IRL: Dan Wheldon impressions on Indy 500 rookie test

The 24-year old English driver looks set to bethe only British driver in this classic race which takes place on 25 May and to be the first English driver in the event since Nigel Mansell took part in 1994. Dan Wheldon, AJ Foyt IV, Vitor Meira,...

The 24-year old English driver looks set to bethe only British driver in this classic race which takes place on 25 May and to be the first English driver in the event since Nigel Mansell took part in 1994.

Dan Wheldon, AJ Foyt IV, Vitor Meira, Tony Renna, Buddy Rice and Roger Yasukawa each passed the speed phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on the historic 2.5-mile oval under cloudy skies and temperatures peaking in the low 60's.

'We are very pleased,' said Brian Barnhart, Senior Vice President of racing operations for the Indy Racing League. 'There were relatively difficult conditions. It was a little cooler and a little windier than we would have liked. We're extremely pleased with their performances on track. I really like their consistency and their demonstration of ability to put the car on the same place on the racetrack lap after lap.'

One of the requirements during the rookie test was completion of thefour speed phases. Drivers completed at least ten consecutive laps at 200-205 mph, 205-210 mph, 210-215 mph and above 215 mph.

Rookies also were required to show consistent car control throughout the test. Al Unser, four-time Indy 500 winner and driver coach for the IRL, Johnny Rutherford, a three-time Indy 500 winner who is the Director of Special Projects for the IRL, other IndyCar Series veterans and Barnhart observed the tests.

Dan Wheldon completed149 laps of the famous Speedway, setting a fastest lap of 222.654 mph in his Andretti Green Racing-entered No. 26 Klein Tools / Jim Beam D allara / Honda / Firestone.

After successfully passing the Rookie Orientation Program, Dan Wheldon commented:'Well, I think if I didn't pass, I'd lose my job! It's going good. I'd say I'm in a good position with the Andretti Green Racing team. They've got great personnel, and everyone is very strong at theirpositions. The Jim Beam/Klein Tools car has been fast. To be honest, initially we just took our time building up to it. Tino Belli, who is going to be my engineer for this month of May, is keen on me to peak at the right time. So I think they're just keeping me on an even keel right now, so come qualifying, we should be good.'

Speaking about the famous Indianapolis track, Dan said 'It is different because, it sounds stupid, but it's got four cornersrather than the usual two. It's a real good place. When you look at a circuit map you think, 'Oh, four corners, pretty similar.' But when you get out there, they are completely different. It just takes a little while to adapt to what each corner wants and here, since you're going so fast, there's just less margin for error. So, everything has to be right to be fast, and that's what we're working on.'

-www.danwheldon.com

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Nigel Mansell , Dan Wheldon , Al Unser Sr. , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Brian Barnhart , Jim Beam , Johnny Rutherford , Vitor Meira