Nelson Philippe was the only driver to benefit from limited track time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Opening Day for the 2009 500, as heavy rain arrived to celebrate his passing the rookie orientation programme.

Just 48 minutes of action were possible at the Brickyard, enough for Frenchman Philippe to get his HVM Racing entry through the outstanding fourth and final phase of mandatory rookie evaluation, but too soon to allow the more experienced members of the field to turn their first laps of May.

Philippe became the fifth rookie to pass ROP - following Tuesday graduates Alex Tagliani, Robert Doornbos, Mike Conway and Raphael Matos. Within a quarter of an hour, the first precipitation arrived, causing the remainder of the day to be washed out.

Philippe completed 18 laps with a best time of 41.3436secs, with fellow rookie Stanton Barrett and second year driver Alex Lloyd the only other drivers to take to the track.

"We had an issue where we couldn't finish rookie orientation yesterday, but it was easy to finish and pass today," Philippe reported, "I'm really happy about that, and now I'm excited about getting on track with everyone else - even though it won't be until tomorrow."

With qualifying for the 500 due to get underway this weekend, and pole position due to be decided, the remainder of the field was frustrated not to be able to begin its preparations.

"It's a bummer that we didn't get to run today because we don't get much practice anyway before Pole Day," admitted NHLR's Graham Rahal - winner of two poles in three races so far this season, "It's a shame, and more so because it's no fun to sit here doing nothing all day. You get up early, excited to go, and you get all anxious just to get shot down."
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"After a day like today, it kind of feels like we've already been out here a week waiting to get on track," Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter claimed, "Everyone is so antsy to get on track, so of course it's disappointing, but there's not much we can do about it.

"It makes it an advantage for the guys that got to run yesterday for ROP and refresher, but hopefully everyone will get enough time on track before Pole Day. They made a good decision to schedule the start of practice on Thursday a bit earlier but, with the forecast the way it is, they should forget ROP at 9.30 and just open the track to everyone. Stanton still needs to clear his rookie orientation but, from what I saw, he looked to be pretty good out there. I'd just like to see the track open up as soon as possible, because the forecast doesn't look that great tomorrow either."

With Wednesday's final scheduled ROP session cut short, Thursday's schedule has been expanded to begin two-and-a-half hours earlier, with Barrett, the final rookie with two more phase of ROP to pass, having an hour of track time before the track opens for all other cars.

"I've been here in the [NASCAR] Cup car but, everywhere you go, the IndyCars are a completely different experience," Team 3G's rookie admitted, "It's an all-new learning curve every weekend and at every track.

"You have to start from ground zero and only take the experience that you have of being a race car driver and being in race cars and try to apply that to what is applicable in these cars. It's definitely a whole different game, but it's pretty dang exciting as well.

"We've only had 30 minutes [of track time] except for this morning, but the car is better today than yesterday. It's comfortable, and I'm really paying attention to my line and the entry and timing. We can't make mistakes right now and [have to] keep the goal and long-term in mind. It might take us a little while longer to get what our team's potential and the car's potential is, but we'll get there hopefully without any error."