By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Rookie class to lean on Luyendyk’s Indy experience
2. If you missed it: May 8 conference call
3. Rahal hosts charity golf tournament
4. Print of exciting Indy 500 finish available to public
5. ‘INDY Live’ returns to Brickyard Crossing
1. Rookie class to lean on Luyendyk’s Indy experience: One particular tip about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Arie Luyendyk’s first year attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 has remained cogent for 27 years.
“We had only a little bit of insight from some guys,” Luyendyk says. “Mario (Andretti) said don’t rush into anything because the track will bite you before you know it. It says a lot in a few words. You have to have a methodical approach about the place.”
On May 10, the two-time Indy 500 winner will relay that information and ample amounts more during the Rookie Orientation Program at the Speedway. The 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. session, which also will include a refresher course for competitors, is free and open to the public to watch from the South Terrace Grandstands adjacent to Gate 2. Opening Day for all-cars practice is May 12.
Participating in the Rookie Orientation Program (confirmed entrants):
Katherine Legge, No. 6 Dragon Racing
Rubens Barrichello, No. 8 KV Racing Technology
James Jakes, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing
Bryan Clauson, No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Wade Cunningham, No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing
Josef Newgarden, No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Simon Pagenaud, No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports
Luyendyk was the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year (he started 20th and finished seventh) in a class that included Raul Boesel, Jim Crawford, John Paul Jr., Ed Pimm and Rich Vogler. Insight about how to approach the 2.5-mile racetrack and the mental aspects of how to approach Race Day will be prominent in the lead-up to on-track activity.
“I’ll take them around in a pace car and show them the general line,” says Luyendyk, an IZOD IndyCar Series race steward and driver coach. “And I’ll point out things to them like keep your eye on the wind sock on a windy day because you can adjust your position as you turn into Turn 1 or Turn 3. I’ll tell them where all the trucks are stationed so if they have a problem they can try to pull off nearby. When you come out of the pits on the backstraight, don’t think the track’s your own because the guy coming up behind you is a lot quicker.
“As I go around with the pace car I keep remembering things and I’ll share. Some of them are personal preferences like the way I was seated in the car or the way I wanted to have the steering wheel (level).
“Then there’s the mental approach to the race. If you’re on the radio with a guy, you can mentally coach him at certain times through the race. Like if he has a certain set of tires and all of a sudden the car is not handling well and he’s going 5 mph than before, you need to step in and say, ‘OK, this is bad news but you have to hang on. Don’t get frustrated. Other guys will have it happen to them.’ You have to reassure them that it’s going to be OK, even if it’s not.
“A lot of guys get on a roll, they’re running well, and one stint in their mind is destroying their race. You don’t want them to get frustrated and crash.”
Luyendyk, who made 17 consecutive starts in the “500,” winning in 1990 and ’97, also holds the track four-lap (236.986 mph in 1996) and one-lap (237.498 mph) qualifying records. The past two years at Indianapolis, he’s coached Mike Conway and Charlie Kimball.
“Having Arie there — not just for ROP but the whole month — made a difference because Indianapolis is one of those places where the second you stop paying attention you end up doing something that gets you into trouble,” says Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car.
“The first time you go there the safe thing is to lift early and turn in early, and then when you’re starting to go flat if you turn in early you get yourself in trouble on Race Day. So having Arie there to say, ‘Look, here’s how it’s going to play out if you keep doing this.'”
Adds Luyendyk with a chuckle: “Turn 1 is a corner where most guys have a tendency to turn in too early and they keep turning in early and early. I went on the radio and said, ‘Do you want me to remind you every lap that you’re turning in too early or every other lap?’ I think he got it then.”
It’s a cogent bit of information that Kimball will pass along during his IndyCar career.
2. If you missed it: May 8 conference call: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand and Oriol Servia Panther Racing CEO and co-owner John Barnes Dreyer & Reinbold co-owners Dennis Reinbold and Robbie Buhl participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to preview the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discuss the strategic alliance between Panther Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at media.indycar.com. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. Can either of you talk about how the partnership with Panther Racing came about?
