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DATE News (chronologically)
05/06/09
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Philippe passes rookie test
Nelson Philippe
Nelson Philippe became the fifth rookie to pass the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program, completing the final phase of the four-step process in the first 35 minutes of practice. Less than 15 minutes later, a persistent rain moved in, forcing the cancellation of the remainder of on-track activity.

With the final scheduled ROP session cut short, Thursday's schedule has been expanded to begin at 9:30 a.m. instead of noon. Stanton Barrett, the final rookie with two more phase of ROP to pass, will have one hour of track time before the track opens for all cars at 10:30 a.m.

Philippe completed 18 laps Wednesday with a best lap of 41.3436 seconds, 217.688 mph on the 2.5-mile oval. Barrett and Alex Lloyd were the only other drivers to turn laps, combining for 16 before the rains came.

***

John Andretti has competed in nine Indianapolis 500s, but in the week leading up to the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2009 "500," the 46-year-old Indiana native found time to experience a new type of speed. The driver of the No. 34 Window World entry performed a tandem skydive with the elite Golden Knights Parachute Team.

Andretti and Window World CEO Todd Whitworth were invited to be guests of the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. Each individual was paired with an instructor and experienced the thrill of skydiving from 13,500 feet.

The experience kicked off the month for Andretti, who will have the opportunity to participate in a full month of activity at the Speedway for the first time in several years as part of a pairing of Richard Petty Motorsports and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

JOHN ANDRETTI: (About skydiving): "It's a thrill. When you freefall, you're traveling around 120 mph. You fall for about a minute before the parachute opens, but it feels like it's just a few seconds. It's hard to believe you can move that fast without a motor." (About running the full month): "The big thing with this new deal is that we're starting on the first day out. I feel like I can go there and work really hard to make sure everything is there for us as a team. We're coming in with a really serious effort. I have driven for Richard in NASCAR, and I always wanted him to own a team at Indy. We just had to do it properly."

***

Sarah Fisher is using Twitter to give away a free two-seater ride with Indy Racing Experience. Fisher will "tweet" updates about the team, on-track activities and appearances throughout the month. At some point, she'll also offer an Indy Racing Experience redemption coupon.

SARAH FISHER: "Someone asked me the other day what Twitter was, and I said, 'Follow me and find out.' I'm really new to this Twitter thing, but it's really exciting with how quickly it's taken off. I've always believed in giving back, and especially now after last May."

***

An updated Indy Car Historical Record book has been posted at www.indycar.com/media. The book contains Indy car records dating back as far as 1909 in some categories for races that were sanctioned by governing bodies such as the IndyCar Series, AAA, CART and USAC.

***

HER Energy drink announced a partnership with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing as the sponsor of the No. 99 Dallara/Honda driven by Alex Lloyd in the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

Lloyd was the fastest rookie on the track at last year's Indianapolis 500.

The pink No. 99 HER Energy car made its debut on the famed oval during rookie/refresher practice on May 5. In addition, HER Energy, which is based in Hollywood, will be bringing a slice of its hometown to race weekend. HER Energy will kick off the big race weekend with a Pink Carpet event to benefit the Indianapolis chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation on Friday, May 22. At the invitation-only party, designers will transform a warehouse space into an interactive brand experience for drivers, teams, sponsors and celebrities.

HER, "Healthy Energy Revitalizer," is a refreshing pink lemonade flavor energy drink.

ALEX LLOYD: "It's a real pleasure to have HER Energy as our sponsor for the Indy 500. It's an exciting brand and one I am very much looking forward to representing. HER Energy has seen massive growth over the last year, and I look forward to helping them grow their brand even more. Plus, with having a pink car and firesuit, no one will be able to miss me. I look forward to a great month."

BRETT JACOBSON (CEO, HER Enterprises, Inc.): "HER is honored to be involved with two prestigious racing organizations. Both Chip (Ganassi) and Sam (Schmidt) are pioneers in the world of motorsports, and their eye for talent over the past two decades is unprecedented. Alex Lloyd represents the qualities that HER strives to embody, and with the support of Chip Ganassi Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports, he is sure to become one of the next Indy greats."

SAM SCHMIDT (Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "This is the first time in four years that I think Sam Schmidt Motorsports will have a really competitive entry, and we have HER Energy drink to thank for that support. Chip Ganassi Racing prepared an incredible car, and we're very excited to be running Alex again since we had so much success with him in 2007."

