Three rookies get oval laps in
It took Scott Speed a minute to get acclimated to the steering wheel of the Dragon Racing IZOD IndyCar Series car during a rookie test at Chicagoland Speedway.
"It was very cool to get back into the groove of a high-downforce car that has more buttons on the steering wheel than one," said Speed, whose most recent motorsports competition came in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "There is nothing like running around at over a 210 mph average."
Speed has partnered with Dragon Racing in an attempt to qualify for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500. He got in about 50 laps on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval in preparation for the Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program, during which he'll join six other first-year competitors on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12.
"I'm super-excited to go to Indy," said Speed, who has previously contested races at the Speedway in Formula One and the Sprint Cup Series. "The more I'm getting into this now that I've done some laps, I'm starting to realize what a steep learning curve is ahead of me and that's what is exciting.
"We were smooth, the guys were great and all went well."
Dragon Racing, in a partnership with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, also has entered Ho-Pin Tung -- another rookie -- in the '500.' He put in about 150 laps on the Chicagoland oval. Also at the track was 2005 Firestone Indy Lights champion Wade Cunningham of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, who will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11.
Scheduled to join Speed and Tung on the track are IZOD IndyCar Series regulars JR Hildebrand (National Guard Panther Racing), James Hinchcliffe (Newman/Haas Racing), James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing), plus Pippa Mann (Conquest Racing). Jay Howard (Service Central Schmidt Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) is a rookie but completed ROP in 2010.
"Indy is the most-recognizable race in the world and I'm really lucky to get into a solid ride this year from where we started because we started looking in December and it's very tough," said Speed, whose No. 20 car comes to the Brickyard with a sponsorship package from Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, American Racing Wheels and VIZIO. "To be sitting in the position we are in a solid ride for the Indianapolis 500 is awesome."
The 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (ET) ROP session is open to spectators free of charge in the South Terrace Grandstands. Spectators should enter through Gate 2 on 16th Street. Opening Day is May 14, with all-car practice from noon-6 p.m. (ET).
"I'll try to be a sponge and soak up as much information as possible," said Speed, 28, of Manteca, Calif.
The former national karting champion and Star Mazda competitor advanced through British Formula Three, Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup, German Formula Renault and GP2. Speed made his Formula One debut in 2006, becoming the first American to compete in the series since Michael Andretti in 1993. He returned to the States in 2008, turning his attention to stock cars. IndyCar.com