DENNIS REINBOLD: I can answer that. We started talking with Panther shortly after the Indy 500 last year. We did a little more of a casual partnership last year. We started sharing some information toward the end of the season. That went very well. We got along really well. So John and Robbie and myself started talking about this year, and then we went a different direction with the Lotus program.
And once the things happened with that program as they played out, we reconfirmed that we would like to work again with Panther. And so this has really come about over a series of many months. It’s not ‑‑ it’s not just this happened in the last week or two. We’ve been discussing this and kind of posturing how it would fit together for probably eight months or more than that.
Q. Robbie, just to clarify, this is not Panther acquiring Dreyer & Reinbold, you guys are both separate entities and are just working together as, I guess, a joint venture?
ROBBIE BUHL: Yeah, this is a partnership between our teams. We’ve now formed Panther‑DRR. I couldn’t be more excited, as an ex‑driver, to now have two very good single efforts and single ‑‑ and good drivers in both JR and Oriol. And for those guys now to be working together and exchanging that information, you know, I can’t wait to get things rolling here for the month of May.
Q. JB, I know that Panther’s been talking and you’ve run a second car to JR in the past, but now you add the resources of the Dreyer & Reinbold team and Oriol Servia to your team that’s being built pretty well around JR, one of the budding stars of our sport.
JOHN BARNES: As both gentlemen said, we’re always excited about this program. I think Oriol is one of the top six drivers in IndyCar. He does a great job. He and JR will get along famously. The other teams and stuff will have to deal with both those drivers on a week in and week out basis.
This friendship goes back many years. We’ve talked about how to put something together that could benefit both programs. I think that we’ve done that. Took a little longer to get done than both of us hoped. Our teams are here preparing for the Indianapolis 500.
As Dennis said, we’ve kind of been through this last year. So both groups know each other really, really well. They know the strategies that each other play. They know the roles that each other play. It’s not ‑‑ we’re so happy and so excited to be partnered with a group that are basically our cousins anyway.
Q. Oriol, you’ve had some great young drivers as teammates ‑‑ Will Power, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe last year. How much are you looking forward to working with Panther Racing, JR Hildebrand, and Chevrolet?
ORIOL SERVIA: I am on many levels. I think what you announced yesterday, it is actually a big ‑‑ it’s a huge deal. I see it more like sometimes you put one and one together, and it adds up to three, not two. I think that’s what we’re doing. I think it shows a lot the commitment from both Panther and Dreyer & Reinbold. We are here to win, to try to beat the Penskes, the Ganassis.
And when you look at them, they have three cars each, four cars each, and I think we both have realized in a single car operation, it’s just an uphill when you try to beat these guys.
In a way, I think it couldn’t be done in a better way because I know that both Dreyer and Panther in the off‑season were each preparing to be two‑car teams, both of them. So we do have a lot of manpower. We do have a lot of resources, and now we’re putting them all together, and that’s only going to help.
Then working with JR, I know he’s a super talented guy. He was Indy Lights champion, and he’s shown many times his speed. Not only speed, I know he’s a good guy. He’s one of those people that you can trust, that you can work with, and I think we all ‑‑ you know, in this deal, I think we all see how it’s going to be beneficial for all of us to work together well and hopefully go for a one‑two finish in the big race. I’m really excited and looking forward to it.
Q. JR, you haven’t run with a teammate much. I know you had a couple races with Buddy Rice as a teammate. Those were some of your stronger races last year. How much does having a teammate help in a young driver’s development?
JR HILDEBRAND: I think the big thing for us is just get through the weekends a little more easily. I mean, as kind of the one‑car operation, we showed last year that we could run up front with just one car, but it was hard to do week in and week out. It was hard to have that consistency. And when you weren’t running well, to be able to dig yourself out of that hole quickly. As we all know, if you start out behind or you get behind at some point during the race weekend, kind of as Oriol alluded to, with the Penske guys having three cars out there, Andretti same deal, Ganassi with sort of a four‑car army, you just really don’t have the information to turn things around quickly.
I’m really looking forward to it. I think, for me, it will help a lot as well. Obviously, having worked with Dreyer & Reinbold in the past, they gave me my debut in the IndyCar Series two years ago now, and being around Oriol for the last year, I think we can all just get down to business in a hurry and get started on the right foot.
