IRL: Indy 500: Tomas Enge opening day notes

Enge Passes Indy Rookie Orientation Program INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- IndyCar Series rookie Tomas Enge had no problems passing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Rookie Orientation Program Sunday afternoon. Despite having three different breaks in...

Enge Passes Indy Rookie Orientation Program

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- IndyCar Series rookie Tomas Enge had no problems passing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Rookie Orientation Program Sunday afternoon. Despite having three different breaks in two of his ribs, Enge was able to work his #2 RockStar Chevy through all four phases of ROP in under two hours. This is the first time in his career that he has turned laps at Indianapolis' historic 2.5-mile oval.

Enge has some exceptional teachers surrounding him as he adapts to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- his teammate Buddy Lazier won the Indy 500 in 1996, his Spotter and Driver Coach Tom Sneva won in 1983, and his Race Engineer Andy Borme helped Helio Castroneves win back-to-back Indy 500s in 2001 and 2002.

The Rookie Orientation Program consists of four phases: The driver must drive 10 laps between 195-200 mph; then 10 laps at 200-205 mph; 10 laps between 205-210 mph; and finally 10 laps at over 210 mph. Tomas' best lap of the day was 218.219 mph.

Enge was the top rookie qualifier in the first three races of the season, including two Top Fives. He led four laps during his third start at St. Pete this season. Tomas missed the Japan race because he did not get medical clearance after a qualification accident in Motegi. He broke two ribs early in the week, and then suffered an additional break in one of the same ribs during the accident. He was cleared to participate in ROP earlier this morning by Indy Racing League Director of Medical Services Dr. Henry Bock.

Tomas is attempting to become only the third driver in history to start in both the Indianapolis 500 and Formula One's United States Grand Prix at IMS. The other two drivers who have competed in both events (Jacques Villenueve and Juan Pablo Montoya) were victorious in the Indy 500. Enge finished 14th in the USGP in 2001.

ROP continues tomorrow at IMS from noon until 5 p.m. local Indy time. Enge will be joined by teammate Tomas Scheckter and Byrd Brothers/Panther driver Buddy Lazier on Tuesday at noon, when the Speedway opens up to veterans for practice.

Tomas Enge:

"This is a unique track and very fast. We focused on my line today, and the people around me are teaching me to how to drive around Indianapolis. It's not an easy track. I will need a few days to adapt, but it will get better every day the RockStar team is out here. The turns feel quite narrow because of the speed obviously, and the faster you go the more narrow it seems. (On his two broken ribs) Right now it's not fantastic and a bit painful. But it's getting better everyday. Right now I can still drive, but it's something we will monitor and work on every day."

Panther Tracks: Pennzoil Panther Race Engineer David Cripps has engineered three drivers to Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year awards: Lyn St. James (1992), Christian Fittipaldi (1995), Tora Takagi (2003), and Cripps now works with the 2002 co-Rookie of the Year Tomas Scheckter ...... Buddy Lazier was the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner ..... Tomas Scheckter was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 2002, and scored his first IndyCar Series victory in the same year at Michigan International Raceway ... Panther Racing has been involved in six of the Top Ten closest finishes in IRL history -- winning five ... Since joining the league in 1998, Panther has 33 podium finishes, 43 Top Fives and 56 Top Tens .... The team's 2,508 laps led is second only to Team Menard .... Panther Racing won back-to-back IRL Championships in 2001 & 2002, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Championship in 2003, and is the league leader in victories for both series: IRL (14 wins) and IPS (7 wins) ... A total of ten drivers have started a race for Panther: Sam Hornish Jr. (44), Scott Goodyear (30), Tomas Scheckter (20), Townsend Bell (10), Mark Taylor (6), Tomas Enge (3), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).

-www.pantherracing.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Panther Racing