INDIANAPOLIS, April 8 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., successfully completed the first of four phases of his Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday afternoon in the Purity Farms G-Force Infiniti...
INDIANAPOLIS, April 8 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., successfully completed the first of four phases of his Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday afternoon in the Purity Farms G-Force Infiniti No. 96. He will continue with the program tomorrow morning.
The test consists of 10 consistent laps at 195-200 mph for the first phase; 200-205 mph for phase two; 205-210 mph for phase three and over 210 mph for phase four. Each driver must complete these 40 laps under the eye of four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser and three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford. Two days (Thursday and Friday) have been allocated for ROP, but the fourth phase can be run when the track opens for practice for the Indianapolis 500 next month if necessary.
Schroeder is trying to become the first New Jersey resident to make the field for the Indianapolis 500 in 16 years.
Schroeder turned 26 laps in all on Thursday, but his afternoon was cut short when the car's engine let go in the middle of turn two. He drove teammate Roberto Guerrero's back-up car on Thursday, but he'll switch to Guerrero's primary car on Friday.
Schroeder took to the world's most famous racetrack like a duck to water, making his first circuit of the historic facility at 10:54 a.m. His third lap at speed was at 202 mph on his tachometer.
"We did a systems check in the morning and I got my first laps in at speed right after lunch," said Schroeder, 29. "When I first went out I couldn't see the numbers on the dash, but once we got that straightened out everything went very well. I was trying to be real consistent, which is what they want, but I only got 26 laps in before the motor blew. I think it's going to rain soon anyway. We'll get going again first thing in the morning. It was a good day."
Schroeder said it's hard to put into words what driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway means to him. "Just being here is great," he said. "It's been a life-long dream. There aren't very many people who get the opportunity to go over 200 mph at Indy, and it's a dream come true to be among that group now. I have great respect for anyone who has ever driven here."
Schroeder added that most of the veterans have told him that successfully completing phase one is actually the hardest part of ROP because the cars were designed to go over 200, not under. "Actually, going 200 here today sort of felt like putting around," was Schroeder's take on the task. "I'm sure the gap to get up to 240 is really something, but at this speed it was relatively easy. I got my first segment done and I'm looking forward to getting my other segments out of the way as soon as possible. I want to get ROP done so I can get down to really practicing and going faster."
Team owner Price Cobb, who is a former champion driver too, was elated. "Jeret did a great job," he said. "He was very smooth and consistent, which is what they're looking for. I'm sympathetic about what he's going through and I'm also jealous, because I wanted to drive here too but I never did.
"He was in Roberto's [Guerrero, his teammate] back-up car today. I'm going to slide him into Roberto's primary car tomorrow, because it's actually easier to do that than to change the engine in the car he drove today. But I'm very, very pleased, and I'm proud to have Jeret on our team."
In addition to Schroeder, other rookies on the track on Thursday included Wim Eyckmans (Team Cheever), David Steele (Panther Racing), Ronnie Johncox (PDM Racing), Jaques Lazier (DR Racing), Robby McGehee (Conti Racing), Nick Firestone (McCormack Motorsports) and John Hollansworth Jr. (TeamXtreme). Mike Borkowski is listed with PDM Racing too, but he didn't get on the track on Thursday because he's sharing his car with Johncox.
All are in G Force chassis except for Hollansworth and McGehee, who have Dallaras. Schroeder and Lazier are running Infiniti engines but the rest have Auroras. Schroeder's team uses Firestone tires, as does Firestone, Hollansworth and McGehee. The rest are on Goodyears.
Opening day for this year's Indy 500, the 83rd running, is Saturday, May 15. Pole Day is Saturday, May 22, and Bubble Day (the last chance to qualify for the race) is Sunday, May 23. Carburetion Day, the last practice session before the race, is Thursday, May 27. The race, which will be broadcast live by ABC Sports, gets the green flag at 11 a.m. Standard Time, some 10 minutes after the national anthem and the annual singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana."
Companies wishing to advertise on the sides of Schroeder's car at the Indy 500 can obtain more information by calling Jude Marina at (610) 797-9424. Other information can be found on Schroeder's website at http://www.pitpass.org; Cobb Racing's website at http://www.cobbracing.com or on the Indy Racing League's website at http://www.indyracingleague.com.