Four-time Indianapolis 500 Mile Race champion Rick Mears, a Team Penske consultant, has some simple, yet proven, advice for AJ Allmendinger as he participates in the Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It's really all about patience. Just take your time and get comfortable in the car taking lap after lap. Don't rush yourself," said Mears, who augmented his victories at the Brickyard with a record six pole starts. "Wait until the car and track comes to you instead of trying to go to it.
"Being smooth on the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway is all about smaller movement, more progressive on all your movements. The main thing is getting in the car and getting laps. He's a racer; it won't take any time."
Allmendinger is especially fond of that last quote as he'll join others drivers May 11 on Opening Day at the venerable facility. Tristan Vautier (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) and Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) also will participate, with Conor Daly (A.J. Foyt Racing) going through the program after completing his European racing obligations.
Drivers must complete two of the three phases May 11-12. The third phase may be completed on any of the practice days before Pole Day qualifying (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 that puts a premium on car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern.
Allmendinger tested March 27 on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval and made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 7. He also competed in the No. 2 Chevrolet-powered IZOD car in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21. Allmendinger, whose last Indy car oval race was at Milwaukee in June 2006, has competed at the Speedway in a stock car. Any comparison can end right there.
"It is something I have wanted to do, but never got that opportunity when Champ Car split," the 31-year-old California native said. "Like anything, it is a new challenge and I have to get used to it. They have already told me I can't brake at the end of the straightaway (like in a stock car), even though that it is what I am used to doing.
"The good thing about Indy is that you get so much time there. I am fortunate to have Helio (Castroneves), Will (Power) and Rick Mears there to coach me along. It will be pretty cool to roll out of Gasoline Alley and onto the track."