By Amy Konrath
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 10, 2012 – Six drivers completed the three required speed phases during Rookie Orientation Program activities May 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Josef Newgarden and Bryan Clauson of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, James Jakes of Dale Coyne Racing, Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports and Rubens Barrichello of KV Racing Technology completed the 40-lap test, clearing the way for them to compete in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 27. Michel Jourdain Jr., who last raced at Indianapolis in 1996, also completed the speed phases.
Wade Cunningham of A.J. Foyt Racing completed two of the three phases. He, along with Jean Alesi of Fan Force United, can complete the final phase when ROP resumes at 4:30 p.m. on May 11.
The Rookie Orientation Program is designed to provide first-year drivers an informal opportunity to get acquainted with the 2.5-mile oval. The three speed phases, which were set by INDYCAR based on the weather and track conditions, were: Phase 1: 10 laps at 200-205 mph; Phase 2: 15 laps at 205-210 mph; and Phase 3: 15 Laps at 210 mph-plus.
Jakes set the fastest lap of the session, running a lap of 41.2338 seconds, 218.268 mph in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.
“I have mixed memories of this place,” Jakes said. “Obviously I love driving around here. There’s no place like it, but going home last year was probably one of the lowest points of my racing career. I’ve never not been able to get into a race before, and it really got to me last year. But we said this year we wouldn’t be in the same situation, and we’ve started things the right way. It’s only ROP, but we sailed through the first three stages and it went well.
“I think I would have happy going straight out there, but it’s good. You never complain about getting free laps on free tires, you know. I think it’s good, and I think they should maybe have a refresher day for everybody. You know, when you come from another track the speeds are so much greater here than everywhere else, and all it takes is one mistake to have a big accident. So I think the idea of the ROP is good.”
For Alesi, the 18 laps he turned in the No. 64 Lotus – FP Journe – Fan Force United Lotus were his initial laps in an IZOD IndyCar Series machine as well as his first ever laps on an oval.
“There’s a first time for everything,” he said. “It’s a big day and I’m very happy to be in Indianapolis on this great racetrack with Lotus. I will rest better now. You have a tension when you go out of the pit, but as soon as you change gears and go up with the speed you feel in your world. I’ve been in motorsports for a long time but haven’t driven on an oval, so I’ve very happy to have accomplished this part.”
Boost levels increased for “Fast Friday,” Qualifying: INDYCAR announced today that turbocharger boost levels will increase for “Fast Friday” and the two days of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500.
The standard boost level of 130 kPa (kilopascals) for superspeedways will be upped to 140 kPa for the May 18 practice session, Pole Day on May 19 and Bump Day on May 20. The increase will result in the addition of 40-50 horsepower.
The boost level will be 130 kPa for all other practice days and Race Day on May 27.
INDYCAR set boost levels for the Borg-Warner single and twin turbochargers utilized by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus before the season based on testing. It also will be 130 kPa for the superspeedways of Auto Club Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. The boost level for the short ovals of the Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway is 140 kpa, while it’s 155 kpa for road and street circuits.
Familiar face helps rookie drivers: The scenery has changed since Mark Dismore competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the feelings when driving through the main gate remain constant.
“I’m very happy to be here. The memories …,” said Dismore, who made seven Indianapolis 500 starts through 2002.
He’s assisting rookie Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car, unlock the intricacies of the 2.5-mile oval.
“The experience he has here in Firestone Indy Light definitely will help him,” said Dismore, who sold Newgarden his first go-kart in 2003. “He’s a good race driver. I’m not here to tell him how to drive. He already knows that.
“This place is just unique. There are little things that as I finally started to figure it out the last three years I was here and I’m trying to short cut his learning curve in building a good race car.”
Dismore had a best start of fourth and finish of 11th at the Speedway, and made 58 Indy Racing League starts overall. He won the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Dismore also competed briefly in CART and was the 1993 24 Hours of Daytona winner, co-driving with Rocky Moran and P.J. Jones.
Dismore, 55, owns and operates Comet Kart Sales in Greenfield, Ind., and New Castle (Ind.) Motorsports Park, where Newgarden has put in plenty of laps in a kart.
Reigning USAC National Drivers Championship title-holder Bryan Clauson also is making his Indy 500 (and IZOD IndyCar Series) debut in the second car for the team.
“The opportunity is there for him and he’s proven he’s a good race driver,” Dismore said. “He’s used to racing with the engine in front of him and now it’s behind him. I think Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing has the opportunity here to have good results.”
