FORT WORTH, Texas -- AJ Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier and Carlos Munoz -- each of whom have a different level of experience in an Indy car -- will be on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on March 27 for their oval rookie orientation test.
The session is a prelude to the formal Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 11. All three will be entered in the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 26, and at least Vautier will compete in the Firestone 550 on June 8 (prime time on ABC).
Six other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers (Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and James Jakes) are scheduled to participate in a private test later in the day at the speedway.
“Texas Motor Speedway is a difficult place to race, but I think it’s not as difficult to get up to speed for the first time as Indianapolis Motor Speedway so it’s good opportunity for these guys to get comfortable with the speeds," said IZOD IndyCar Series Race Director Beaux Barfield, who will evaluate car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern during the session.
"I want to make sure they are set into a rhythm and they’re aware of what’s going on around them. There are a couple of bumps in certain spots that they need to be aware of and I’ll be looking for them to be changing their lines a little bit once they get up to speed and comfortable to drive different lanes.
"We’re specific about what’s required at the Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but much more open and laid back with how we conduct rookie tests at different venues. There won’t be any specific speed phases to the session, but I will defer to the teams to get their driver comfortable with the car and speeds."
Allmendinger, 31, who has tested at the Sebring in February and Barber Motorsports Park road courses two weeks ago, is entered in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber on April 5-7 in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske car. He last competed on an oval in an Indy car in 2006 (finished fourth at Milwaukee on June 4 in a Champ Car race).
Click it: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama schedule
Vautier, the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion, made his first IZOD IndyCar Series start March 24 in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Munoz, 21, is in his second Firestone Indy Lights season with Andretti Autosport and will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the 500 Mile Race as the team's fifth entrant.
Drivers must complete two of the three ROP phases April 11 (rain/snow date of April 12), when the 2.5-mile oval is open only to rookies, to join in practice on Opening Day (May 12). The third phase may be completed on any of the practice days before Pole Day (May 18). Phases include 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph.
IZOD IndyCar Series driver stewards Arie Luyendyk and Johnny Unser will oversee the program.
Vautier, 23, competed in the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis last May. But he's not familiar with the high-banked, high-speed Texas Motor Speedway.
“I’ve started thinking about the ovals and watching the race last year it looks really challenging," he said. "The feeling (in the car) will be different because an IndyCar moves more than an Indy Lights car on the ovals. It’s a good opportunity and will be good to arrive at Indy for ROP without being totally green on ovals in an IndyCar.”