Thirteen-time starter Scott Sharp had the second-fastest lap at 221.878 mph.

Rookie Nelson Philippe completed the first three phases of ROP, while Stanton Barrett completed two. An additional ROP session is scheduled for Wednesday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. before the track opens for all drivers.

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Conquest Racing unveiled the paint scheme on the No. 34 entry that will be driven by Alex Tagliani. The car features associate sponsorship from The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which is promoting the King Tut exhibition "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" as the focal point of the partnership. The car features King Tut exhibition branding on the engine cover, nose cone and front wings. Additionally, a 25-foot statue of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis will be on display in the outside lot at the Speedway Museum during race week, paving the way for the blockbuster exhibition coming to Indianapolis in June. "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" will complete its U.S. debut run in Atlanta in mid-May and will be on display at the Indianapolis Children's Museum from June 27-Oct. 25. The exhibition is organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. The partnership with Conquest includes a show car that will travel to Indiana schools to promote the exhibition and educate the children on this historic collection of 130 artifacts from King Tut's tomb and other ancient Egyptian sites.

ERIC BACHELART (Owner, Conquest Racing): "The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a must-see for everyone, be it residents of Indiana or visitors to the area, much like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we couldn't be happier to be associated with them and the King Tut exhibition for the Indianapolis 500. We're excited and honored to be promoting such an extraordinary exhibit."

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INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The first Hall of Fame Museum was built on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1956. Originally large enough to display only a few cars, a new museum opened in the present location in 1976. The facility encompasses 96,000 square feet of museum, retail and office space. Approximately 75 vehicles are on display at any one time. Admission is just $3 for adults, $1 for ages 6-15 and free for children younger than 6.

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Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Mike Conway completed the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon on May 2 in 1 hour, 29 minutes, 49 seconds (finishing 565th overall). Penske Racing's Will Power was 643rd overall. More than 35,000 registered runners participated in the 13.1-mile race. It was the first time either had run a half-marathon distance.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay last week opened his Dana Point, Calif., house to "Last Call with Carson Daly," with the segment airing before the Indianapolis 500. Check local listings.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 21 Vision Racing): "I basically ran down how we're down-to-earth people. I race cars for a living, and you expect a race car driver to live this extravagant lifestyle with a mansion and the Ferraris in the garage. It's a pretty cool piece."

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Robert Doornbos, driver of the #06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Honda/Dallara/Firestone, took the honor of being the first driver on track for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, an honor that sometimes has been hard-fought over the years. The best start by the driver first on track over the last 25 years has been by Raul Boesel, who started second in 1994. The best finish is second, set by Marco Andretti in 2006.

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Firestone has brought 4,900 tires to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Month of May. Full-month participants receive 35 sets of tires per car. Second-week entrants receive 24 sets. Rookies receive an additional four sets for ROP, and cars participating in the refresher test receive two additional sets.

Firestone is bringing a new tire specification following a successful tire test at Indianapolis in September 2008. The new spec features improved compounds for all four positions and a slight change to the right-front tire body construction to aid in reducing understeer.

One tire stagger of approximately 0.32 of an inch is available for Indianapolis. Stagger helps IndyCar Series cars turn more smoothly on oval tracks and is created by producing the right-rear tire with a slightly larger diameter than the left rear. AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "The racing world will focus on this palace of motorsports for the next three weeks, and with good reason. From rookie orientation through four grueling days of qualifying, to Carburetion Day practice and the great race itself, the Indianapolis 500 is like no other. The traditions, the emotions and the unexpected combine to make Indy the transcending event it has become - and Firestone is proud to play a part. We'll be honored come May 24 to crown the 60th Indianapolis 500 champion on Firestone tires, which is more than all other tire manufacturers put together. To reach that life-changing moment, all the Indy drivers this month will compete on a new Firehawk tire specification. The Firestone Racing engineers and chemists have fine-tuned the tire spec that performed so well and without issue the past two years on this demanding racetrack. We anticipate the newest generation Firehawks will continue that trusted tradition by giving all Indy drivers the reliable durability, consistency and top speeds they have come to expect from their Firestone tires."

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Nelson Philippe will be driving the No. 00 i drive green HVM Racing-prepared car for the Month of May. Philippe said his brother, Richard, won "a lot of races" with the number, "so hopefully it will be a good number for me, too."

That would be a first; no car No. 00 has won the 500 Mile Race or started from the pole. There are now three cars in 2009 starting with 0 - 02 of Graham Rahal and 06 of Robert Doornbos, both driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

NELSON PHILIPPE: "We're raising awareness of the need to reduce our carbon footprint, and 00 stands for zero emissions. I didn't want to be tied to any number, so now I have no numbers."

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The IPL 500 Festival Parade, scheduled for noon May 23 in downtown Indianapolis, will once again feature a diverse lineup of celebrities. Katie Stam, Mario Lopez, Melora Hardin, Mary Lynn Rajskub, The Ohio Players and artists Donald Lipski and Thomas Kinkade are the first celebrities and VIP's to be scheduled to join in this year's celebration. The celebrities will join Dick Vitale, the 2009 IPL 500 Festival Parade Grand Marshal.

Stam was crowned Miss America in January. Originally from Seymour, Ind., Stam is a senior communication major at the University of Indianapolis. Stam is Indiana's first Miss America in the pageant's 87-year history.

Lopez has appeared in numerous television series, films and on Broadway. He is the host of the daily television show "Extra," which is the second-longest running entertainment magazine on television.Hardin is best known for her role as Jan Levinson on the NBC television comedy, "The Office."Rajskub plays computer genius Chloe O'Brian in FOX's drama "24," and helped the show win a 2006 Emmy for Best Drama.