Stars and cars at Monument Circle: Vintage/classic automobiles and Indianapolis 500-winning drivers Johnny Rutherford and Arie Luyendyk will be at the Green Flag Celebration presented by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11 (10 a.m.) at Monument Circle in Indianapolis.
The cars on display are part of the Celebration of Automobiles, which pays tribute to the rich heritage of automotive development at the track for more than 100 years, on May 12 at the Speedway.
Of note: Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing driver Graham Rahal will be the grand marshal of the “Kindy 500” at the Creekside Middle School (Carmel, Ind.) track, where about 100 students will participate in relay races in cardboard cars created at home.
ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM QUOTES:
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I enjoyed today very much. I want to thank IndyCar for having the ROP (Rookie Orientation Program) session. It allows you to progress gradually without too much pressure, so I was at ease with my car and the whole process. I have a great teacher in Tony (Kanaan) and the whole team seemed to be out here, even the mechanics and engineers from Tony and E.J.’s car, so everyone was here to help me out. Overall, I had a very successful day and look forward to practice again on Saturday.”
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (No. 30 Office Depot/RLL Racing Honda): “It was fantastic. I was thinking in the car when I was doing the laps ‘This is so much fun.’ I’m not going to say that it feels like yesterday that I was here, but it doesn’t feel like 16 years ago. The car feels really stable. The team did a test here about a month ago with Takuma (Sato) and the car feels really stable; perfect to do the refresher phases today. I thought I was going to be much more nervous but it felt really good. I was quite comfortable and relaxed – at home. I treated it with a lot of respect and built up to the speed. In the beginning I tried to not feel any pressure to do a certain lap time. I just tried to be smart and patient. The only goal was to get through these phases today. Tonight I have a lot to sleep on. The last couple of years I haven’t been sleeping that good but I slept through the night last night and woke up to the alarm which was really good. These things make me quite happy. I feel relaxed; I don’t know how I look but I feel really good. I felt at home in the car and I’m very, very happy.”
BRYAN CLAUSON (No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Honda): “It was a good, solid day. We had no issues and just took care of business. The guys at SFHR did a phenomenal job preparing both racecars and both got through all three phases without making an adjustment. It was a great day for the team.” (About speed he and Josef Newgarden showed): “Unfortunately, going 214 the fourth time by doesn’t do anything but burn up a lap. It definitely showed the speed and comfort. I was excited to get in the car. It was a long wait to get this month started and I was just excited to get out there.”
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply Honda): “It’s a proud day to be in an IndyCar here with the history of IMS. In terms of getting through rookie orientation, we didn’t finish it, but we’re able to do that on the regular days of running, so we can just slide it in with the regular guys and get those laps knocked out and get signed off. We’re going to get out of the backup car now and change the motor over to our primary car and get it prepared and roll out on Saturday.” (How does the car compare to a Firestone Indy Lights car here?): “The speeds are a bit higher, you’re in the corners for a bit less time than I was used to in the past in the Lights car. The Indy car’s definitely more wind sensitive and maybe a little bit more line dependent than the Lights car just because of the high speed but it’s a race car and it gives similar feedback so you just have to trust your instincts, trust your gut and your hands.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing): “I think we were pleasantly surprised by our times. It kind of snuck up on us really, it’s definitely quicker than we expected. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us in the 220s by the end of next week or maybe even earlier, they’re definitely going to get quicker than people realized.” (About getting through ROP in 47 laps): “I think we were really comfortable today, we came in with a very conservative approach, but we seemed to be able to run around 216 all day at the moment, which is encouraging if you’re able to run comfortably and take everything easy to start with. If we’re able to do that so early then that’s not a bad sign. I think the biggest thing is that this is a long process. Indy Light is a junior series, and it’s like a junior weekend when you come here. You run pretty much a regular race weekend. Whereas in (the IZOD IndyCar Series), you now have a lot of time, you’ve got to go through things, so you have to use that time and that process the right way. All the guys that have been here a long time, the Penskes and the Ganassis, they know how to take the time and use it properly, and use it to their advantage. That’s the big thing I think I have to learn as a rookie, is to take the time and try to make the most of it.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports): “It was a great day. I’ve heard a lot about this place and got a lot of advice from a lot of people so it was great to finally find out about Indianapolis myself and feel it myself. It’s like there are 12 corners here instead of four. There are a lot of things you feel through the corners and when you go so fast, turn in is one thing, you feel a lot things going through your butt, and then mid corner, things start gripping up and you get to the exit and the car tends to push or gets loose and all those places are very different. And you have to try to process it all in your mind all while going 210 mph. It was a good feeling and a pleasant surprise. Now I have the experience that I can put things on my list to work on before the race. Very pleased, so far.”
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.