Q.I know how special that Freedom 100 win was to you, but being able to race and win the Indy 500 in a car you own has to be something you probably didn’t dream of doing when you were a kid.
ED CARPENTER: No, definitely spent a lot of time thinking about racing in the Indy 500, but being an owner/driver isn’t something you think about back then. But as you get older and meet more people, opportunities present themselves. Having a lot of fun this year driving for my own team.
Q. You won the last time the IZOD IndyCar Series raced in Kentucky through four races. I know you haven’t had an oval race yet, but do you think you have built a team that can keep you as one of the top contenders at every oval?
ED CARPENTER: I do. We just finished testing yesterday at Texas. I thought for the first day out we showed good pace and good speed for the first time out with a new car. I’m really looking forward to the month of May and don’t see any reason why we won’t be at the front of the field.
3. Rahal hosts charity golf tournament: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal and the Graham Rahal Foundation will be hosting the inaugural “Drivers Tournament” benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and SeriousFun Children’s Network during the week of the 2012 Indianapolis 500 on Wednesday, May 23 at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course located within the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The event is presented by Service Central, the automotive service offered exclusively at Big O Tires, Merchant’s Tire and Auto, National Tire and Battery, and Tire Kingdom.
As a part of their ongoing relationship with Graham Rahal and Chip Ganassi Racing, Service Central is giving fans the chance to compete in the tournament alongside their favorite IndyCar drivers and celebrities by donating the registration fees for the two lucky winners.
Fans have until 8 p.m. on May 11 to submit a picture of themselves via Twitter wearing Graham Rahal or Service Central Racing gear inside any Big O Tires, Merchant’s Tire and Auto, National Tire and Battery, or Tire Kingdom location.
Fans must tweet the picture and #GRFGolf to the Graham Rahal Foundation (@GR_Foundation) and Service Central (@SC_Racing) to be considered.
The two winners will be chosen at random and announced via Twitter by Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) on Monday, May 14, 2012. Each winner will play in the golf tournament courtesy of Service Central and be allowed to bring one playing guest (winner and guest are responsible for getting to the event).
Breakfast and registration starts at 8:00 A.M. EDT followed by the beginning of the tournament with a shotgun start at 9:00 A.M. EDT. Limited spots are still available with a registration for a team of four participants starting at $2,500.
4. Print of exciting Indy 500 finish available to public: Jim Swintal’s print “Finish of the Century,” featuring an on-track view of Dan Wheldon’s charge across the finish line ahead of Charlie Kimball and past the damaged second-place car of JR Hildebrand, is available to the public.
“As soon as it happened, I knew it was a moment to be captured in a painting, right up with the three close finishes and Ralph De Palma pushing his car across the line,” Swintal said.
The 18-inch x 24-inch lithograph, released in November, was derived from an original painting Swintal created for the Dan Wheldon Memorial Auction. The framed artwork sold in the auction for more than $2,100 — part of the more than $625,000 raised. Many who saw the artwork asked about prints, so Swintal obliged.
Proceeds of print sales also will be directed to the Wheldon Family Trust. “Finish of the Century” is available at www.jimswintal.com and the IZOD IndyCar Series official online store. All copies are signed by the artist.
“We’re on the way to equal the amount of the original in donations as a result of these print sales,” Swintal said. “It’s still a huge blow to Dan’s family, friends and to the IndyCar community, but I’m honored to be able to keep a hand in the effort.”
5. ‘INDY Live’ returns to Brickyard Crossing: “INDY Live” will be on the air May 15, 17, 22 and 24 with Mike King as host. The radio show, starting at 7 p.m. each day, originates from the Brickyard Crossing Restaurant and is open to the public.
Autograph sessions will be held during commercial breaks for attendees. The lineup for the first two shows:
(7-7:30) — Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti
(7:30-8) — James Hinchcliffe, Ana Beatriz, Ryan Hunter-Reay
(7-7:30) — Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power
(7:30-8) — Mike Conway, Wade Cunningham, JR Hildebrand
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indianapolis 500 Mile on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by ABC at 11a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network at Noon (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network.