Legendary funk band The Ohio Players will headline the 2009 Regions 500 Festival Snakepit Ball, presented by Cindy & Paul Skjodt on May 23. The group combines the genres of funk, rock, jazz and soul to create a sound call "street funk" - which paved the way for the success of rap and hip-hop.Lipski is an internationally renowned artist with public art commissions in Grand Central Terminal, New York; the Miami International Airport; libraries in Minneapolis and Denver; and convention centers in Fort Worth, Texas and Washington D.C.

Kinkade has captured the moments of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Centennial Era by creating the impressionist work that will be displayed on the cover of the Centennial Era Gala Program Commemorative Book and will be the basis of the Studio Masterworks celebrating the 100th Anniversary.More than 300,000 spectators are expected to line the two-mile parade route. The IPL 500 Festival Parade will be televised nationally on Versus from 5-6:30 p.m. EDT.

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Graham Rahal unveiled the unique helmet that he will be wearing throughout the Month of May and in the Indianapolis 500. The special one-off edition helmet is designed to pay tribute to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the celebration of its Centennial Era as well as the 1986 Indianapolis 500 victory by Graham's father, Bobby. The helmet incorporates the Speedway's Centennial Era logo and an image of Bobby Rahal with the coveted Borg Warner trophy.

The colors chosen and mixed for this helmet give the helmet a vintage look with a modern twist by using different tints of gray, silver, beige, white and red. Just like every one of Graham's Artrotondo.com painted helmets, this helmet was painted using environmentally friendly paints that contain no toxic contents. The Centennial logos and the image of Bobby Rahal were entirely free hand drawn and colored by motorsport artist Art Rotondo before being placed on the helmet. GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a race car driver's cathedral, and the Indy 500 is the biggest race of the year. I wanted to do something cool to honor the history of the Speedway and my dad's win in 1986. I think we really hit on it with this helmet design."

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In addition to unveiling the new King Tut livery of its No. 34 Dallara, Conquest Racing announced the return of Northlands and its premier event, the Rexall Edmonton Indy, as title sponsor for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. The team also revealed the signing of AmazingMail and LifeLock for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. The Rexall Edmonton Indy takes place July 24-26 at City Centre Airport in Edmonton. ERIC BACHELART (Owner, Conquest Racing): "We're very excited to be announcing new and returning sponsors to the team. We couldn't be happier to continue our partnership with Northlands and the Rexall Edmonton Indy, and we're thrilled to be welcoming new partners AmazingMail and LifeLock. We're thankful for everyone's support this month, and we look forward to making them proud over the next few weeks."

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

PAUL TRACY (No. 15 GEICO/KV Racing Technology): "We took advantage of today, with the refresher course. There's rain in the forecast the next couple days possibly - the weather can change here at any time, so I'm pretty happy with where we're at right now." (About fan reaction): "They either love me or hate me. I have a polarizing effect on people. But there was a lot of fan support today, a lot of well-wishes, a couple birds, but in general it was 98 percent to the good, so I was happy about that." (About motivation to come back): "I just want to race. It's all I've ever done. I've been racing since I was 6 years old, and I didn't want my career to just come to an abrupt stop after racing Indy cars for 16 or 17 years. When the merge happened, my team owner decided to stop, and when the music stopped, it kind of left me without any seats to sit in. It's been very frustrating thinking after all this time my career's just going to end like that. That's not the way I wanted it to end. I realize I'm not going to race another 10 years, but I'd like to run a couple more years. I feel I'm competitive. I feel I've got the drive. And hopefully something will open up. I know I'm not going to run forever, but I want to have a couple more years and have a shot at it and have something for my fans to remember."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing): "Today was a great day. The car was very consistent. The team made many aerodynamic changes to the car, which gave us an idea of how the car would run in different situations. The Luczo Dragon team worked very hard, and I was able to build up my confidence a lot. This is very important to set the tone for the rest of the month. I am very positive about going into the second day of practice tomorrow."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 16 Tequila Patron Panther Racing): "It feels great. There was obviously a lot of anticipation and a lot of excitement surrounding the whole opportunity with Patron and Panther Racing. To get out here and finally start doing it today, it was great. It feels so good to be back. By lap one, it felt like I was back in the old shoe again. It really felt good."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "The first run was a bit daunting. It's a big place here and a lot of high speed. Once I did the first run, I came back to the garages and sat down and thought about it. I felt a lot more comfortable and relaxed in the second run, which is the way that you have to be in these cars, just relaxed and feel what's going on. Overall, I'm really happy with the runs we had today. We learned a lot with the car and made some good setup changes, so I think we are looking great for tomorrow."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "I seem to learn fast on the ovals and the team is doing a good job, so I don't see a reason why we shouldn't be in the top 11 (on Pole Day)." (About IMS): "I think this place is great. I sleep at the track, I eat at the track, I drive at the track, do everything at the track. It's going to be an intense month. It's different that when I was here in Formula One in 2005 and 2006. You just fly in for the weekend and fly out. Just from this morning I began to feel some of the history of the track, and the speed down the straight - I just love it. It wasn't intimidating at all as long as you respect the track. If you get to thinking you can be the fastest on the first day, you'll find yourself in the wall. You respect the place, and you build up to it. We got some good speed today. There isn't a big oval feeling to the track. It's more like two long straightaways and four fast corners which are very much alike."

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WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Rookie Orientation Program
2-6 p.m. IndyCar Series practice

-credit: irl

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