IRL: Indy 500: Buddy Rice rookie test notes

Buddy Rice cruises through rookie test at Indy. INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 21, 2003) -- Buddy Rice has turned hundreds of laps in IRL IndyCar Series events, starting from the front row and nearly winning his first race. Still, for the...

Buddy Rice cruises through rookie test at Indy.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 21, 2003) -- Buddy Rice has turned hundreds of laps in IRL IndyCar Series events, starting from the front row and nearly winning his first race. Still, for the Indianapolis 500, Rice is a rookie.

Rice was the first driver to pass the Rookie Orientation Program on Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making himself and the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet eligible for the 87th running of the Indy 500 next month.

Rice was exempt from the first two phases of the program, in which drivers are required to maintain pre-determined levels of speed for 10 consecutive laps while showing consistent car control. Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of the Indy Racing League, decides whether a driver has completed a phase after consulting with IRL director of special projects Johnny Rutherford and IRL driving coach Al Unser.

While far from inexperienced, Rice recognized the tradition of -- and the need for -- ROP.

"Nigel Mansell won the world championship in Formula One in 1992 and came here in '93 and had to go through rookie orientation," Rice said. "It's part of the rules. It's just the way it is. It's good to get through it. Now we can get on to testing and get on with the month of May."

Rice was required to run 10 laps between 210 mph and 215 mph, then had to run 10 laps at 215 or more. Rice topped out with a lap of 220.719 mph. The Red Bull Cheever Racing team will continue testing Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the Indy 500 on May 25th.

Opening day of practice is set for May 4, with pole qualifying on May 10 and the race set for May 25. Rice is enthusiastic, especially after recording 94 laps during a test Saturday at IMS.

"Hopefully the whole month will go the way Saturday's test went," Rice said. "If it does, it will be pretty exciting. It will be exciting either way. Every week we're making progress."

Red Bull Cheever Racing, based in Indianapolis, is the brainchild of 1998 Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. A leader in American motorsports, the IRL IndyCar Series team is built on Cheever's experience in Formula One, sports cars and open-wheel oval racing. Corporate and technical partnerships include the world's leading energy drink Red Bull, Menards, Chevrolet, Dallara, Firestone and Menard Cheever Technologies. For more information visit www.cheeverracing.com.

-cr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Nigel Mansell , Buddy Rice , Brian Barnhart , Johnny Rutherford , Al Unser