***

The Indy Family Foundation and IRL Ministry are raffling off a unique dining experience with a pair of Indianapolis 500 legends.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and three-time winner Johnny Rutherford will join the winning ticket holder for dinner with up to 10 friends at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the final weekend of qualifications. Indy Racing League chef Eddie Wilson will prepare an exclusive four-course meal for the dinner party.

The Indy Family Foundation supports the Benevolent Fund of Motorsports, a not-for-profit 501c3 organization that aids those in the motorsports community, regardless of the sanctioning body, who find themselves in financial need due to hardship caused by illness, injury or death.

Only 99 tickets are being sold at a cost of $500. The deadline to buy tickets is May 12. For more information, contact Bob Hills at 317-716-8850 or email bhills@indycar.com.

HEATHER CARPENTER (President, Indy Family Foundation): "A catered dinner party at the Speedway is a pretty unique event, but adding the former race winners makes this a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I can't thank Rick Mears and Johnny Rutherford enough for donating their time to raise money for both the Indy Family Foundation and IRL Ministry."

***

INDIANAPOLI S MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway covers 253 acres, big enough to fit Vatican City, Churchill Downs, Wimbledon Complex, Roman Colosseum, Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl inside.

***

Alex Tagliani and the Conquest Racing team endeared themselves to the fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, opening up their garage during the rain. Several fans had a chance to climb into the No. 34 Conquest Racing car, and Tagliani even let one woman try on his firesuit.

ALEX TAGLIANI: "They wanted to jump in the car. They thought that the seat was a little bit too tight, and they wondered if they fit in the car. So, I said the best way (to find out) is if you fit in my suit, you fit in the car, so we took the suit out and one person decided to put it on and get in the car. She was pretty surprised we can't really see in front you. I answered her, 'You just want to see the top of the tires -- that's as much as you want to see.' Fans come here, and as much as they support you, you need to keep an open mind. (Giving a fan a chance to get in the seat) is a pretty small thing to do. To let them sit in the car is one thing they get to remember, and they had the chance to take some photos, too."

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "Although I would have loved to get the Dollar General car out there today, it just wasn't in the plans with all the rain. At Indy, the rain will always happen at some point, so we can't be worried about it. We have to keep our head down and keep working on things we can change in the garages and go from there. Everyone is in the same situation, and we have to handle that as best we can. I used the downtime today to pay some bills, do some Twittering, media and hanging with the guys. We look forward to the opportunity to be on track tomorrow."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "It's a bummer that we don't get to run today because we don't get much practice anyway before Pole Day. It's a shame, and more so because it's no fun to sit here doing nothing all day. You get up early, excited to go, and you get all anxious just to get shot down. I think the car was pretty good for Robert (Doornbos) yesterday, so hopefully when we finally get to go out on track, the McDonald's car should be good from the start. I'm looking forward to going out in my brand new McDonald's car. Basically it's an absolutely brand new car that has been at the shop since last fall, and all winter the team has been working on it. They have spent a lot of hours working on the body fit to make it as fast and smooth as they could. By the looks of it, I think they did a pretty good job, because the thing looks fast for sure. I've been looking forward to driving this new McDonald's car for so long, and to have to wait another day because of rain is a bummer."

E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing): "Obviously it's a disappointment that we couldn't test today. But at least it's the same situation for everyone, so it's fair. We have some pieces and parts to test out, and now we'll have to wait until tomorrow. But this is an amazing track and an amazing event, and I'm just happy to be here and eager to get started."

