SCHROEDER CREATING NEW MEMORIES AT ROOKIE TEST By Dick Mittman indy500.com INDIANAPOLIS, April 8, 1999 -- Jeret Schroeder carries ambivalent memories of his first race in Indianapolis six years ago. The start was great, but the final ...
SCHROEDER CREATING NEW MEMORIES AT ROOKIE TEST By Dick Mittman indy500.com
INDIANAPOLIS, April 8, 1999 -- Jeret Schroeder carries ambivalent memories of his first race in Indianapolis six years ago. The start was great, but the final result was painful. Schroeder hopes the results will be much better this week. He is among nine aspiring drivers going through the two-day Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is the first step for newcomers toward qualifying for this year's Indianapolis 500 on May 30. Schroeder's initial racing experience in the area came at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park in a Formula 2000 event in 1993. "It was my third pro race, my first night race ever, first oval ever," he recalled. "I sat pole and led the first 20 laps. Then there was a big accident. I got caught up in it and ended up breaking both feet. That was a pretty bad experience." It wasn't, however, an experience that turned him away from the sport. He persevered and now -- six years later and at age 29 -- he's advanced his career from the .686-mile oval at IRP to the historic 2.5-mile speed trail just miles away. "My biggest goal at this point is to pass rookie orientation, move on, try and get comfortable in the car and qualify for the race," he said. "I guess my major goal at this point is to be able to finish the race." Schroeder is driving for the Price Cobb team. He'll be teamed with veteran Roberto Guerrero, driving a G Force/Infiniti/Firestone. Schroeder passed the first of four phases of the rookie test but was forced to the pits during the afternoon due to an engine malfunction. He will try to finish the test Friday. "That was not one I was involved with," he said about his efforts to obtain a ride for the 500. "I was working on a half-a-dozen other things." His father, Bill, made the connection with Cobb, a Colorado car owner. One recent day the elder Schroeder told his son the deal had been sealed and "that's where you're going." Jeret Schroeder called it a complete shock. His ROP appearance isn't his first time in an Indy-type car. He tested in a Walter Payton/Dale Coyne CART car and passed his Pep Boys Indy Racing League test in car assigned to John Paul Jr., both in 1997. Additionally, he drove a G Force/Aurora/Goodyear for Dennis McCormack Motorsports in the first two races of the 1997 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season. He was in accidents at Walt Disney World Speedway on Lap 94 and did likewise on Lap 52 at Phoenix International Raceway. Schroeder's father raced snowmobiles and did some midget races when he was young, but never pushed his son into the sport. However, when the teen-aged Jeret began accumulating many speeding tickets around his Vineland, N.J., home, the senior Schroeder decided his son had better find a safer outlet for his pedal-to-the-metal driving style. "He thought I should go to a high-performance driving school," Jeret said, "and learn how to drive safe if you're going to drive fast. So that was my high school graduation present." Bill Schroeder caught the bug, too, and took up racing again while his son completed a couple of years in college. Jeret then turned to racing full-time, and his father again retired. Young Schroeder climbed up the racing ladder, earning the Gilles Villeneuve Award in the Toyota Atlantic series and twice driving in the 24 Hours of Daytona, finishing eighth in the Can Am class and 21st overall in the most recent event in late January. Schroeder, whose driver favorites are 1995 Indianapolis 500 champion Jacques Villeneuve and two-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, is looking forward to working with Guerrero, who once held the Speedway track speed record and finished second in the 500 twice. "I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "He has a lot of experience, very talented driver. And Price has a lot of racing experience and good track knowledge. I hope to learn a lot from them." Schroeder doesn't feel any particular pressure getting through ROP. He notes that it is a laid-back atmosphere, with only a few other rookies on the track, adding that Guerrero has provided a baseline setup for his car. "It should be fairly easy," he said.
*** Testing, testing: The Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program finishes Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the Open Test for veteran drivers Saturday and Sunday. Practice will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each of the three days. Fans are welcome to attend the test for free. Seating is available in the South Terrace near the Hall of Fame Museum.