Conquest Racing defies the odds with rookie drivers INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2010) - There was much uncertainty heading into Indianapolis 500 Bump Day qualifying last weekend as to who would be in the 33-car field for this year's race and who...
Conquest Racing defies the odds with rookie drivers
INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2010) - There was much uncertainty heading into Indianapolis 500 Bump Day qualifying last weekend as to who would be in the 33-car field for this year's race and who would be left on the sidelines.
Some may have thought that Conquest Racing, with not just one but two rookie drivers, may end up on the outside looking in. But at the end of the day, Conquest may have surprised some with its pair of rookies outpacing some highly skilled veterans and assuring themselves a start in their first Indianapolis 500.
To top it all off, Conquest's Mario Romancini even took home the 36th annual American Dairy Association of Indiana Fastest Rookie of the Year award. An award presented to the fastest rookie qualifier at each year's Indianapolis 500.
Thanks to a qualifying average speed of 224.641 mph, the 15th fastest average of the 33-car field, Romancini now has his name associated with previous Fastest Rookie winners such as Rick Mears, Jacques Villeneuve, Tony Kanaan and Michael Andretti.
What makes his accomplishment even more special is that Conquest doesn't have the luxury of a veteran teammate whose experience to rely on.
Conquest Racing is the only team with two rookies in its driver lineup at the Indianapolis 500, but that isn't something new to them. It's actually the only thing they've known when it comes to racing at Indy.
The Indianapolis-based team has four starts at the 2.5-mile famed oval, and its drivers have all been rookies.
Its first appearance was in 2002 with Laurent Redon, who won the year-end Rookie of the Year title. It then returned to Indy in 2008 with rookies Enrique Bernoldi and Jaime Camara before receiving top honors in 2009, winning the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award with Alex Tagliani, who was making his debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We've worked so much with rookie drivers ever since the team was founded that it's sort of become second nature for us," commented team owner Eric Bachelart. "We surround them with an experienced team from engineers to mechanics, but still, believe me, it's not always easy, especially coming into oval races. It's an environment that some of the rookie drivers we've had had never experienced. But they've all come out doing a good job and that brings us a lot of satisfaction. It's something we take pride in.
"Having both of our cars in this year's race has an even bigger significance to us because the level of competition is so high. Bertrand and Mario have done a great job so far. Making the field was one thing but being ahead of experienced Indy drivers like Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira, adds to the satisfaction."
The latest Conquest driver to have recently put a wheel on an oval track for the first time is Bertrand Baguette, who raced his first oval at Kansas last month. The fact that Baguette, who drives the RACB National Team #36 car, was able to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, on his first try, is even more remarkable because it's only the second oval he has driven on in his young career.
While qualifying is only the start of Conquest Racing's story at this year's Indianapolis 500, it has a beginning that not many people would have expected. No one knows yet what the ending will be, but no matter what happens, what Conquest Racing has achieved so far is a story in itself.
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