Four IndyCar Series rookies set for first test
While 12 Firestone Indy Lights rookies tested on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway Feb. 23, four IndyCar Series rookies stood champing at the bit, waiting for their turn on the 1.5-mile variably-banked oval.
Stanton Barrett, Mike Conway, Robert Doornbos and Raphael Matos were scheduled for bonus test time later that evening. Some in the diverse group, such as Barrett, have had significant time on ovals but never in an IndyCar Series car. Others, such as Conway and Doornbos, have a lot of open-wheel experience but not on ovals. Matos, the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, has the benefit of running all the circuits on the IndyCar Series schedule in a similar car.
All spent the day preparing for their maiden voyages of the 2009 season.
“I did a lap with Al Unser Jr., so he gave me some tips,” said Doornbos, a former Formula One driver who will drive the No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry. “And Arie Luyendyk will join me tomorrow, so I think learning from the masters is going to be good. I’m excited because I’ve been talking so much about this deal and now it’s finally here.”
Conway took a hot lap with veteran IndyCar Series driver Davey Hamilton.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Conway said. “Since we signed with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing we’ve been looking forward to getting on the ovals. We’ve got to experience it for ourselves, see what it feels like. Hopefully we can get up to speed quickly and start making changes, see what they do to the car, find the limits.”
Conway’s only previous experience in an IndyCar Series car came last summer on the road course at Infineon Raceway.
“(The IndyCar Series car) is a little bit heavier than what I’ve driven in the past,” he said. “It’s a good, fun car – handled really well, reacted well to the changes. It was good fun.”
Barrett is preparing for his IndyCar Series debut following a NASCAR career that includes more than 170 starts dating back to 1992.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time for this,” said Barrett, who will drive the No. 98 Team 3G entry. “I’m super excited and a little bit nervous at the same time. I have an idea of what it’s going to be like, but it will be a whole new experience. I’m used to trying new things and figuring it out real quick. It’s going to be really cool.”
The rookie session is scheduled from 5-10 p.m. ET Feb. 23. All IndyCar Series teams and drivers will be permitted to test from 4-10 p.m. Feb. 24-25.