CART Driver Status Outlined for Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1999 - A veteran CART driver who has not competed in the Indianapolis 500 will not be required to take a rookie test next April if that driver's team decides to participate in the 84th annual Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, according to Brian Barnhart, director of racing operations for the Indy Racing League. Barnhart clarified a CART drivers' status for the Indy 500 when asked about it during the league's weekly teleconference yesterday. He said the Indy Racing League "will honor the CART status" of a driver at any league event including the Indianapolis 500. "If the driver is a veteran he does not have to take the rookie test because he has run at Milwaukee, Nazareth, Michigan and Fontana (all high speed ovals)," Barnhart said. However, any CART driver who has rookie status in that series for 2000 will have to complete the four-phase rookie orientation program just as Indy Racing League newcomers Sarah Fisher, Airton Dare and Sam Hornish Jr. will be required to do. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has scheduled its open test for April 7-11, 2000. Rookie orientation is slated for the first two days of the open test. Because there is a CART event scheduled the same weekend as the open test, Barnhart said that the Indy Racing League will attempt to be flexible with any of the CART teams who intend to compete in the Indianapolis 500. "If we get any kind of weather, we have the possibility to extend the test for an extra day or two depending on construction schedules at the Speedway," Barnhart said. "The rookies need to complete at least the first three phases before Opening Day on May 13." Barnhart noted that, with the exception of Derrick Walker who is intending to run in several Indy Racing League events in 2000, no other CART team has made a commitment to compete in the Indianapolis 500. "At this time not a single CART team has purchased a chassis or an engine," Barnhart said. "We'll certainly welcome them to the series like anybody else. "Many of their teams have contacted our engine and chassis manufacturers, but it hasn't gone beyond that yet. The Indy 500 could be done with a $500,000 to $750,000 budget and that doesn't include the potential of a good pay day on race day." Barnhart said CART competition at Indy would make the league even stronger. "If they come over they'll be surprised to find out how good we are," he said.