Is it May yet?
Not quite… but the turbo whine of an IndyCar was circulating around IMS today… so it must be close. On a blustery day that was cut a little short by rain, Indianapolis 500 rookie Kurt Busch, in the No. 26 Suretone Honda and 1995 Indianapolis 500 champion Jacques Villeneuve, in the No. 5 Dollar General Honda both completed their refresher programs.
Villeneuve and Busch were both required to complete the second and third phases of the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) to pass their refresher test. The second phase consists of 15 laps between 205 and 210 mph, while the third phase is 15 laps at 210+ mph.
Busch got up to speed quickly, turning laps in the 219 mph range and passing the second phase of ROP before the lunch break. Not long after lunch break the 2004 NASCAR champion completed the third phase of ROP and was approved to practice with the rest of the Indianapolis 500 hopefuls. In total the 35 year old, Las Vegas native completed 66 circuits of the iconic 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway and recorded a top lap of 220.844 mph. That would have been good enough for the third quickest lap on opening day for the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
Busch said, ““The last run we made was just about where they would unload for race trim.”
After completing his refresher course the “Double Outlaw” began working through the various tools in the IndyCar cockpit in an effort to get comfortable with the changes they make on the car.
“It really makes you think,” Busch said. “Overall, it was a good day just to settle in with the team and advance further than rookie orientation. It felt good to give feedback to the team from the car and have them explain things to me how we’re going to move forward. They continued to change downforce combinations on the car and it was just neat to feel all that and check it off the list.
After competing in the NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, Busch will be back in his Andretti Autosport IndyCar on May 5th when the rest of the rookies take to IMS to complete ROP.
Villeneuve, who last drove on a super speedway at Michigan International Speedway in 1995, took a more measured approach.
“It took a while to get there. The first few laps were surprising because it felt like I was going fast and I looked and it was 180 (mph),” Villeneuve said. “I thought, ‘There’s still a long way to go,’ and then 190. And another 10 laps I started getting in the rhythm, and once you start going flat all around it becomes easy. I think your brain, your vision just needs to get used to driving at speed.”
Villeneuve completed 12 laps before the lunch break and by his 64th lap had completed both phases of ROP required to pass his refresher course. After completing the refresher the 1994 Indianapolis 500 Rookie-Of-The-Year began working on mechanical grip before the rain started to fall. He completed 207.5 miles and his quickest lap was a circuit at 217.742 mph.
The 43 year old will now head back to Europe to honor his commitments in World Rallycross. He will next be on track at IMS on May 11th.
There were quite a few interested spectators among the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Juan Montoya, Mikhail Aleshin, Oriol Servia, Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter all made appearances on pit road at some point during the session
Karam pins down 500 ride
The 30th confirmed entry for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be reigning Indy Lights champion, Sage Karam. Karam signed a multi-year development deal with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams that will include the 2014 “Greatest Spectacle In Racing”. Sage will pilot the No. 22 Chevrolet powered Dallara through an alliance with Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing.
“I couldn’t be happier to join Chip Ganassi Racing’s Verizon IndyCar Series program. It is honestly a dream come true for me and my racing career,” said Karam. “I’ve been very fortunate to participate in a few IMSA races for Chip with the team, and I can’t wait for my first experience in the Indianapolis 500. Chip has created a fantastic organization that judges success by just one thing – WINNING, both races and championships. This is a very big day for me.”
Karam, the youngest Indy Lights champion is the first driver to compete and win at all three levels of the Mazda Road To Indy. The 19 year old, who competed in two TUDOR United SporstCar Championship races for Ganassi, joins 18 year old Dylan Kwasniewski as a CGRT development driver.
“Sage is a unique talent that we believe is a future star of the sport,” explained team owner Chip Ganassi. “Even at a young age, he has been successful at every level that he has raced at. It is nice to see his poise and tenacity on the race track as I think that will translate well to his driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 500. He reminds me of the two other recent young drivers that we have in our program, Kyle Larson and Dylan Kwasniewski.”
Newgarden goes sonic
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Indianapolis based Klipsh Audio are expanding their current relationship, which first began in 2013, to include primary sponsorship for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Josef Newgarden will pilot the No.67 Klipsh Honda around the newly redesigned 16 run road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the “Month of May” kick-off.
“Serving as the primary sponsor of Klipsch brand ambassador Josef Newgarden during Indianapolis’ inaugural Grand Prix will be a legendary moment for our company,” Klipsch CEO Paul Jacobs said. “Our relationship with the SFHR team has given us a direct link to the sport and its fans for which our headquarter city of Indianapolis is most known. We look forward to the upcoming race, as well as the continuation and growth of our partnership.”
Founded in 1946 by Paul W. Klipsh, Klipsh Audio was one of the first speaker companies in the USA and currently manufactures a full line of sonic enhancement products, from the speakers you’ll find at the cinema, all the way down to the tiniest earbud headphones.
Bronte Tagliani, wife of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Alex Tagliani is one of the more recognizable faces in the IndyCar paddock as a constant fixture beside her 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole winning husband. This May, the model will be flipping the role and getting behind the lens of a camera chronicling what she and other Verizon IndyCar Series wives are wearing (and doing) while their husbands prepare for the Indianapolis 500. A fan of “street-style”, the Australian will also capture any other IMS sites and sounds that catch her fancy. You can check out the new blog here –> Belle En Noir by Bronte. Belle En Noir translates to Beautiful In Black
#IndyCar tweet of the day:
A young driver trying to live his dream. This tweet sums up that quest in 140 characters.
So close, yet so far. Put blood sweat and tears into this effort. Just praying that it happens. Blessed to have so many good people helping!
— Stefan Wilson (@stef_wilson) April 29, 2014
IndyCar video of the day:
Jack Newtown is back.