The sights and sounds — the spectacle of Race Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — left an impression on Rubens Barrichello that he vividly recounts almost 19 years later.
Barrichello, who's had the opportunity to compete on the Speedway's road course in Formula One, now is looking forward to competing in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time May 27.
"I'm thrilled," said the veteran driver, who on March 1 was confirmed as joining KV Racing Technology for the full IZOD IndyCar Series season. "(Competing in the U.S. Grand Prix) was not even close to what it is for the Indy 500. I think it's going to be a great experience. I can't wait to get my car to the ovals and see what it is.
"I'm excited. I hope I can learn from (teammate) Tony (Kanaan) big time. I think he's the king of the ovals, and in a way I can learn a lot from him."
Barrichello, 39, who enters the series with 19 years experience in F1, will be designated a rookie for the Indianapolis 500 and will participate in the Speedway's Rookie Orientation Program led by driver coach Arie Luyendyk. He'll likely take the Chevrolet-powered No. 8 BMC | Embrase – KV Racing Technology car out for the first time on an oval during the Open Test at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on May 7.
Maybe Barrichello doesn't have expectations of winning "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" this year, but he obviously harbors hopes.
"If I can win Indy the first year? I don't think we know," he said. "(Some other) guys come a little bit more prepared than myself. I'm loving the idea that I'm going to be a rookie. That makes me feel young.
"I can do different things, but I know that I can drive well. So to be able to become an IndyCar driver at almost age 40 and still be so competitive and physically so well, as well. I mean, I haven't reached the peak of my performance just yet. So I think that's a great chance for me. And like I said, I'm over the moon." IndyCar.com