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DATE News (chronologically)
05/04/08
irl
Indy: Rookie Orientation notebook
Entry List update: Davey Hamilton is the driver of the #22 Hewlett-Packard/KR Vision Racing entry.

DAVEY HAMILTON: “You know, I love this place. It’s hard to, as a racing driver, get this particular race out of your system. There’s a handful of races I love. This is one of them, the Oswego Classic, which I participated in last year and I’ll do again, the Copper Classic, which unfortunately is no longer there, they always just stood out as the thrills of my career and I love to do. I’m just fortunate that Hewlett-Packard and Kingdom (Racing) came aboard to allow me to negotiate with Tony (George) to put together a third entry for Vision Racing. It was down to the last minute, it has worked out, we’ll be in the car tomorrow and the car looks fantastic. I feel really confident because I think we have a better program, and Vision has a better program, than last year so hopefully we pick up where we left off and try to make it bet ter.” (Did last year’s ninth-place finish exceed all your expectations?): “Yeah, it did actually. It’s one of those things where you go into the month, a top-10 finish at any race is pretty good with the competition level the way it is, and that was my goal last year. Just a top-10 finish was my goal, if I could just get in the top 10 I’d be a happy guy. We were very fortunate to be able to go beyond that and get a ninth and actually run in the top-five at times. Absolutely, I was very happy with the result.”

***

Despite their rookie status, several of the ROP candidates have previously competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lloyd, Howard, Mutoh and Camara competed in Firestone Indy Lights events on the oval. Camara won the Firestone Freedom 100 in 2005 and finished third the last two seasons. Lloyd won the Firestone Freedom 100 in 2007. Mutoh finished second in last year’s race, while Howard was the runner-up in 2006.

Bernoldi and Wilson made Formula One starts on the Speedway’s road course. Bernoldi finished 13th in the 2001 United States Grand Prix. Wilson was eighth in 2003.

Rahal led 21 laps in the Firestone Indy Lights race on the road course in 2006.

***

Stephan Gregoire is one of the drivers who doesn't have a ride for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, although the seven-time "500" starter will be driving the "two-seater" for guests during the month of May.

Gregoire remains at the ready. Earlier this season, he competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and in June he will co-pilot a Pescarolo/Judd machine in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Roll Center Racing of England, which finished fourth a year ago. He's teamed with the daughter of former Formula One standout Jacky Ickx as a co-driver for that event.

And, in his 20th year of racing, Gregoire wants to run the Indianapolis 500 for the last time.

STEPHAN GREGOIRE: "No European driver has ever run all three of those races in one season. It's something, a goal, that I really want to do."

***

Will Power, driver of the #8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone, took the honor of being the first driver on track for Opening Day at the 92nd Indianapolis 500, an honor that sometimes has been hard-fought over the years. The best start by the driver first on track over the last 25 years has been by Raul Boesel, who started second in 1994. The best finish is second, set by Marco Andretti in 2006. zzzz

FIRST ON TRACK, 1983 -2008

Year Driver Started Finished
2007 Jaques Lazier 28th 27th
2006 Marco Andretti 9th 2nd
2005 Danica Patrick 4th 4th
2004 Sarah Fisher 19th 24th
2003 Felipe Giaffone 16th 33rd
2002 Billy Boat 23rd 18th
2001 Stephan Gregoire 29th 28th
2000 Stephan Gregoire 20th 7th
1999 Stephan Gregoire Did Not Qualify
1998 Mike Groff 32nd 15th
1997 Dr. Jack Miller 17th 20th
1996 Michele Alboreto 12th 30th
1995 Eliseo Salazar 24th 4th
1994 Raul Boesel 2nd 21st
1993 Jimmy Vasser 19th 13th
1992 Scott Brayton 7th 22nd
1991 Scott Brayton 19th 17th
1990 Tero Palmroth 16th 12th
1989 Arie Luyendyk 15th 21st
1988 Raul Boesel 7th 20th
1987 Ludwig Heimrath Jr. 10th 30th
1986 Chip Ganassi 26th 25th
1985 Dick Simon 26th 14th
1984 Dick Simon 20th 23rd
1983 Bill Tempero Did Not Qualify

***
Indianapolis 500 rookie E.J. Viso and Firestone Indy Lights driver J.R. Hildebrand were among 35,000 participants in yesterday’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. Hildebrand completed the 13.1-mile run in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 36 seconds, finishing 834th overall. Viso completed the run in 1:36.16.

