(Photos: IndyCar media; Rossi photo Getty Images)

While Alexander Rossi was top rookie finisher in Indy 500, four others had mixed results

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While Alexander Rossi’s win in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 was nothing short of a fairytale come true for the rookie California driver, the story was not as heartening for the four other rookies in the 33-driver field.

Max Chilton, Matt Brabham, Spencer Pigot and Stefan Wilson joined Rossi in the rookie class of 2016, with mixed results for the other four first-timers in the 500.

Let’s take a look at how each of the other four rookies fared and what their post-race thoughts were about their first go-round in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

Max Chilton

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), finished 15th (second-highest rookie finisher), completed all 200 laps: “It was a long race. It feels like three races in one. I learned so much out there today. It’s the craziest start of a race I’ve ever done in my life. There are moments where you’re hanging on for your life. There are also moments where you are absolutely flying and I wish I’d had another 100 laps to go. The Gallagher team did a great job with all the pit stops. I don’t think we were ever in a position to fight for the lead, but I learned a lot and will come back stronger next time.”

Matt Brabham

MATT BRABHAM (No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet, finished 22nd, completed 199 of 200 laps): “It is incredible to think that we finished this race; out there was a little surreal to be honest. It was an amazing experience to be in the 100th Indy 500 race and now I can say that I have finished the Indianapolis 500 and I am the third generation of Brabham to do that. It is special to think that there have only been three families during the 100-year history of this race to do that. The PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet was good all day. During some of the stints it developed a vibration. In the middle of the race there, I was able to make up eight places, which was a really great feeling. I’m happy that we got through and that we were able to put on a good show. I can’t thank the guys from PIRTEK, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Speedcafe.com, all the other sponsors and of course ‘Crusher’ (owner Brett Murray) who has developed this phenomenal program that gave me the opportunity to be in this race. Let’s hope we can have an opportunity to do more again.”

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SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowoc Honda, finished 25th, completed 195 of 200 laps): “The race was pretty eventful; it was pretty crazy out there. We continued to make the car better. We were struggling on the first stint but got it better throughout the race. We made some changes on the wings and we could definitely pass a bit better and run closer as the stints went on so I was pleased with that. But unfortunately we ran out of fuel on the back straight on a yellow that came out and closed the pits just as we were running out. I got stuck there and had to get pulled in and lost a few laps. Overall it was a great experience and I am glad we were able to finish the race. I think we had the potential to finish somewhere around 15th. I want to give a big thanks to all of the guys for their great stops and hard work for the Indy500 and to Manitowoc, Mi-Jack, Grove and everyone for their support.”

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STEFAN WILSON (No. 25 Driven2SaveLives – KVRT Chevrolet, finished 28th, completed 119 laps of 200): “(It’s) disappointing to not be able to bring home the No. 25 Driven2SaveLives car and make it to the finish. Unfortunately, a fuel leak started happening maybe on the 100th lap and caused an electrical fire that disabled the gearbox. So when we went on that final restart during Lap 104, it wouldn’t shift out of third gear. We tried to solve the issue and took the car back to the garage, came back out and the issue persisted so we had to call it a day. … I think we would’ve been in really good shape, we could’ve brought home a top-15 finish today but you know, that’s racing – there’s always mishaps and unfortunately that’s what happened today. Overall, it was a good month, we ran a lot of laps and I’ve learned a lot about running an Indy car here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think that’s going to help me in future years if I’m able to come back here and race again. I know now what I want to achieve from the car handling and I think if I do come back next year, I’m already so far developed from where I started just under two weeks ago. It seems as though a lot of time has passed but it’s crazy to think it has only been two weeks.”

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Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”