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DATE News (chronologically)
05/15/10
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Saturday Indy 500 notebook
All six Chevrolet Camaros that have served as Pace Cars for the Indianapolis 500 were lined up on pit road during opening ceremonies today for the 2010 Indianapolis 500: 1967, 1969, 1982, 1993, 2009 and 2010.

"Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts will drive the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Pace Car to lead the field of 33 drivers to the start of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.

***

A parade of 125 Chevrolet Camaros owned by Indiana residents kicked off Indianapolis Star Opening Day ceremonies this morning.

***

Seven drivers must complete the Rookie Orientation: #5 Takuma Sato (KV Racing Technology), #25 Ana Beatriz (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), #29 Sebastian Saavedra (Bryan Herta Autosport), #34 Mario Romancini (Conquest Racing), #36 Bertrand Baguette (Conquest Racing), #66 Jay Howard (Sarah Fisher Racing), #78 Simona de Silvestro (HVM Racing).

The rookie drivers must complete four phases of ROP in order to be eligible for the Indianapolis 500. At least three of the phases must be completed during ROP today and Sunday. The fourth phase may be completed during practice later in the month.

The four phases of ROP include 10 laps at each of the following speeds:

200-205 mph

205-210 mph

210-215 mph

215+ mph

***

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was the honorary starter today, waving the green flag to start the first practice for the 2010 Indianapolis 500.

GREG BALLARD: "It is a great day. We have a beautiful day for the first day of practice, and for them to allow me once again to start practice by waving the green flag is really, really special. It is very important to the city. The name Indianapolis is known around the world. As many people know, I spent 23 years in the Marine Corps, so I have watched this race in different countries around the world and people ask me about it all the time, so it is very, very special. It brings a lot of attention to the name of Indianapolis around the world and obviously has a great economic impact." (Do you feel any pressure when waving the green flag?): "Yes! When that car goes by the first time, they are flying about 200 mph and are not that far away from me, and I know it. So you get a little goose bumps, but I know they are under control. I'm always a little nervous because you know everybody is going to be taking pictures, so you want to have a good pose if you at all can."

***

Indianapolis 500 veteran Jaques Lazier was in Gasoline Alley today, checking on the availability of rides for the 2010 Indianapolis 500.

JAQUES LAZIER: "It's Indy; it's the month of May, so there are always opportunities, but I would think they are very far and few between. We were close to getting something done. Unfortunately that fell through. I think at the point more I'm going to be working the suite, trying to build my sponsors for some races this year and for a full-time situation next year. You come here, and you can't give up. I have been in the race seven times, and you never know what will happen. Someone could struggle and they need to put the car in the show and I'm here if they need it." (Do you have your helmet?): "I have my American Express card. I never leave home without it."

***

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti talked about the challenge of fielding cars for five drivers this year for the Indianapolis 500 - John Andretti, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "We have the experience to do it. We did it twice when I was driving, so it shouldn't be that bad. We ran two weeks ago with no problems. We think it brings value to the team, not taking from it." (Do you need additional staff?): "No. We're using some of our Indy Lights guys, and it has actually been quite refreshing to have John come in because he gives us a little different perspective on things."

***

FIRST ON TRACK, 1984-2009

Year

Driver

Started

Finished

2009

Robert Doornbos

23rd

28th

2008

Will Power

23rd

13th

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

***

2009 Chase Rookie of the Year Alex Tagliani didn't turn any laps today in the No. 77 FAZZT Race Team entry, which was by design. Tagliani also is recovering from bronchitis.

ALEX TAGLIANI: "I was in (Methodist Hospital) for about 48 hours (earlier this week) with a bad case of bronchitis. They took really good care of me. I'm not 100 percent yet - I'm still coughing - so obviously it was needed. It could have turned into a bad scenario, maybe pneumonia." (About team's plans): "We're starting tomorrow. Our team decided when it's green on a track like here at Indy you don't want to go out there and confuse yourself. We know where we are, and we have a good car. We were strong at Kansas, where we qualified fifth. Today is just for preparation, giving time for the guys to get ready. Tomorrow we're going to do our install and check out the car. Over the next week, there's still plenty of time to practice. This is a track where you want to be relaxed and go out when you're ready, when you know the conditions are good for you. You don't just want to be out there all the time pounding laps."

