First-year Indy 500 drivers aim to hit speed marks

One particular tip about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Arie Luyendyk’s first year attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 has remained cogent for almost three decades.

“We had only a little bit of insight from some guys," the two-time Indy 500 winner said. “Mario (Andretti) said don’t rush into anything because the track will bite you before you know it. It says a lot in a few words. You have to have a methodical approach about the place."

On May 5, drivers seeking to compete in the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will participate in the formal Rookie Orientation Program, which is designed to provide the first-year competitors an opportunity to get acquainted with their cars and the racetrack through three speed phases set by INDYCAR — 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-210 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph.

The laps do not have to be consecutive. The phases and corresponding speeds may be adjusted based on track and weather conditions. Driver stewards also monitor car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern.

Full-season Verizon Indy Car Series drivers Jack Hawksworth (Bryan Herta Autosport) and Mikhail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) will join Martin Plowman (A.J. Foyt Racing) and 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing) on the track. NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, who completed his refresher course on the oval April 29 in an Andretti Autosport car, also will get in more laps.

"The place is super huge, and the first time I saw it I didn't understand where the track is," said Aleshin, who also will compete in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10 on the road course that incorporates sections of the oval Turns 2 and 1. "After my first (oval) laps during my test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, I realized it's a completely new idea ideology of racing. It's quite exciting.

"I'm looking forward to both race weekends in my second hometown and I'll be happy to see my local friends there and my parents are coming (from Moscow) for the Indy 500 weekend."

Real-time Timing & Scoring of the morning and afternoon sessions is available on The track is open for spectator viewing from the South Terrace Grandstand and Turn 2 viewing mounds.

The Speedway opens for full-scale practice May 11, with qualifications May 17-18. The race is May 25.

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