INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, April 7, 2000 - Heavy rain forced the cancellation of the first day of the Indianapolis 500 Open Test, reserved for the Rookie Orientation Program, on April 7 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Rookie Orientation Program is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. (EST) April 8. Veterans take to the 2.5-mile oval for the first time at 9 a.m. (EST) April 9 and are scheduled to test through April 11. The 84th Indianapolis 500 is May 28. Twelve rookies are scheduled to participate in ROP, a four-phase test. Rookies who pass ROP are eligible to participate in practice and qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. "I'm a little disappointed it had to rain today," said rookie Sam Hornish Jr., the regular driver for PDM Racing in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. "I can't wait to get out to see what the track is like. It's the only 2½-mile flat track in the world." "This is not a good thing. Being a rookie, I need as much time on the track as I can get." Another rookie, USAC open-wheel standout Russ Gamester, was philosophical as he waited for his chance to participate in the Rookie Orientation Program with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. "I know what the weather is (in Indiana)," said 1989 USAC Midget national champion Gamester, from Peru, Ind. "I want to be out there and do it, but the Lord says it has to rain, so it is." *** ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM QUOTES:
ANDY HILLENBURG (Fast Track Racing Enterprises) (About the rain delay):
"I'm not really worried about this. I've waited 36 years to be here, so we can wait a day or two. When the track's green, we'll be ready. The team's ready and the car's ready; we're just waiting to go. I've got some pretty high expectations. It's the toughest track in the world, and to tell you the truth, I would be disappointed if it wasn't. I've got a lot of learning to do. Even if it rains until Thursday, I'm sure they will still give us the time on the track, so we'll wait until that comes."
SAM HORNISH JR. (PDM Racing):
"It's kind of a disappointment because now we' ve got to wait another day, at least. I'm looking forward to this. I got to drive around the track yesterday with Johnny Rutherford, and that was very informative. It's amazing how much bigger this place is than other places I' ve been to." (About whether or not he is nervous to get on the track): "It's just a test day now, but when qualifying comes I think the jitters will be there. That's when it really counts, and it could make or break the whole year. (About how his Indy Racing experience to date will help him here): "There's no comparison between the tracks, so this is a whole new experience. I've learned how the other drivers are on the track, so that is one thing that will help in May."
CASEY MEARS (Hemelgarn Racing):
"I was really looking forward to getting in the car, so I'm disappointed it won't happen today. The guys are working hard, and we'll get two days in eventually. I'm not too nervous about it because I have a lot to learn, since it's my first time at the Speedway and my first time in an Indy car. I'm just taking an easy approach to it and being relaxed, because it is a big learning curve. (About getting advice from his father, Roger Mears, and his uncle Rick Mears): "I've gotten tons of advice, mostly about the little things. Lots of pointers on what makes this place unique from others. I will be able to apply it once I get into the seat and see (the track) first-hand, so hopefully we will get out there soon." *** OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Rookie Orientation Program will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 8 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Veterans will test on the 2.5-mile oval from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 9-11.
Fans welcome: Spectators are welcome to watch the Rookie Orientation Program and Open Test every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free of charge. Seating will be available in the South Terrace bleachers on the inside of the track adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
Autograph session: A driver autograph session is planned for April 9, during the noon lunch break. Drivers will be shuttled over to the South Terrace stands, where tables will be set up for fans to get autographs from their favorite drivers.
Video News Release: Video News Releases of highlights from the Indianapolis 500 Open Test April 7-11 will be available on satellite April 9 and April 11.
The feed April 9 will include on-track video (weather permitting) and driver interviews from the Rookie Orientation Program portion of the Open Test April 7-8 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It also may include some footage and interviews from the start of veteran testing April 9.
The feed April 11 will include on-track video and driver interviews from the veteran portion of the test April 9-11 at the Speedway, where the teams are preparing for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
Sunday, April 9 (Rookie, veteran testing highlights):
*Time: 4:30-4:45 p.m. (EDT) *Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 4
Tuesday, April 11 (Veteran test highlights): *Time: 4:30-4:45 p.m. (EDT) *Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 9