Three of the four rookies in this year’s 97th Indianapolis 500 have been cleared to practice with the veterans after passing the Rookie Orientation Program today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A.J. Allmendinger of Team Penske, Tristan Vautier of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport all completed the three speed phases that make the ROP this afternoon. A.J. Foyt Racing’s Conor Daly is expected to undergo his program on Monday upon his return from Spain, where he is competing this weekend in the GP3 series.
Munoz, who will also compete in the Firestone Indy Lights’ Freedom 100 at IMS on May 24 as the series’ points leader, turned 62 laps in the ROP session compared to Vautier’s 54 and Allmendinger’s 66. It was ‘Dinger who had the quickest speed of the trio, turning in a lap of 219.239 miles per hour in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet; Munoz topped out at 216.987 miles per hour in the No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet and Vautier hit 214.747 miles per hour in his backup Honda, the No. 55T.
Before ROP began, Helio Castroneves was the first driver out this month, ensuring that a Team Penske car was first out for the fourth consecutive year at Indy. However, Castroneves quickly pulled off the track at Turn 3, leaving it to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden to make the first complete lap of the month around the 2.5-mile oval.
Newgarden was fastest in the first of two veteran practice sessions this afternoon, running a lap of 220.263 miles per hour in his No. 21T Century 21 Honda. He was amongst nine drivers who turned at least one lap in the first veteran practice.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.