IRL: Indy 500: Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Opening Day preview

Yasukawa backed by experience as Indianapolis 500 activities get underway this weekend. Roger Yasukawa will see one of his dreams start to take shape as on-track practice for the 87th running of the prestigious Indianapolis 500 begins this...

Yasukawa backed by experience as Indianapolis 500 activities get underway this weekend.

Roger Yasukawa will see one of his dreams start to take shape as on-track practice for the 87th running of the prestigious Indianapolis 500 begins this Sunday. Yasukawa is one of eight rookies currently who will be vying for Bank One Rookie of the Year honors as the month of May unfolds. He recently completed the required Rookie Orientation Program on the historic 2.5-mile oval [April 21], posting a top speed in the 222-mph range under less than ideal weather conditions. The Indy 500 will mark his fourth IRL IndyCar Series start and the longest race of his career to date.

While Yasukawa may be a newcomer to the Speedway, he is backed by an experienced crew. Managing Director Tom Anderson has three Indianapolis 500 wins to his credit -- 1980 with Johnny Rutherford, 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi and 2000 with Juan Pablo Montoya. Race Engineer John Dick made his way to Victory Circle in 1990 with Arie Luyendyk, and engineered Alex Barron to a fourth-place finish last year. Chief Mechanic Steve Ragan made his last appearance at the Speedway in 1995, as chief mechanic for Andre Ribeiro -- the fastest rookie qualifier.

Yasukawa can also look for advice from Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Co-Owner Adrian Fernandez, who competed in the 1994 and 1995 Indianapolis 500s and will be attending race weekend.

Roger Yasukawa , Driver - #55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone:

"Racing in the 500 has always been my dream. It would be a great honor to hopefully be part of the race this year. This event is totally different from any other race because basically we have the whole month to prepare. The first week you have to concentrate on your qualifying setup in order to make the field. Once you are in, you need to work hard on your race setup. One of the hardest things at the Speedway is going to be the [track] conditions, which can change day to day. It will be a challenge to keep your focus and not get lost when you are trying to set up the car for race day.

"Going in for the first time, I think it will be a 'tense' race. You are there for the whole month and the entire team is working together to finish that 500-mile race. I think it is a lot more difficult than what it appears. My dream is to win the Indy 500 and, ultimately, I would love to do that. Being in the series for the first year this season, this will be my first ever 500-mile race and it is definitely a long race so first I need to finish. However, I think the team is doing a really great job and we have a great car, so as long as we keep working on what we can do then I feel we will be able to finish up front."

FAST FACTS: Will be making his fourth career IRL IndyCar Series start-- currently leads Rookie of the Year standings and is 19th in the championship with 38 points-- began his career at the age of 12 in karts, competing in both the U.S. and Italy before moving up the racing ladder through Formula Vauxhall Junior and Formula Palmer Audi in England, and Formula Dodge competition in the United States-- entered the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the age of 21, earning Co-Rookie of the Year honors-- competed in the Atlantic series last year, claiming a win at Milwaukee and two additional podium finishes in a partial season of competition-- resides in West Hollywood, California.

Tom Anderson , Managing Director:

"I am looking forward to going back to the Speedway this year. It is going to seem strange to be home for the entire month of May. Several people on our team have never been to the Speedway before and it is always interesting to take new team members because it is a unique event to say the least. The rules only apply at Indy so there is a lot to learn for many of them and a lot for me to remember. Some things have also changed since I was there last. Roger had an impressive Rookie Orientation Program and adapted quite well. I am looking forward to working with him. John Dick [race engineer] is a veteran of many seasons here having won the race in 1990 with Arie [Luyendyk] and running a strong race with Alex Barron in fourth last year. There is a lot of experience here and a lot of rookies so it'll be pure entertainment all month."

For additional information on Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, visit www.superagurifernandezracing.net. Additional information on the IRL IndyCar Series can be found at www.indyracing.com.

-safr-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya