Originally created 04/13/02

Rookies begin Indy 500 orientation program



INDIANAPOLIS -- Rick Treadway has been around auto racing almost all his life. No wonder he finally got the itch to get behind the wheel himself.

The son of team owner Fred Treadway, he grew up in Indianapolis and spent a lot of time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After graduating from Indiana State, he got a commercial pilot license and began flying teams and drivers to races.

"I just thought it was so cool to be so close to the racing," Rick Treadway said. "I ended up getting some sponsors ... and here we are."

It took a little more work than that, however, for the 32-year-old Treadway, one of five drivers who began the Rookie Orientation Program at the Speedway on Friday.

He started in go-karts in 1996 and moved up through the U.S. Auto Club midget and Silver Bullet series before his Indy Racing League debut with his father's team at Kentucky Speedway last August. His best finish was fifth at Texas Motor Speedway in October.

He managed just a few laps on Friday - his second opportunity for testing at Indianapolis - before the session was ended by rain.

"Even though we got only three or four laps in, it was a great deal just to get around the track," Treadway said. "They ground the surface of the track, so it's totally different. It was a good experience just to get out."

He drove more than 400 miles at the Speedway in November in tests with the Treadway-Hubbard team.

"There's a huge difference," he said of the 2 1/2 -mile asphalt oval. "It's incredibly smooth, and there's a lot more grip. I'm just looking forward to getting our rookie test over with."

The driving test, a series of 10-lap runs at increasing speeds, normally is required of all first-year drivers at Indianapolis. This year, however, five drivers have been excused from the test because of their extensive driving experience elsewhere.

CART veterans Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Alex Barron and Shigeaki Hattori, and former Formula One driver Johnny Herbert will not have to take the rookie test.

Treadway, Tomas Scheckter, Laurent Redon, George Mack, Anthony Lazzaro and John de Vries are the drivers who will have to pass the test before they can begin practice in May. All except Redon made it on the track before Friday's rain.

The rookie program will continue on Saturday, with private testing scheduled for Sunday.

Treadway's teammate is two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk, who has been tutoring all the rookies.

"You can't really tell a guy too much," Luyendyk said. "You talk about the lines, being smooth ... and then I'm just another guy they can come up to and ask questions."

On Thursday, during the "classroom" portion of the rookie orientation, Luyendyk and other veterans took the rookies around the track in pace cars.

"It's really to facilitate them and cut their learning curve somewhat," Luyendyk said.

"The thing is, with most of these guys, the rookies these days when they come here, they've done a lot of laps at other tracks, and all of them have teams behind them with a lot of experience, so it's not like they come here totally in the dark.

"Those guys from CART ... wouldn't have to take a rookie test. That would be silly."