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Philippe passes ROP before rain denies rest.

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."



Related Pictures

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Indy Racing League. 5 May 2009. Indy 500. Rookie Orientation. Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis, Indiana USA.  Nelson Philippe.
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