Defending race winner Helio Castroneves posted the fastest lap as practice opened for the 94th Indianapolis 500 before the veterans made way for their less experienced rivals on a rain-hit day.

Castroneves clocked 39.7170secs on his best lap around the 2.5-mile oval in the back-up #3 machine, as some 27 car-driver combinations recorded 451 incident-free laps before yielding to rookies and other drivers undertaking a refresher course. None of the seven rookies attempting to qualify for the race completed all four phases of the mandatory Rookie Orientation Program, although Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz and Takuma Sato successfully completed two of the four steps.

"It's always good when you start with a positive wave, although there is certainly still a lot of work to go," Castroneves commented, "It was just the right time and the right moment with two cars in front of me.

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"It seems to be very interesting this year: Even if you are away from another car, the draft is tremendous. It is going to play a lot of tricks during the month of May. So far, the 3T car seems to be where we want it, so we won't touch the car and keep at it."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing team-mates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon - who won the 2007 and 2008 Indy 500s respectively - were next on the list, while another former winner Dan Wheldon, who was runner-up to Castroneves last year, was fourth in the #4 National Guard Panther Racing car.

"It was a good day for Team Target, myself and Scott," Franchitti revealed, "To have the car feeling so good was really encouraging. I managed to do a couple laps and saw [Tony Kanaan] ahead of me and managed to draft off of him. It was a nice way to start the month. With the new regulations, the IndyCar Series has changed things definitely, but there's no doubt the Target cars are good. That was a T car, so we're hoping the other cars will be a little better too."

"It has been a busy schedule once the season started - it seems we have either been testing or racing [the whole time] - so the guys did an extremely good job in getting the Panther Racing car prepared for Indianapolis," Wheldon added, "The initial baseline that we did, the car ran very, very well. I've been around here long enough to know that it doesn't make too much difference at this point, but it's always better to start good than the other way around."

Ed Carpenter, competing in an IZOD IndyCar Series event for the first time since the 2009 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, was seventh quickest in the #20 Panther/Vision Fuzzy's Vodka entry.

Tony Kanaan wasn't the fastest driver during Opening Day, but he was one of the busiest. The 2004 series champion shook down all five Andretti Autosport cars entered for the 500 before regular drivers Marco Andretti, John Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Danica Patrick took hold of their own machines. Kanaan turned a total of 36 laps, second only to Alex Lloyd, who turned 39 in his primary car for Dale Coyne Racing.

"We just wanted to make sure that all of our cars had the same feel and that we had the same starting point for everybody," Kanaan explained, "So they voted me the guy to do that. They tell me it's because I'm a veteran, but usually that means you're old, and I definitely don't see myself that way, so I'm not sure. But I'm glad to do it, and I think we've got a good idea of where we are as a team and where we need to go for the 7-Eleven car."

Seven drivers have to complete the Rookie Orientation Programme this season - Sato, Beatriz, de Silvestro, Sebastian Saavedra, Mario Romancini, Bertrand Baguette and Jay Howard - and must complete four phases of increasing speed in order to be eligible for the 500. At least three of the phases must be completed during ROP on opening weekend, while the fourth phase - of speeds above 215mph - may be completed during practice later in the month.

"Unfortunately, I couldn't run as much as I would have liked today," Beatriz reported, "I was thinking I could go through all phases of the Rookie Orientation Programme today and then tomorrow start working on speed. But is what it is: It's rain. I felt very comfortable in the car - it was easy to drive and get up to speed. The lines are the same in IndyCar [as in Indy Lights]. Turn one is still the most difficult one, but probably the most different thing is the racing. In Indy Lights, you can go two-wide, three-wide here but, in IndyCar, that is not possible, so I have to remember this in the race."

"It's a shame about the rain, but it was good to get some laps in," Howard, who missed out on the chance to qualify for last year's 500, admitted, "The car feels good, and I'm eager to put the petal all the way down. It does feel a little strange [to be back at Indy as a rookie given his experience at the track] but, from a joyous point of view, I've got some great sponsors on board, and there is no way someone is going to strip me of this chance.

"After my 'buddy' Mr Roth pulled me out of the car in '08, I was at PF Chang's, and I got a fortune cookie that said 'Good things come to those who are patient'. I thought, 'Okay...' and stuck the fortune to the top of my computer screen. Every day that I would get pissed [off], I could look at that and think 'keep digging, keep hammering away'. I just felt that I had come so far in my career and had never really had a sponsor except on a race-to-race basis. Marty [Roth] had promised me so much and delivered almost zero, and I realised that racing started to become more business than what it used to be. Now I worked with Sarah, and we got this deal going. It's great - and I've got the best sponsors I could imagine."

Last season's Chase Rookie of the Year, Alex Tagliani, didn't turn any laps in the #77 FAZZT Race Team entry, but that was by design, especially as Tagliani continues to recover from bronchitis.

"I was in [Methodist Hospital] for about 48 hours with a bad case of bronchitis, and I'm not 100 per cent yet," the Canadian revealed, "I'm still coughing so, obviously, it was needed. It could have turned into a bad scenario, maybe pneumonia.

"We're starting tomorrow. Our team decided that, when it's green on a track like here at Indy, you don't want to go out there and confuse yourself. We know where we are, and we have a good car, so today is just for preparation, giving time for the guys to get ready. Tomorrow, we're going to do our install and check out the car and, over the next week, there's still plenty of time to practice."

Indianapolis 500 veteran Jaques Lazier was among those in Gasoline Alley, checking on the availability of rides for the 2010 race.

"It's Indy, it's the month of May, so there are always opportunities, but I would think they are very far and few between," he admitted, "We were close to getting something done but, unfortunately, that fell through. I think I'm going to be working the suite, trying to build my sponsors for some races this year and for a full-time situation next year. You come here, and you can't give up. I have been in the race seven times, and you never know what will happen. Someone could struggle and they need to put the car in the show and I'm here if they need it."