NELSON PHILIPPE (No. 00 i drive green HVM Racing): "We had an issue where we couldn't finish rookie orientation yesterday, but it was easy to finish and pass today. So, I'm really happy about that.  Now I'm excited about getting on track with everyone else, even though it won't be until tomorrow."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 34 Conquest Racing): "Before coming here, I was told that it wouldn't be Indy without rain. I guess that is true, especially with more rain forecasted for the next few days. It's too bad that we couldn't go back out today. We had a really good day yesterday, and I was very excited to be on track here for the first time. I was looking forward to continue developing the car and being a little more aggressive with our setup today, but that will have to wait."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless): "It's too bad, but fortunately we get a fair bit of practice in here during the month of May anyway. You have to kind of expect some rain at Indy, and everyone is in the same boat. Team Verizon Wireless will be prepared, and we know we'll be ready when the track is. I'm just looking forward to getting in the car, hopefully tomorrow morning."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "Obviously it's unfortunate the rain came and we couldn't be on the track today. Anytime you're a race car driver at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway you just want to be on the racetrack as much as possible, but clearly that isn't possible with the weather. I know myself and everybody with the National Guard Panther team is excited to get out there tomorrow."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing): "After a day like today, it kind of feels like we've already been out here a week waiting to get on track. Everyone is so antsy to get on track, so of course it's disappointing, but there's not much we can do about it. It makes it an advantage for the guys that got to run yesterday for ROP/Refresher, but hopefully everyone will get enough time on track before Pole Day. They made a good decision to schedule the start of practice on Thursday a bit earlier (10:30 a.m.), but with the forecast the way it is, they should forget ROP at 9:30 and just open the track to everyone. Stanton Barrett still needs to clear his rookie orientation, but from what I saw he looked to be pretty good out there. I'd like to see the track open up as soon as possible, because the forecast doesn't look that great tomorrow either."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "We're definitely anxious to get on track, but obviously there's nothing we can do with the weather today. Tomorrow, we're going to try and get out there early and run some laps to see where we stand. I think Team Penske will be in good shape, and hopefully the lack of practice won't hurt us. It's the same for everyone, so we're all in the same boat."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "It's disappointing to have our first on-track day rained out. I still think Team Venom Energy and the entire AGR crew has a pretty good feel for the track, and I'm confident we can still set up good race cars. The No. 26 car has had great runs over the last few years in Indy, so I hope we can continue that on through this year."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): "It is very disappointing that today got rained out. I was ready to start the Month of May and drive the No. 27 car. I won here in the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights race, so the track is very special to me. While this is my second Indy 500 race, I'm still nervous. I hope we are able to get on the track tomorrow and have a full day of practice."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): "What a disappointing way to start the first day of practice with a rainout. Hopefully we can get the Team 7-Eleven car out tomorrow for practice and the rain will hold off. Since we have a few less days of track time this year, every day we have on track has to count."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola): "I'm really disappointed that we got rained out on the first day of practice. I was looking forward to getting out on the track today and giving the new No. 7 Boost Mobile car a run. Hopefully we will be able to get out tomorrow and have a full day of practice."

STANTON BARRETT (No. 98 CURB/Agajanian/Team 3G Racing): "I've been here in the (Sprint) Cup car, but everywhere you go the Indy cars are a completely different experience. It's an all new learning curve every weekend and at every track. I've been to all of the tracks that we race; it's still a whole new deal. You have to start from ground zero and only take the experience that you have of being a race car driver and being in race cars and try to apply that to what is applicable in these cars. It's definitely a whole different game, and it's pretty dang exciting, as well. It's a cool place to get around in an Indy car. We've only had 30 minutes (of track time) except for this morning. The car is better today than yesterday. It's comfortable, and I'm really paying attention to my line and the entry and timing. So, as I build up to speed because all of the changes and the increments that you go, I know from other racing or wherever that you build up to that point, and we don't want to take too big of a bite out of any step of the process. That's really important for us - that we can't make mistakes right now and keep the goal and long term in mind. It might take us a little while longer to get what our team's potential and the car's potential is, but we'll get there hopefully without any error and get in the Indy 500."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing): "For me, I'm a little disappointed that we got rained out. I have limited experience here, so I wanted to get some more track time in. We will get some extended time tomorrow morning, which will be helpful. We did have a good run yesterday, about 80 laps, and I got a good feel for the car. We will go out in our primary car tomorrow, so the guys have been going through the data getting the car ready to go. I look forward to getting back out there. Even though it was raining, I did walk around here a little bit today. There is so much history here I can't get enough of it. Seeing all the photos and the rooms with the past champions names on them and walking on these grounds, it's just a great place, and I love being here."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "The weather just wasn't cooperating with us today, but it's the same for everyone. We'll get some extra time in the Team Penske car tomorrow, so we should still be OK. It's disappointing we couldn't run today, because I'm excited to get the Month of May going."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 21 Vision Racing): "It's disappointing when you wake up in the morning at the track to the sound of Indy cars on track for rookie orientation and you don't get a chance to get out there yourself. It's disappointing, because I've been looking forward to this day for a while now, but that's Indy. Last year was a rainy year, but hopefully we'll get more track time this year. We'll be ready to go when it goes green, and we'll get right to our program. This is a minor setback."

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