Fast Freshmen

Coming off a solid front-row start and fourth-place finish in the recent Japan Indy 300, Danica Patrick led Sunday’s Rookie Orientation
and opening day festivities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Patrick turned the fastest lap of the eight yearlings and one veteran, 221.463 mph, to easily pass all four phases of the mandatory session for first-year drivers in the event.

“It’s what we came here to do,” said Patrick, driving the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz Honda. “I was given a good car by
(teammates) Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira) with all of the hard work they did last year. I have to give a lot of the credit and speed to
that. I knew I had time today.

“It’s really nice that we get to come here early, and build confidence, as opposed to going out there and spooking ourselves, or making a
mistake that could put us out for a while,” added the graduate of the Toyota Atlantic ranks.

“It’s tradition, and this event is very much
tradition. Rookie Orientation is a great format. It’s the right way to do it.”

Rice, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, put his similar No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing entry on the pole last year with a lap of
222.024 mph.

Ryan Briscoe, who joined Target Chip Ganassi for the IRL IndyCar Series in 2005, was second fastest Sunday at 220.546 mph, followed by Patrick Carpentier (219.010), Tomas Enge (218.219 mph). Jeff Bucknum and Paul Dana — all of whom passed the test.

Scott Mayer completed three phases, while defending Champ Car World Series titlist Sebastien Bourdais — slowest of the group at 204.177 mph — completed two phases after getting off to a late start.

“Obviously, we had a lot of adjustments to do,” Bourdais said. “The car was not ready on time, and the deal came together kind of late, so it
was difficult for the team, and it’s a real challenge for us. You know a one-off like that, for a Champ Car operation, it’s difficult to put
together an IRL car. There are a lot of things to do in a very short amount of time. So far, it’s going OK.

Larry Foyt, who was using the session as a refresher, was fifth fastest at 214.657 mph.

Rookie orientation continues Monday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (CDT), with the veterans participating in the first full day of practice on Tuesday. Qualifying to set the MBNA Poletop 11 positions begins at noon Saturday, following a two-hour practice session. The next 11 positions will be set Sunday, with the remaining 11 slots to be filled on Saturday, May 21. Bump Day will be Sunday, May 22. Miller Lite Carb Day is set for Friday, May 27. The 89th Indianapolis 500 takes
the green flag at noon on Sunday, May 29.

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@ Auto Club Speedway
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