E.J. VISO (#33 PDVSA HVM RACING): “My run yesterday was great. It was a great opportunity and a great way to spend my first time in this track. It was kind of a different way to come to a new track. I am not tired. I was way off my limit. I just did it for fun. I wasn't pushing, and it was kind of frustrating because you're running and you know that you can not run quick because you're thinking of tomorrow. I just took it easy, did it for training and just enjoyed it.

“It was difficult (to judge the banking and configuration) because there were so many people and we didn't run on the actual track, just the inside part and it was full of people, you couldn't see much.”

J.R. HILDEBRAND (#25 Allied Building Products): “I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into because I hadn't trained for it and I haven't run that distance for time before. There were a ton of people at the start, so it took a little while to get settled in, but once I got a few miles in I felt pretty good. Running onto the speedway grounds was definitely an experience, and having to run all the way around the track really gives one an appreciation for how big the place really is and what we'll be up against in a few weeks. I was still on a good pace after I got through 10 miles. From there it got a little tougher, but I was able to work through it. I posted a respectable time at the end, although I'm not sure there's ever been a time that I was happier just to have made it to the end of a race.”

***

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard waved the green flag to officially open practice for the 92nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

GREG BALLARD (Mayor of Indianapolis): “It was a lot of fun, I have to tell you. When the cars come by it's pretty exciting.

“I really never got here until I was a teenager and I saw my first race. It was quite a while back, I think it was '73. When I was in the Marine Corps, I watched races all around the world in different places I was at, and to come back home and be the starter at Indy, it's pretty special stuff.

“I tell people, frankly, that this is the best month of any city in the world. It really is a great event and a great month, and it really celebrates the city and the culture of the city. This is such a symbol around the world. It truly is. I've been around the world and I know it. People talk about this place everywhere, and I'm so proud of this place and what it does for the city.”

Corvettes circle the brickyard
Chris Jones/IRL
(About ride in Corvette Pace Car) “That was great. We got up somewhere around 135-140 (mph) probably, and he was telling me where they look at their marks and how they look at the track, and coming out of Turn 2, how they look at the wind sock down there, and it was just amazing. And to think we were going 100 miles an hour less than the race cars are going, so having to react that quickly and having to concentrate that much for three hours is incredible.”

***

Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk is working with rookie Alex Lloyd, and was even seen chauffeuring the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion and his wife on a golf cart.

ARIE LUYENDYK: “Chip Ganassi asked me to, like I've done before for him, with Ryan Briscoe, just to kind of be in the pits, listen to what's going on and give Ryan some advice and the same with Alex (Lloyd). There are things that a rookie is not aware of, obviously, when he comes here, so I can help a bit on a lot of things with my experience, not just for practicing, but also for qualifying and race day. With this place, say the car starts to go away and handle bad, then you get this mental aspect and it's really important to not get down on yourself. So a lot of those things I can kind of tell the driver, you know, don't worry about it, it's the car. Change this, do that, or whatever.”

(About how the event relates now to when he was a rookie) “The track is still the same and the speeds are still high, and that's the one thing that a lot of people forget, with the rookies and the guys that have never been here, that the first time you walk into this place you have to be impressed and somewhat humbled, so it does that to you somewhat when you're young. But as far as the things that have changed, all that has really changed is the infield stuff and the buildings and the Pagoda. Stuff like that is obviously very cool looking, but from a driver’s perspective, you're not really looking at the buildings, you're looking at what you're going to do on the racetrack. That really hasn't changed much. The cars are different now than they were then, but of course, these guys wouldn't know the cars from back then, so for them it's pretty much the same as it was for us when we started here.”

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