IRL: Indy 500: Six drivers pass rookie program

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 21, 2003 - Six rookie drivers earned the opportunity to qualify for the 87th Indianapolis 500 after completing the Rookie Orientation Program April 21 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A.J. Foyt IV, Vitor Meira,...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 21, 2003 - Six rookie drivers earned the opportunity to qualify for the 87th Indianapolis 500 after completing the Rookie Orientation Program April 21 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A.J. Foyt IV, Vitor Meira, Tony Renna, Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon and Roger Yasukawa each passed the speed phases of ROP 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 today. 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 the four speed phases. Drivers completed at least 10 consecutive laps at 200-205 mph, 205-210 mph, 210-215 mph and above 215 mph.

Meira was the fastest of the rookies overall at 39.9182 seconds, 225.461 mph in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

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.

"They did well," Rutherford said. "It's a good crop. They've all got good equipment and good people behind them. I think they're all running about the same speed, so that's good testimony. They all are very attentive, and they do a good job, and I'm very pleased to be involved with them. They make the job easy."

Scott Mayer did not complete ROP due to a mechanical problem, and officials from PDM Racing indicated they would consult with IRL officials about their options for the month of May. Tora Takagi and Scott Dixon, IndyCar Series drivers who will be rookies at the "500" this year, did not have to participate in ROP due to their CART experience, Barnhart said.

The seven drivers who turned laps at the Speedway completed a total of 657 problem-free laps for 1,642.5 testing miles.

ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM PARTICIPANT SUMMARY:

Driver                  Time            Top Speed       Total Laps
1.      Vitor Meira     39.9182         225.461          60
2.      Dan Wheldon     20.2414         222.654         149
3.      Roger Yasukawa  40.5074         222.182         119
4.      A.J. Foyt IV    40.6179         221.577          99
5.      Tony Renna      40.7060         221.098          86
6.      Buddy Rice      40.7082         221.086          47
7.      Scott Mayer*    43.5623         206.601          97

Total: 657
*Did not complete ROP

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Dan Wheldon , Al Unser Sr. , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Scott Mayer , Brian Barnhart , Johnny Rutherford , Vitor Meira
Teams CIP