IRL: Indy 500 Test To Feature Mix of Veterans, Rookies

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 4, 2000 - It's getting serious now. Preparations for the 84th Indianapolis 500 will reach top speed during the Rookie Orientation Program and Veteran Open Test from April 7-11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rookies...

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 4, 2000 - It's getting serious now.

Preparations for the 84th Indianapolis 500 will reach top speed during the Rookie Orientation Program and Veteran Open Test from April 7-11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rookies will be on the track April 7-8 and veterans April 9-11.

At least 35 drivers - 24 veterans and 11 rookies - are expected to turn laps on the fabled 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on May 28. Testing starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. each day, with a break from noon to 1 p.m.

Leading the charge of veterans are 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier in a Hemelgarn Racing entry and 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. in his Team Cheever entry. Lazier leads the Indy Racing Northern Light Series point standings after his stunning, last-to-first victory in the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 in March at Phoenix.

Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway winner Robbie Buhl also will participate in his Team Purex-Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry, as will 1999 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray in a Team Menard entry and two-time Indianapolis 500 runner-up Scott Goodyear in a Panther Racing entry.

Plenty of attention also will be focused on Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser, who will participate in the Open Test on April 10-11. 1999 CART champion Montoya and 1996 CART champion Vasser are the only full-time CART competitors so far scheduled to drive at Indianapolis this year.

Vasser and Montoya will miss testing April 9 due to the CART event that day in Nazareth, Pa.

Montoya, an Indy rookie, will not be required to participate in the Rookie Orientation Program due to his experience on high-speed ovals in CART, said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League director of racing operations.

One notable absentee among the veterans will be Galles ECR Racing driver Al Unser Jr. a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner looking to make his first Indianapolis 500 start since 1994.

Unser and Galles instead decided to conduct a private test April 11-12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and another private test April 27-29 at Indianapolis. Unser wanted more testing time at Las Vegas to prepare for his debut at that track in the Vegas Indy 300 on April 22, and April 11-12 were the only dates available at that facility, a team spokesperson said.

Truscelli Team Racing and driver Jaques Lazier also are not participating in the Indianapolis test. Lazier is completing his recovery from a back fracture suffered in January at the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway.

Rookies are required to complete the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program before they are cleared to begin practice with the veterans May 13, Opening Day of the event. Drivers must complete 10 laps at each of these speed phases while showing control of the car under the eye of veteran observers Al Unser, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Johnny Rutherford, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and other Indy Racing veterans:

*Phase 1: 195-200 mph
*Phase 2: 200-205 mph
*Phase 3: 205-210 mph
*Phase 4: More than 210 mph

A legendary name of the Speedway is among the rookie crop, as Casey Mears will attempt ROP with Hemelgarn Racing. Mears is the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Roger Mears and nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears.

Other notable rookies scheduled to participate in the test are Sarah Fisher and Sarah McCune. Fisher is the full-time Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver for Walker Racing, while USAC short-track standout McCune will enter ROP with Team Pelfrey.

Ross Cheever, younger brother of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever, is scheduled to participate in ROP in a Team Cheever entry. Ross Cheever served as a preseason test driver for his brother before the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season.

Former USAC short-track standout and NASCAR Winston Cup driver Andy Hillenburg will participate in ROP with his Fast Track Racing team, and American Le Mans Series and Indy Lights standout Guy Smith will take his rookie test with Sinden Racing Service-March Racing.

Former USAC national champion Jason Leffler, now racing in the NASCAR Busch Series, will attempt ROP with Treadway Racing.

Indy Racing Northern Light Series rookie standouts Doug Didero, Sam Hornish Jr. and Airton Dare also are scheduled to run in ROP.

OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK

*Fans welcome: Spectators are welcome to watch the Rookie Orientation Program and Open Test every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free of charge. Seating will be available in the South Terrace bleachers on the inside of the track adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

2000 Indianapolis 500 Open Test Participants <pre> VETERANS Team Driver(s) Days A.J. Foyt Enterprises Jeff Ward 9, 10, 11 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Eliseo Salazar 9, 10, 11 Blueprint Racing Jimmy Kite 9, 10, 11 Bradley Motorsport Buzz Calkins 9, 10, 11 Cahill Racing Donnie Beechler 9, 10, 11 Dick Simon Racing Stephan Gregoire 9, 10, 11 Dick Simon Racing Wim Eyckmans 9, 10, 11 Dreyer & Reinbold Robbie Buhl 9, 10, 11 Hemelgarn Racing Buddy Lazier 9, 10, 11 Hubbard-Immke Tyce Carlson 9, 10, 11 Jonathan Byrd-McCormack Ronnie Johncox 9, 10 Kelley Racing Scott Sharp 9, 10, 11 Kelley Racing Mark Dismore 9, 10, 11 Nienhouse Motorsports TBA 9, 10, 11 Panther Racing Scott Goodyear 9, 10, 11 Target/Chip Ganassi Juan Montoya 10, 11 Target/Chip Ganassi Jimmy Vasser 10, 11 Team Cheever Eddie Cheever Jr. 9, 10, 11 Team Menard Greg Ray 9, 10, 11 Team Pelfrey Billy Boat 9, 10, 11 TeamXtreme Racing Davey Hamilton 9, 10, 11 Treadway Racing Robby McGehee 9, 10, 11 Tri Star Motorsports Jeret Schroeder 9, 10, 11 Tri Star Motorsports Jack Miller 9, 10, 11 Total Veterans: 24 ROOKIES Team Driver(s) Days Fast Track Racing Andy Hillenburg 7, 8 Hemelgarn Racing Casey Mears 7, 8 Mid America Motorsports Doug Didero 7, 8, 11 PDM Racing Sam Hornish Jr. 7, 8 Sinden Racing Service Guy Smith 7, 8, 11 Team Cheever Ross Cheever 7, 8, 11 Team Pelfrey Sarah McCune 7, 8, 11 TeamXtreme Racing Airton Dare 7, 8, 11 Treadway Racing Shigeaki Hattori 7, 8 Treadway Racing Jason Leffler 9, 10, 11 Walker Racing Sarah Fisher 7, 8, 11 Total Rookies: 11

-IRL/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jason Leffler , Guy Smith , Buzz Calkins , Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Jimmy Vasser , Jeret Schroeder , Jaques Lazier  , Jimmy Kite , Donnie Beechler , Andy Hillenburg , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Tyce Carlson , Ronnie Johncox , Chip Ganassi , Wim Eyckmans , Roger Mears , Sarah McCune , Ross Cheever , Dick Simon , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr. , Johnny Rutherford , Jack Miller
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing