Seven hundred and ninety-five drivers have made at least one Indianapolis 500 start over 107 editions of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
That number may increase by at least three after Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist each completed the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) on Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and became eligible to participate in the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge next May.
SEE: Test Results
“It’s unbelievable,” Lundqvist said. “With the speeds that you’re going, it feels so fast. With the history and legacy around this place, it just feels magical. Even though the grandstands are empty, I can only imagine what it will feel like when they’re full. Even now it’s very, very special.”
The trio wasted little time completing the three-phase test, each finishing before the lunch break at noon. Lundqvist wrapped up the test first in the No. 8 Honda, followed by Blomqvist in the No. 60 Honda a few minutes later and Armstrong in the No. 11 Honda just as the clock struck noon.
ROP consists of three speed phases, gradually introducing first-year “500” drivers to the high speeds and unique nature of the rectangular, low-banked 2.5-mile oval. Drivers must start with 10 laps between 205-210 mph, following with 15 laps at 210-215 and finishing with 15 laps faster than 215 mph.
The three drivers also turned laps in the afternoon after passing ROP, getting even more familiar and comfortable with the historic oval and the high speeds. Blomqvist ended up fastest overall at 220.176 mph, followed by Lundqvist at 219.504 and Armstrong at 219.252. They combined to turn 285 laps.
“I’ve enjoyed it a whole lot more than I expected,” Armstrong said. “I’m not saying I didn’t expect to enjoy it, but I think the intensity of it is pretty special and watching (in-car) onboards and on TV is one thing, but actually feeling how the car moves and how the wind affects you and the tiny details of this place – and Texas – has kind of given me so much enjoyment.”
It should come as little surprise that Armstrong, Blomqvist and Lundqvist completed the rookie test with speedy aplomb due to their familiarity with the cars.
While Armstrong and Blomqvist hope to make their NTT INDYCAR SERIES oval debuts in May at the “500,” Armstrong competed in 12 road- and street-course events in 2023 en route to series Rookie of the Year honors, and Blomqvist made three road-and-street starts as a substitute this season. 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Lundqvist also was a super sub in 2023, competing in three races, including his series oval debut at World Wide Technology Raceway.
All three drivers also have participated in NTT INDYCAR SERIES oval testing earlier this year at Texas Motor Speedway.
“There’s a bit of a relief, but I still anticipated it being something I would get through,” Blomqvist said. “It shouldn’t be that much of a challenge, and at the end of the day I’m coming here to try and compete for victories in the future. But it’s all part of the process, and I’ve also read this is something of a tradition, which has been around for a long, long time.
“But it’s definitely rewarding to know that you can do it, to know that it is possible because you’re going so fast around here. I’m so fascinated by how your body and how your mind processes everything and slows things down. At some point you don’t feel the speeds that you’re doing. I keep saying that it’s one thing driving around by yourself, right? Come May it’s a steady 32 other cars that you have to navigate your way through and manage with traffic and all the racecraft, so that’s another thing. Just baby steps.”
The eyes of the motorsports world will stay on IMS on Thursday when NASCAR star Kyle Larson turns his first laps in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car as he participates in ROP. The rookie test begins Larson’s on-track journey in the Hendrick 1100, the moniker for his efforts to complete the Memorial Day “double” of racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Cup Series’ Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26, 2024.
2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Larson will attempt to become the fifth driver to complete the Memorial Day weekend Sunday “double,” joining John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch. 2004 Cup Series champion Busch was the last driver to successfully attempt the double, in 2014. Stewart produced the most successful double in 2001, when he finished sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte.
Larson will drive the Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet fielded by Arrow McLaren in a joint effort with his NASCAR team, 10-time Brickyard 400 winners Hendrick Motorsports. He will have the track alone from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES also will test the 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with hybrid technology Thursday at IMS.
Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champions Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing and Will Power of Team Penske will be joined by Colton Herta of Andretti Global and Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren for Thursday’s hybrid test, which will take place from 9-11 a.m. and 2-6 p.m. The hybrid power unit will make its NTT INDYCAR SERIES race debut in 2024. Hybrid testing will continue from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Friday.
Fans can watch the two remaining days of testing from the grandstands inside the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 of the IMS oval, near the IMS Museum, and the spectator mounds inside Turn 2. Live timing from Larson’s ROP Thursday will be available at racecontrol.indycar.com.