Archive for May 11, 2012

By: Wm. LaDow

Published in the Post-Tribune, a Chicago Sun-Times Media Publication May 11, 2012

The Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) has one purpose, to get rookie drivers up-to-speed in a controlled environment.  On Thursday, six out of the eight rookies eligible, completed their 40 lap – three phase ROP.

Coyne Racing’s James Jakes, was the quickest on the day in his Honda-powered Dallara with a lap clocked at 218.268 mph (tow-assisted.) Jakes posted the top speed following completion of his ROP program. Following his effort, Jakes said “I have mixed memories of this place. Obviously I love driving around here. There’s no place like it, but going home last year (after not making the race) was probably one of the lowest points of my racing career.”

Also completing all three ROP phases were Bryan Clauson (217.046 mph) and Josef Newgarden (216.573 mph) – both driving Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda-Dallaras

The final three drivers to complete their ROP requirements were: Rubens Barrichello (214.083 mph) driving the No. 8 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet-Dallara, Simon Pagenaud (214.055) in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda-Dallara and Michel Jourdain (213.633 mph) in the No. 30 Office Depot/RLL Racing Honda-Dallara.

Wade Cunningham, driving the No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda-Dallara completed the first two phases of the ROP; clocking a fastest lap of 210.318 mph. Cunningham can now complete the final phase anytime the Speedway is open for full practice.

Former Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi, at the Speedway by virtue of a program forged by Lotus, was the final rookie entry to see track time today. He completed 18 laps with a top speed of 186.387 mph, while shaking down the Lotus-Fan Force United No. 64 car. The 47-year-old Alesi, who has never raced before on an oval and hasn’t completed in F1 since 2001, will have to successfully complete the first two ROP phases in rookie-only sessions slated for Saturday and Sunday.

The final Rookie entered in the 500, Dragon Racing’s Katherine Legge, was unable to participate in the program due to her team owner, Jay Penske and their engine supplier, Lotus, being currently involved in a nasty $4.6 million legal action. Penske filed a “Breach of Contract” action against Lotus last Friday, and as a result is currently unable to sign with another engine supplier (believed to be Chevrolet) until the issue is resolved. Both Legge’s car and that of her teammate, Sebastien Bourdais, are sitting idle.

James Jake at speed during the Indy 500 ROP
Photo by Mike Young — Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway