As the calendar turned to May 1, it was time for the Indianapolis 500 rookies to take to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on Tuesday for the annual Rookie Orientation Program. This comes after the Verizon IndyCar Series hosted a series-wide open test on Monday featuring 21 competitors.
To kick off the day, news broke that Dale Coyne Racing driver Pietro Fittipaldi would not be moving through the program while the team made the decision to push his rookie orientation back to the first official day of practice on Tuesday, May 15.
That left A.J. Foyt Racing Brazilian Matheus Leist, Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens as the only drivers to take to the race course during the first session of the day.
Veterans Jay Howard (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) and Danica Patrick (Ed Carpenter Racing) will take to the oval at 2:00 PM Eastern for their “refresher” programs. The rookies will also be able to practice at this time, with the session coming to a close at 5:00 PM Eastern.
Drivers completing the Rookie Orientation Program were allotted three sets of Firestone tires while the veterans were granted two sets for their refresher program.
While Kaiser and Leist both completed the first two phases of the program during the sessions’ first 75 minutes, Wickens was sidelined for a bit while his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew worked on his machine in the garage area for just over an hour.
Just before 11:30 AM Eastern time, it was Kaiser who was the first rookie to complete the orientation program with a fastest lap at that point over 219 miles per hour. Shortly after at 11:45 AM, Leist completed the program in his A.J. Foyt Racing machine.
Wickens re-joined the action at approximately 12:15 PM Eastern after his No. 6 machine was diagnosed with gearbox issues and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports fitted him into James Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Honda.
At 12:45 PM Eastern it was announced that Wickens had completed rounds two and three of the Rookie Orientation Program and has been cleared for open practice the rest of the month.
Running in that No. 5 Honda, Wickens ran the quickest lap of Rookie Orientation by posting a 220.111 MPH circuit around the 2.5-mile oval. Leist’s fast lap was just a hair behind him at 220.073 MPH while Kyle Kaiser ran his quickest lap at 219.470 MPH.
Kaiser ran the most laps before the 1:00 PM break at 74 while Leist was right behind with 71 laps recorded. Wickens tallied 52 laps completed throughout the session between the two Schmidt Peterson entries.
Stay tuned for afternoon coverage live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while Jay Howard, Sage Karam and Danica Patrick take to the track for their refresher programs at 2:00 PM Eastern time. The sessions can be viewed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.