Ninety minutes was all that was necessary for three first-year Indianapolis 500 competitors to complete the three phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We really economized," Tristan Vautier joked.
Vautier, driving the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, joined AJ Allmendinger and Carlos Munoz in breezing through the session that split full field practice. They were then cleared to join veterans on the 2.5-mile oval for practice building up to Pole Day qualifying on May 18.
"The biggest thing for me, and you hear everybody tell you, [was that] you can't let your guard down around here," said Allmendinger, who ended the day eighth fastest. "Just because for four laps in a row you went wide open, you think, 'OK, I've got this,' but you can't relax.
"A couple of times down the back straightaway, I kind of caught myself. It's just the way this place is; that's what makes it so special. You have got to give it its respect every lap. Not just when you show up. Not just in qualifying. Not just in the race. Every lap you have got to show respect."
Sixteen driver/car combinations turned laps, including three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves setting up Allmendinger's car. Ed Carpenter (ABOVE), winner of the last IZOD IndyCar Series race on a superspeedway, topped the speed chart with a lap of 220.970mph (40.7296 seconds).
The Rookie Orientation Program is designed to provide first-year drivers an opportunity to get acquainted with the racetrack. The three speed phases, set by IndyCar based on the weather and track conditions, include 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210 mph-plus.
Driver stewards Arie Luyendyk and Johnny Unser also monitor car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern. The program is an invaluable asset, even to individuals who previously have competed on the racetrack.
Conor Daly is expected to begin the process May 13 in the No. 41 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. Daly had weekend racing commitments in Barcelona, Spain, where he finished third and sixth, respectively, in the two GP3 races.
Carpenter recorded 21 laps in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka car. Josef Newgarden, driving the No. 21T Century 21 car for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, was second quick (220.920mph; 40.7387 seconds) on a field-high 59 laps and Munoz cranked out a best lap of 220.720mph in the waning minutes of practice.
Charlie Kimball was fourth (220.633; 40.7917) in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing entry and 2011 Indy 500 pole sitter Alex Tagliani kicked off practice fifth overall with a best lap of 220.248 mph in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car.