INDIANAPOLIS — Five rookies will take to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday to take part in the two-hour Rookie Orientation Program. The 120 minute long session will phase these five drivers up to speed as this will be the first time that any of them would have traveled in an car over 230 mph. In fact, it’s the only track on the schedule that they go this fast.
Indy, always does this and it’s right to do so because of it. This place is just so daunting and so fast. You don’t want to just throw them to the wolves. Not only is speed a factor, so is the closing rate. Also, wind direction and a cloud cover can instantly alter how your car handles as the 2.5-mile track is very sensitive to varying conditions.
Despite that, one rookie is actually pretty reserved about attempting his first Indy 500. First year driver Oliver Askew was calm for his first ever NTT IndyCar Series start back in June at Texas. He’d come away with a top 10 despite several obstacles against him.
Now, he will get to take part in ROP on Wednesday then hopefully pass all three phases to be eligible for Indy 500 practice after.
“I feel pretty calm about this next couple weeks,” Askew said on Tuesday. “We have way more preparation now than we’ve had over the past couple races where we pretty much show up and roll out of the trailer and go racing.
“This is going to be more of a traditional approach, more of what I’m used to. We can take our time a little bit. I’m just looking forward to seeing how these next couple weeks come to us and learning as much as possible.”
It’s not like Askew doesn’t have Indy experience already. He won last year’s Freedom 100 Indy Lights Series race in dramatic fashion. While he’s back this year, he notes that the speed factor will be vastly different.
“Being a rookie here can definitely be daunting,” Askew continued. “With the extra boost this year, I think it’s an extra 50 horsepower, so we’re going to be quite a lot quicker than the past. We’re expecting the corners to be a little bit more difficult. I’m sure we’re going to have to run a little more downforce in qualifying than years past.”
Askew notes that the schedule played a good role for him this year in the sense that the ‘500 wasn’t his first oval start in an Indy Car. This will actually be his fourth. He said that he’s glad that this year he’s able to run a couple more ovals before the Indy 500 because traditionally the Indy 500 would be the first oval of the year. He feels like that certainly helps this rookie class despite Texas and Iowa being entirely different in their own ways.
He also has a teammate in Fernando Alonso this month too, which has Askew giddy.
“For Fernando, like I said before, it’s an absolute honor to have him on the team,” Askew said of Alonso. “I know we’re all really looking forward to working with him. Just, yeah, really glad he’s able to race here with us. I’m sure he’s going to lead the team and teach us a lot, Pato (O’Ward) and I, quite a bit. Yeah, looking forward to the next couple weeks with him.”
He will try and become just the 11th rookie winner to win the ‘500 in his first career start, being the first since Alexander Rossi in 2016. Helio Castroneves was the last prior to that in 2001 as he followed rookie Juan Montoya in 2000. These are the only three rookies to have won the ‘500 in the last 54 years.
The other rookie winners are Ray Harroun (1911), Jules Goux (1913), Rene Thomas (1914), Frank Lockhart (1926), George Souders (1927), Louis Meyer (1928) and Graham Hill (1966). As you can see, three of the 10 rookie winners so far came in the first four years of the race. That leaves seven winners over the other 99 races.