IRL: Indy 500: Opening Day rookie orientation notes

PATRICK POSTS TOP SPEED AS SIX ROOKIES COMPLETE ROP AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 8, 2005 -- Danica Patrick led a group of six rookies through the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on the Opening Day of the...

PATRICK POSTS TOP SPEED AS SIX ROOKIES COMPLETE ROP AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 8, 2005 -- Danica Patrick led a group of six rookies through the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on the Opening Day of the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Patrick, driving the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, lapped the 2.5-mile oval in 40.6388 seconds, 221.463 mph.

"It's what we came here to do," said Patrick, who will attempt to be the fourth woman to start the Indianapolis 500. "I was given a good car by (teammates) Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira) with all of the hard work they did last year. I have to give a lot of the credit and speed to that. I knew I had time today."

Also passing ROP were Ryan Briscoe, Jeff Bucknum, Patrick Carpentier, Paul Dana and Tomas Enge.

Scott Mayer, driving the No. 41 Dallara/Toyota/Firestone for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, passed three phases of the test. Mayer and Sebastien Bourdais, who completed the first two phases, can complete the final phases of ROP on May 9 when the rookies return to the track.

The first practice open to veterans of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 10.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 37 Newman Haas Racing Team Centrix Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "Obviously, we had a lot of adjustments to do. The car was not ready on time, and the deal came together kind of late, so it was difficult for the team, and it's a real challenge for us. You know a one-off like that, for a Champ Car operation, it's difficult to put together an IRL car. There are a lot of things to do in a very short amount of time. So far, it's going OK. We completed the first two phases. We had time to check the second car, which is actually my car, which wasn't ready. The T-car was in better shape, so we used it and went out there with my car in the end, and the weather is going to be all right for us tomorrow and we can get some work done."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "I think it is a good program here at the Speedway, because it is a unique track and it is good to let it get up to speed step-by-step. We had no problems today. We took it easy and went through the phases. At the end of the day, we sort of started slightly trimming out the car just a little bit. We still have a long way to go, but it was just good to get some confidence on the track. We are learning all the time. It is very unique. I have just been experimenting a little bit with lines. I've been watching the wind. It has been changing a bit this afternoon, so it has definitely been interesting. It is a long month ahead."

JEFF BUCKNUM (No. 44 Investment Properties of America Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "It went good. It was my rookie test, so I had nothing to gauge it off of. We just went through the phases that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanted us to go through. That went smooth. After that, we just tried a couple extra things for balance and that was good."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was good. I think that it was very important. At first, we were not sure we were going to do (ROP), then we ended up doing it. It was very important for me to do it today before we get everybody running. Once we start running three abreast, it is a different story down the straightaway. I loved it. It is a beautiful place and a beautiful track. I had a great time today. We were starting to get the car working at the end. They gave us some time to get adjusted and the car was really bad. It was pushing really bad. We came in and fixed, and they allowed us to run a little bit more. I am very happy. I needed the time before everyone else came in. I ran 219 (mph). It is not the fastest, but we had a lot of downforce. I am very happy."

PAUL DANA (No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Mission accomplished. We did it, and we did it real quick. I mean, four, 10-lap runs, no problem. We got through it pretty easily. I'm pretty sick actually, so we knew that as soon as we cleared the minimum we needed to go to get through the rookie day that we were going to park it. I need to get home and get to bed. We'll come back tomorrow and start taking some wing out of it and see how fast we can go. The Hemelgarn team has a lot of experience around here. They've won it. Tim Wardrop, our engineer, has won here several times, so they know what they're doing. They just put a lot of downforce in the car and nailed it to the track, so it was pretty much as stable as it's ever going to be. That's as easy as it's going to get. When we start taking the wing out, it'll start getting touchy, but maybe I'll be a little more mentally acute. I'm kind of laid out right about now. It's a special day. It's something that you think about and work for your whole life. To do it is really cool. It's a long, long month, and we need to qualify for the race, we need to finish the race, so this is a milestone, but there are much bigger ones to come this month, and I'm just focusing on those."

TOMAS ENGE (No. 2 ROCKSTAR Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The track is fantastic. Maybe a little bit too fast for me, because the faster you go, the smaller the track looks. It is nice. It is something special, something fantastic. The first feeling is good. The car might be a little too tight when we set up the car for the first run to be more safe. To be more safe, the car was a little bit understeer."

SCOTT MAYER (No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Inc. Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was stressful going through the first two (phases). Once we got into phase three, the car felt phenomenal. The quicker we go, the more comfortable it felt. I feel the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I feel very blessed by God to be through the ROP and the three sessions, and tomorrow we will go out there and start hitting it hard."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "I'm sure things will get more tricky as the car gets trimmed out. But the car felt good, and I'm looking forward to going faster." (About running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "This event is amazing. There are a lot of media and a lot of things going on. It was opening day, and there were fans out there. Even in Turn 3, when we were coming in the pits, you could see people on the inside, sitting on the grass. I think it's important to look at this place like another race track. It's really nice that we get to come here early, and build confidence, as opposed to going out there and spooking ourselves, or making a mistake that could put us out for a while. It's tradition, and this event is very much tradition. Rookie Orientation is a great format. It's the right way to do it."

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ABC at 1 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Patrick Carpentier , Sébastien Bourdais , Ryan Briscoe , Jeff Bucknum , Scott Mayer , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing