IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-05-06

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 6, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Eight Rookies To Tackle ROP At Indianapolis 2. Marty Roth and PDM Join Forces 1. Eight Rookies To Tackle ROP At Indianapolis: When practice for the 89th Indianapolis 500...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 6, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Eight Rookies To Tackle ROP At Indianapolis
2. Marty Roth and PDM Join Forces

1. Eight Rookies To Tackle ROP At Indianapolis: When practice for the 89th Indianapolis 500 begins on May 8, eight drivers from varying racing backgrounds will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As part of the two-day Rookie Orientation Program, all first-time Indianapolis 500 drivers must complete a test of their ability to handle a car at various speeds on the 2.5-mile oval. ROP has been in existence since 1981, and a rookie test for the 500-Mile Race became mandatory in 1936.

The 2005 rookie class consists of: Sebastien Bourdais (Newman-Haas Racing), Ryan Briscoe (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Jeff Bucknum (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), Patrick Carpentier (Red Bull Cheever Racing), Paul Dana (Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing), Tomas Enge (Panther Racing), Scott Mayer (A.J. Foyt Racing) and Danica Patrick (Rahal Letterman Racing).

Drivers must complete four speed phases, which will be set by IRL President and COO Brian Barnhart based on weather and track conditions and month of May performance expectations.

A driver must complete three phases during the program, and the fourth may be completed on opening day of practice for the Indianapolis 500.

"From a League standpoint, our emphasis isn't as much on the speed phases as it is getting them an opportunity to get familiar with a very difficult racetrack and doing so in the friendliest circumstances possible as far as not a whole lot of other cars out there," Barnhart said. "Then we want to see them demonstrate adequate car control, consistency in their speeds -- whichever phase they're in -- and then consistency in their line around the racetrack.

"It is a vitally important day. It is a well thought-out activity."

After Barnhart explains the speed phases and what's expected of the participants, Indianapolis 500 champions Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser will take them on a tour in pace cars to point out nuances of the track. Rutherford and Unser, driver coaches and consultants for the IRL, will be posted around the track to observe the activity and make notations. They'll also be available to coach participants during the sessions.

DIVERSE ROOKIE CLASS

The eight candidates for the J.P. Chase Bank Rookie of the Year Award include five IRL IndyCar Series regulars (Briscoe, Carpentier, Dana, Enge and Patrick), the reigning Champ Car World Series champion (Bourdais), a veteran road racer from the American Le Mans Series (Bucknum) and a veteran of the IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro Series (Mayer).

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Carpentier, who along with Bourdais is only eligible to complete the four phases of Rookie Orientation due to his previous high-speed experience. "I've been there a couple of times to watch the race and at the beginning of the year I went inside the track. The aura of being there was pretty exciting. I can't wait to be in front of that crowd there."

Carpentier expects several rookies to be competitive during the month of May including Bourdais, who won from the pole in his oval racing debut at Lausitzring in 2003, Enge, who is attempting to become the third driver to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and United States Grand Prix, and Ryan Briscoe and Danica Patrick, who have the support of Indianapolis 500 race-winning teams behind them.

"It will be interesting for sure," Carpentier said. "Ryan (Briscoe) is good and Danica (Patrick) has had some really good races this year. There will be a good battle for the Rookie of the Year. There will be a lot of battles between all the rookies, some for the Rookie (title) and some for the race. Hopefully, we'll be there for both. It's the first time for me. I don't know really what to expect. We'll take it day by day and try to make the car fast and good."

Patrick, who moved up the racing ladder under the watchful eye of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, is attempting to become the fourth woman to start the Indianapolis 500. She said driving at Indianapolis is only part of the way to achieving her goal of winning the event.

"It's a very exciting event and I think as a whole the team is pretty well prepared," she said. "There's a lot of work that goes into the Month of May, and I think we'll have a pretty good race car. That's exciting to me, because it's the big one."

Patrick has relied on the advice of Rahal and her teammates, 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira, who recorded the fastest lap during last year's race.

"They told me, 'You're going to go through Turn 1 flat out at the very end. You'll probably learn Turn 3 first and get Turns 2 and 4 pretty easy,'" she said of the advise given to her as ROP approached. "It's all about getting the confidence to enter Turn 1 and enter at 200-plus mph. It's just confidence. I have plenty of time, so I should be able to do it.

"I have so much faith in Rahal Letterman Racing. At the end of the day, it's a big flat out track, so you have to have a great team with a great setup behind you, and I know I do."

***

2. Marty Roth and PDM Join Forces: Officials with Roth Racing and PDM Racing announced May 6 that they will join forces for the Indianapolis 500 with Marty Roth, the owner/driver of Roth Racing, driving the No. 25 Roth/PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Both teams had filed separate entries for the event, and IRL officials expect official paperwork reflection the joint effort to be filed shortly.

"We are very pleased to partner with Marty and his team for the Indy 500," said Paul Diatlovich, team principal for PDM. "I have known many of the guys on the team for over 20 years and know that they are a very talented group. We are excited for this opportunity, and especially excited about the package in which we plan on competing with for 500 miles."

Roth, a native of Toronto, is a veteran of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, and finished 24th in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2004.

"I can't wait to run the 500 this year," Roth said. "The team has grown over this past year, and we have been able to improve our staff and equipment. We have really taken a step forward in terms of adding experience and expertise. First we brought in Pancho Carter as race strategist, then Steve Erickson as Engineer, and now we have aligned ourselves with PDM who brings with them many years of experience in running the 500, as well as a relationship with Chevy. The combination of Roth Racing, PDM and Chevrolet, whose performance this year has been outstanding, should provide us with a strong entry for the Indy 500."

***

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.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Sébastien Bourdais , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Jeff Bucknum , Marty Roth , Scott Mayer , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , Pancho Carter , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Danica Patrick , Johnny Rutherford , Al Unser , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing