The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened its doors on Tuesday for limited action as ROP (Rookie Orientation Program) awakened the mighty speedway from its long slumber. Drivers Mike Conway, Stanton Barrett, Robert Doornbos, Alex Tagliani, Nelson Philippe & Raphael Matos, took to the track to the track for the very fist time today at speed in an IndyCar.
The rookie crop this year isn’t nearly as large as the group of 13 greenhorns that shoed Indy for the first time last year. This years group does not suffer from a lack of experience though. Tagliani needs no introduction as a stalwart from CART/CCWS with 8 years of experience, add to that several starts in IndyCar since the end of last season. Philippe also comes with CART/CCWS experience, to the tune of 4 years, 1 win at Surfer’s and a highest points finish of 4th in 2006. Mike Conway is an accomplished road course specialist with GP2 experience, chalking up a win at Monaco in the F1 feeder series. Robert Doornbos put together two seasons in F1 with Minardi and also competed in CCWS for Team Minardi USA in 2007, putting 2 wins on the board. Raphael Matos is no stranger to IMS having competed on the hallowed grounds last year on his way to winning the Indy Lights championship. Matos famously won the 2007 Atlantics championship and decided to forgo the 2 million dollar CCWS sponsorship money to take a seat in Indy Lights. Turned out to be a wise choice for him. Lastly, Stanton Barrett has over 200 starts in various NASCAR events.
All but Philippe and Barrett completed all 4 increasing speed segments of ROP. Philippe completed 3 segments, while Barrett completed 2. They will have more time tomorrow before the first full IndyCar practice to complete the program.
Also joining the ROP group today were three IMS veterans who were allowed to take remedial laps in a smaller group before the entire field is released in anger on Wednesday for practice at 2pm EST. Paul Tracy, Scott Sharp and Alex Lloyd took to the track with Tracy putting up quick time with Sharp following close behind. Here are the times for today’s IndyCar action.
1. (15) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 223.089
2. (16) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 221.878
3. (06) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 221.735
4. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 218.613
5. (34) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 218.333
6. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 217.063
7. (00) Nelson Phillippe, Dallara-Honda, 214.786
8. (99) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 213.032
9. (98) Stanton Barrett, Dallara-Honda, 207.522