***

Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear driver Conor Daly was in the paddock today. Daly, 18, from nearby Noblesville, Ind., is the son of six-time Indianapolis 500 entrant Derek Daly. Conor Daly graduated from high school last night.

The Star Mazda Championship is part of the Road to Indy program along with Firestone Indy Lights and the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda.

CONOR DALY: "I've been waiting a long time (for graduation), and I'm excited to be able to focus solely on racing now, with one less distraction. I'm driving in the Star Mazda Championship as part of the Road to Indy. We race next weekend at Laguna Seca and then here on the 29th at the Night Before the 500 out at O'Reilly Raceway Park. It's our first oval race of the year. We tested there a couple of weeks ago and set the fastest lap ever turned around O' Reilly Raceway Park, so I'm pretty excited about that race because we've got a really good car. I definitely want to race here at the Speedway as soon as possible. I'm still young, though. I'm only 18, but hopefully at the end of this year I can put together a road course race in the Firestone Indy Lights series. Then hopefully do the Freedom 100 here next May. We'll see what happens."

***

Simona De Silvestro is one of five women and seven rookies attempting to qualify for the 2010 Indianapolis 500. She has competed in all five IZOD IndyCar Series races this season for HVM Racing.

De Silvestro, 21, is from Thun, Switzerland, a nation in which auto racing is banned.

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: (About auto racing being banned in Switzerland): "Ah, yes, it is kind of bad that it is banned. We are a pretty small country, so I have France and Italy right around us, which is kind of the mecca of go-kart racing. I went to France with my dad when I was 6 and went go-karting there. We have a few good Swiss drivers, so we hope that maybe things will change and it won't be banned anymore, that's for sure." (When you finished third in 2006 at Indy in the Formula BMW support race to the United States Grand Prix, the Italian flag flew behind you on the podium): "Yeah, that's the thing: When you are in Switzerland, they only give you the racing license when you turn 18. At that time, I think I was 17, so I have double nationality with the Italian one, so we are kind of playing around now with the Swiss." (Did you spend a lot of time in Italy?): "Yes, I did actually, pretty much all my racing came there. But I was born in Switzerland." (Here) Michael Schumacher was my racing hero. He is pretty unbelievable so I hope to be able to follow in his footsteps and try to do the same. He is really a great driver." (On doing well at Kansas and oval racing): "Kansas was my first ever oval, so it was a little weird. It took my first 50 laps. I was kind of searching my way, but in the middle I was running as fast as the leader, which is a pretty good point. So I am really looking forward to being in Indy so I can keep learning and keep pushing in on it, and so I think we can do some good things."

***

De Ferran Dragon Racing co-owner Gil de Ferran, who won the 2003 Indianapolis 500, talked about his team's prospects this month with driver Raphael Matos in the No. 2 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing entry and Davey Hamilton in the No. 21 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing entry.

GIL DE FERRAN: "It's great to be back here in Indy. We already have our heads down here trying to figure out what to do next; it's typical fashion." (On what the plan is for the team with the new qualifying format): "Well, I think there's still a lot of track time available for everyone to run. But the weather here could be questionable during the week, so we have to take the track time when it's available to us. We're trying to make the most of today, slowly evolve the car and work on the handling of the car to make the drivers comfortable." (On his comfort level now that he's been with the team a couple months): "We're still a very, very young operation. This team, before we joined forces, only had one full season. Certainly, this is my first full season involved (as an owner) in IndyCar racing. I think for our level of experience, the fact that we're in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship is a great accomplishment. We just have to keep our heads down and keep going forward here." (On the team's confidence and approach this year with Raphael Matos now in his second year and having veteran Davey Hamilton driving the teams second entry): "I think it will be very beneficial for us and both for Davey and Rafa to have each other to use as a reference. To be honest with you, I think during the regular season we're missing a little bit of that for Rafa with having another guy there with experience to compare notes with and to compare the data with. So I'm glad we're able to have Davey here at Indianapolis. He's already done a test with us that went very well. We're looking forward to having him around. Having two engineers exchanging information, two drivers exchanging information, it's more work to pull it all together. But I think the benefits outweigh the negatives, especially with the lack of testing (during the season). I don't believe we test enough. I know testing costs money. At the end of the day, if you want to introduce new drivers into the series and new teams like us, we're in desperate need of more miles. Having two cars running here will help."

