IRL: Ryan Hampton and Larry Foyt Pass Rookie Orientation Program

Hampton and Foyt Easily Pass IRL Rookie Tests FORT WORTH, Nov. 17 - Ryan Hampton, 25, of Glendora, Calif., and Larry Foyt, 22, of Houston, both breezed through the four-phase Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) for the Pep Boys...

Hampton and Foyt Easily Pass IRL Rookie Tests

FORT WORTH, Nov. 17 - Ryan Hampton, 25, of Glendora, Calif., and Larry Foyt, 22, of Houston, both breezed through the four-phase Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League (IRL) Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway in cars owned by Foyt's father, racing legend A.J. Foyt.

Hampton was behind the wheel of the Harrah's Dallara Aurora that was campaigned by Billy Boat this season in Pep Boys IRL competition, while Foyt drove Kenny Brack's PowerTeam Racing Dallara Aurora. Both cars sported Goodyear tires.

The pair planned to practice on Wednesday and take their tests on Thursday, but they both were such quick studies that they had their tests completed in a matter of hours and a day early.

ROP consists of four phases. The drivers are required to run 10 consistent laps between 190-195 mph; 195-200 mph; 200-205 mph and over 205 mph under the eyes of veteran observers and IRL officials.

Hampton, who had never driven an Indy car before, turned a total of 106 laps with a top speed of 209.1 mph. Foyt, who has tested an IRL car before, recorded 116 laps and his top speed was 211.5 mph. Both did over 70 laps at over 200 mph.

Both cars were in racing trim, and Hampton hit the 200-mph mark by his eleventh lap.

A.J. Foyt couldn't have been happier. "Both did a great job; they're fine young drivers," he said. "The wind was gusting around 25 mph, but they both drove very well."

Johnny Rutherford and Brian Barnhart, the IRL's director of racing operations, oversaw the test. Both were pleased. "I thought they did a great job," Rutherford said. "They were both in control, and did what they had to do."

Jeff Ward, who is moving from Pagan Racing to the Foyt team for the 2000 season, was also on hand.

"It was very, very fast and a lot of fun," Hampton said afterwards. "It definitely grabs your attention. We were in two of the best set-up cars you can drive.

"It was an honor and a privilege for me to work with A.J. Foyt," Hampton added. "He is a living legend in motorsports. I'm proud that he gave me the opportunity to test one of his cars."

Hampton tested a U.S. Formula 2000 car at Texas Motor Speedway in the past, but he's never raced here. Besides the speed, the biggest thing he'll remember about his first day in an Indy car was the wind.

"When we started the wind wasn't bad, but when we broke for lunch the wind picked up," he said. "The first couple of laps I did when the wind came up, the car got light on the exit of turn two. In turns three and four you couldn't get the car down low because of the wind. If definitely got your attention. The wall would start to come up pretty quickly when you got that wind underneath you, but it was OK. You just had to adapt to it."

Hampton is extremely serious about advancing into the IRL, and he's been working out five days a week as part of his training program. "I've been doing weight training, and I've picked up 25 pounds," he noted. "I wanted to be in top shape when I made it into an Indy car, and it paid off. I'm not fatigued at all; I'm ready to do more."

Hampton got the opportunity to test with Foyt primarily due to tenacity and perseverance.

"I'm a friend of Larry's; we both drove Tatuuses last year in Formula 2000, and A.J. knew I was capable," he explained. "It primarily happened because of determination and pounding the pavement. You have to make yourself available all the time.

"At the minimum I wanted to get my IRL license. I also wanted to prove that I can drive an IRL car. I got both of those things accomplished today."

One of the Hampton family's long-time friends is actor and racer Kent McCord, who is most famous for his role in the television series "Adam 12." He was on hand for the test, and he thought both Hampton and Foyt did a fabulous job.

"They were running at speeds that would have qualified them for the race here last month," McCord noted. "They both showed a lot of common sense in not going over their limits and listening to their team manager, who was A.J. Foyt."

McCord is helping Hampton with his sponsorship search. "We're going to do everything we can to find the funding to get Ryan into the IRL," he said. "I think the IRL is on the right path. It's close racing; it's safe and it's exciting. It's where Ryan should be."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Ward , Billy Boat , Kenny Brack , Larry Foyt , Ryan Hampton , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Johnny Rutherford