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Oval rookies get Texas test time

Vautier and Allmendinger were joined at Texas by 21-year-old Firestone Indy Lights racer Carlos Munoz, who has been handed a seat to attempt the Indy 500 by Andretti Autosports.

More experienced hands taking the opportunity to test at Texas - which hosts the eighth round of the 19-race 2013 IndyCar season on June 8 - included Vautier's team mate and compatriot Simon Pagenaud, team owner-driver Ed Carpenter, AJ Foyt's Takuma Sato, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan duo Graham Rahal and James Jakes.

Having more cars on track was a help for the rookies, explained Vautier, especially preparing for the actual Firestone 550 race that he will be competing in two weeks after the Indy 500.

"The challenge coming back here will be all the things you have to do with other people on the track," he said. "The car can react differently from lap to lap by the way it moves around, so that was helpful in general.

"There's lots of grip and you can really feel the compression in the corners, and with the wind it was pretty tricky," he added. "It might be even trickier in June when we come back because it will be significantly warmer."

While Vautier will definitely be competing here in June, Munoz is unlikely to; and the jury is still out on whether Allmendinger will be tempted to stay for a longer stint back in open wheel racing or whether he'll go back to focussing on NASCAR after participating in the greatest spectacle in motorsport.

The formal Rookie Orientation Program itself will be held on April 11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is a 2.5-mile circuit unique in motor racing and very different in characteristics from the high-banked 1.5-mile Texas circuit.

All drivers who have not recently competed in the Indy 500 must successfully complete ROP before being allowed to participate in qualifying, in which only the top 33 cars make it into the actual 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.



Related Pictures

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Firestone Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Firestone Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tristan Vautier on the second day of pre-season testing at Barber Motorsport Park. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media.)
Tristan Vautier waits in his cockpit at St Petersburg, Florida - March 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
AJ Allmendinger on pit road. (Photo Credit: John Cotes for IndyCar Media)
Penske`s AJ Allmendinger in the cockpit. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Schmidt-Peterson Motorsport`s Tristan Vautier (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
A special message for James Hinchcliffe during the Indianapolis 500 Victory Banquet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates with team owner Roger Penske after winning the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Accident for Sage Karam on the first lap of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Oriol Servia accident during the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, and his team perform the traditional kissing of the bricks after racing to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, drinks the traditional bottle of milk while celebrating his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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