Texas test offers IndyCar rookies chance to acclimate on ovals

A.J. Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier and Carlos Munoz will be on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on March 27 for their oval rookie orientation.

The session is a prelude to the formal Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 11. All three will be entered in the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 26, and at least Vautier will compete in the Firestone 550 on June 8.

Six other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers (Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and James Jakes) are scheduled to participate in a team test later in the day at the speedway.

Allmendinger, who has tested at Sebring International Raceway in February and Barber Motorsports Park road courses March 12 and 13, is entered in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber on April 5-7 in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske car. He last competed on an oval in an Indy car in June 2006, finishing fourth at Milwaukee.

Vautier, the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion, made his first IZOD IndyCar Series start March 24 in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Munoz, 21, is in his second Firestone Indy Lights season with Andretti Autosport and will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the Indianapolis 500 as the team's fifth entrant.

Drivers must complete two of the three ROP phases April 11, when the 2.5-mile oval is open only to rookies, in order to join in practice on Opening Day (May 12). The third phase may be completed on any of the practice days before Pole Day (May 18). Phases include 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 10 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph.

Vautier, 23, competed in the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis last May. But he's not familiar with the high-banked, high-speed Texas Motor Speedway.

"I've started thinking about the ovals and watching the race last year it looks really challenging," he said. "The feeling (in the car) will be different because an IndyCar moves more than an Indy Lights car on the ovals. It's a good opportunity and will be good to arrive at Indy for ROP without being totally green on ovals in an IndyCar."

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