1. Rookie Orientation Program is first step to qualifying for '500'
2. Lloyd joins Coyne for Indy 500, other ovals
3. Wilson honored by Waterloo, Ind.
4. Sarah Fisher Racing, Carpenter add Milwaukee with sponsorship from Direct Supply
1. Rookie Orientation Program is first step to qualifying for '500': At least seven drivers with aspirations of competing in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 begin their journey May 12 with the mandatory Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (ET) session is open to spectators free of charge in the South Terrace Grandstands. Spectators should enter through Gate 2 on 16th Street. Opening Day is May 14, with all-car practice from noon-6 p.m. (ET).
Scheduled to participate are IZOD IndyCar Series regulars JR Hildebrand (National Guard Panther Racing), James Hinchcliffe (Newman/Haas Racing), James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing), plus Ho-Pin Tung (Schmidt Dragon Racing), Pippa Mann (Conquest Racing) and Jay Howard (Service Central Schmidt-Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).
"Instead of having it embedded in the practice days, it's nice to move it out before the activities actually begin by a couple of days.
"Instead of having it embedded in the practice days, it's nice to move it out before the activities actually begin by a couple of days," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for INDYCAR. "I think it provides a better atmosphere for the rookies to get familiar with the racetrack to run through their phases in a less time-restrained and a less pressurized situation."
The evaluation program consists of turning 10 consistent laps at four speed phases on the 2.5-mile asphalt oval: 200-205 mph, 205-210, 210-215 and 215 or more. Barnhart expects drivers to complete at least three phases during the session.
"They'll get about six hours on track, which is ample time to get through a minimum of three phases, and then they can complete the fourth phase then at any time during the week of practice prior to qualifications," he said. "That's easy enough to do because the fourth phase is anything at speed so they're able to be at speed with other traffic out there and not be trying to run phases while other people are running different speeds."
IZOD IndyCar Series teams picked up their equipment May 4 from the street race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, earlier this week. Four Indy 500 rookies competed in that event, with Hinchcliffe and Hildebrand posting top-10 finishes.
"By running the 12th it gives everybody another three days to prepare the cars, move in and do the ROP at their pace," Barnhart added. "When we open on Saturday, it will be for all cars at all times."
Five of the drivers have competed at the Speedway in the 40-lap Firestone Freedom 100 on Carb Day, with Mann the pole sitter for the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights race. Kimball was the race runner-up and Hinchcliffe finished third. In 2009, Hildebrand recorded a second-place finish on his way to the series title, and Howard finished fourth. Howard was the runner-up in '06 during his championship season.
Davey Hamilton, who participated in ROP in 1996 with A.J. Foyt Copenhagen Racing, offered a few cautionary words for the professional race car drivers.
"I think the biggest thing is you have to respect that racetrack," said Hamilton, who will attempt to qualify for his 11th Indy 500 in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car. "Some days you go out there and it's so intimidating and other days you think it's easy. But you have to remember the speeds you're going and how technical the track really is.
"It's good to be with a team that's been there so they can give a lot of advice. Ask questions and don't ever take it for granted because it can bite you. It does it to the veterans. For a rookie it's one step at a time and don't overdue it."
2. Lloyd joins Coyne for Indy 500, other ovals: Alex Lloyd, who finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500 last May for Dale Coyne Racing, will return to the team to drive the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car in the 100th anniversary race on May 29 and the other seven oval races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
Sebastien Bourdais will continue to drive the No. 19 car in the five remaining street and road course events. Lloyd will be a teammate to rookie James Jakes (No. 18 Acorn Stairlifts), who will not be only attempting his first Indy 500, but the first oval race of his IndyCar career.
"I'm pumped to be back with the Dale Coyne Racing team, and running not only at Indy, but at the remaining oval track events in 2011," said Lloyd, the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion. "I think the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America team has a legitimate chance to win. I'm very excited to have this chance."
Lloyd recorded four top-10 finishes in a full season in 2010 with Dale Coyne Racing, with the fourth place in the Indy 500 his highest (it also was the highest Indy 500 finish for Coyne in his 28 years as a team owner). Lloyd was the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year.
"Alex is a great driver and I think will be extremely valuable in helping his teammate's development on oval tracks," Coyne said.
It will be Lloyd's fourth Indianapolis 500 appearance. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens for practice May 14.
"It's great to be back at Indy," said Lloyd, 26, of England. "I would like nothing more than to give Dale Coyne Racing and the Boy Scouts of America another great finish here."
3. Wilson honored by Waterloo, Ind.: As part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 'Back Home Again in Indiana' contest, Firestone Indy Lights driver Stefan Wilson spent a day in Waterloo, Ind., with students at Waterloo Elementary School.
He attended the celebration to help hand out pole day tickets to winning students and teachers, but to Wilson's surprise, the town of Waterloo declared April 29, 2011 as 'Stefan Wilson Day.'
Wilson received a plaque of an official town resolution, signed by Waterloo town council members.
"It was such an honorÃ¢â‚¬â€and honestly quite a shockÃ¢â‚¬â€to have a day named for me," said Wilson, driver of the No. 5 car for Andretti Autosport. "I had a lot of fun teaching the kids about Indy car racing, and I think we made a few new fans. The plaque was just an added bonus. The whole town really welcomed me to their community."
More than 250 students attended the convocation, and 21 students, as well as 15 winning teachers, received qualification day tickets to the Indianapolis 500. In keeping with the town's contest theme, 'the Indy 500 brings families together,' local businesses in Waterloo will rent a charter bus to bring winners to the Speedway.
4. Sarah Fisher Racing, Carpenter add Milwaukee with sponsorship from Direct Supply : Sarah Fisher Racing has added the Milwaukee 225 to Ed Carpenter's IZOD IndyCar Series schedule thanks to a partnership with Milwaukee-based Direct Supply.
We have been in the wings, watching the Milwaukee race at the start of SFR...
Direct Supply, the nation's leading supplier of equipment and ecommerce solutions to Long Term Healthcare and Senior Living communities, will serve as primary sponsor of the No. 67 carduring the June 19 race at the Milwaukee Mile.
"The Direct Supply Partners have been thrilled with our long association with Sarah and her team. As the first woman car owner she has shown tremendous spirit and accomplishment," said Bob Hillis, CEO and founder of Direct Supply. "Now that she has added our good friend Ed Carpenter as driver of the Dollar General car, we were excited to get the opportunity to bring the team to Milwaukee as part of our family."
Direct Supply joined Sarah Fisher Racing at the 2008 Indianapolis 500, continuing its longstanding involvement in Indy car racing..
"I am very excited about going back to Milwaukee, not only with Sarah Fisher Racing and Direct Supply, but just that the IZOD IndyCar Series is going back in general is awesome," Carpenter said. "To be able to go up there sponsored by a local company and to work with Bob Hillis, who has been a family friend for a long time, is tremendous. I am just really excited to go up there and have a strong showing in front of the Milwaukee crowd!"
Said SFR owner Sarah Fisher: "I am thrilled to welcome Direct Supply as our primary partner for the Milwaukee race. Being one of the first supporters of SFR in 2008, when we were in a major growing stage at the Indianapolis 500, Direct Supply has continued with unwavering support of our team and certainly with our drive, Ed Carpenter. We have been in the wings, watching the Milwaukee race at the start of SFR, and with its return this season are excited to be a part of the historical event."
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at Noon (ET) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27. The race will be televised live by VERSUS.