***

John Andretti's father, Aldo Andretti, watched his son take to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's famed 2.5-mile oval today as an Andretti Autosport driver. John Andretti finished ninth May 1 at Kansas Speedway driving for his cousin Michael's team, in association with NASCAR legend Richard Petty, in the Team Window World entry.

ALDO ANDRETTI: "I've been waiting for a long time for John to team up with Michael, and this year it was possible. Things are looking really good so far. This might be his best chance to do as well as he can out here. He's got a good, solid team behind him. He says the car feels good. I think he's quite lucky to have that situation going for him. I'm looking forward to (the race)."

***

Indianapolis 500 veteran and Firestone Indy Lights team owner Bryan Herta talked today about owning an entry in the Indianapolis 500 through his Bryan Herta Autosport team. Rookie Sebastian Saavedra is driving the No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport entry.

BRYAN HERTA: "It's definitely exciting and a new challenge for me and the whole team. The preparation has been hectic but very satisfying. We're looking forward to seeing what we can do. We had a plan when we started the team last year to start small, start in (Firestone) Indy Lights and grow the team progressively. This year we're running two full-season entries in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and this was the next step. Our plan was to field a car in the Indy 500, and we're just trying to grow our program and learn as much as we can this month." (On taking that next step with a rookie driver): "It's good because we've got a lot of experienced people within the team. We've tried to surround Sebastian with experience so that he's really the only rookie on the team. Everybody else involved with this program has been to the Indianapolis 500 many times. He's really the only new one here, and I think that's really important. As a rookie he can rely on the experience people we've put around him."

***

Race car driver Zach Veach can't drive on the road yet, but he wants to ensure that they are safe when he does start driving.

Veach, 15, who races for Andretti Autosport in the USF2000 National Championship as part of the Indy Racing League's "Road to Indy" program, has joined talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in her quest to make today's cars a "No Phone Zone." Veach will assist Winfrey in obtaining the signatures of the 33 drivers that qualify for this year's Indianapolis 500 for her anti-texting petition.

So far, Stockdale, Ohio, native Veach has pledges from six drivers, including three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2010 race winners Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay through their signatures on an Apple's iPad, which will be auctioned at www.charityBUZZ.com along with an IZOD IndyCar Series experience at an upcoming race to benefit FocusDriven, an advocacy group for victims of motor vehicle crashes involving drivers using cell phones and the official beneficiary in Winfrey's "No Phone Zone" campaign.

There was one catch, though: Veach isn't old enough to enter the garage area, so he was forced to try to get as many signatures as possible as drivers enter and exit Gasoline Alley.

ZACH VEACH (Andretti Autosport USF2000 driver): "I'm really excited to get the Indy 500 drivers on board with Oprah's campaign. I signed Oprah's pledge in Chicago on April 30 while attending the show and think it's a necessary program to make today's roads safer." (About getting signatures): "We're off to a really good start. We have the six signatures so far, and we'll try to get as many as we can today. And we're working on getting in there."

***

Indianapolis 500 veteran Townsend Bell was asked today by a local writer about his goals for the Month of May in the #99 Herbalife Ganassi/Schmidt Racing entry. Bell replied, "We're here hoping to rob the bank," referring to the rich purse posted each year by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

***

1992 Indianapolis 500 pole winner Roberto Guerrero visited the track today.

ROBERTO GUERRERO: "It's a lot of fun. I haven't been here for a long time, and it's like coming back home." (On working with young Colombian driver Sebastian Saavedra trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500): "I'm really, really excited to be working with Sebastian. I think, obviously, he's a very young kid but very mature for his age. I really think I'm going to be able to help him with all the years of experience I have here. He's a great kid from a great family, and I think he's going to go places."

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