310 Racing's George Mack and five others will have to wait an extra day before taking their biggest step yet in the pursuit of a dream as the first day of the 2002 Indy 500 Rookie Orientation program fell foul of the rain. But not before Mack, John de Vries, Tomas Scheckter, Anthony Lazzaro and Rick Treadway got in a few 'eye-opening laps around the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After only 15 minutes of green flag track conditions on Friday morning, rain halted testing during Day 1 of the 2002 Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program.

Indy Racing League Director of Operations Brian Barnhart cancelled Day 1 activities at 3 p.m. on Friday as intermittent showers continued to hamper track-drying efforts. The program will continue on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Before the rain began at 9:45 a.m., rookies John de Vries, Anthony Lazzaro, George Mack, Tomas Scheckter and Rick Treadway each completed a few laps around the 2.5-mile oval. Laurent Redon was the only driver not to turn any laps. Due to the limited track time, no driver completed any of the required phases of the rookie test.

"Dream of a lifetime," said Mack, who took his first laps around the oval Friday morning. "The emotion is overwhelming when you're sitting there on pit lane strapped in and you look up and see the scoring pylon. A lot of things go through your head."

If he passes the Rookie Orientation Program, Mack will attempt to become only the second African-American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

One of the requirements during the rookie test is completion of the four new speed phases. Drivers must complete at least 10 consecutive laps at 200-205 mph, 205-210 mph, 210-215 mph and anything above 215 mph. The speed phases were increased 5 mph this year by Barnhart after consulting with veteran Indy Racing drivers and studying track conditions.

Rookies must also show consistent car control throughout the test. Al Unser, four-time Indy 500 winner and driver coach for the IRL, Johnny Rutherford, a three-time winner who is the director of special projects for the IRL, other Indy Racing veterans and Barnhart will be observing the tests. When they complete the program, drivers become eligible to participate in practice for the 86th Indianapolis 500, which opens for practice on May 5th.

"I'm going to keep my eyes and ears open," said Mack. "I've got two eyes, two ears and one mouth, so I'm going to listen twice as much as I talk."

 

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