BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) - Rubens Barrichello wants IndyCar to classify him as a rookie.
The IndyCar Series has said no. The Brazilian driver has a record 322 Formula One starts, including 11 wins and 1.5 million Twitter followers.
None of that matters to Barrichello.
He said piloting a still-unfamiliar car at venues where he’s never raced makes him every bit the neophyte these days and deserving of the extra practice session granted to rookies and drivers ranked outside the top 10.
“I’m definitely a rookie,” Barrichello said Friday. “I can see the likes of (Josef) Newgarden as a rookie. He’s done Indy Lights. He knows the track, but he’s a rookie because he’s so young. (Simon) Pagenaud is a rookie but he has done races before. People are saying that I have 19 years of experience and I’m not a rookie.
“I don’t want to run for the championship as a rookie. But when I go to Long Beach _ let’s say I finish Top 10 here _ I don’t know the track. I don’t know the car very well, and maybe I only have an hour and a half to try on the track. I think this is not right, because I am a rookie. I need that half-hour to learn the track.”
He didn’t need it quite so badly this weekend. Barrichello, in his debut season in KV Racing Technology’s No. 8 car, will compete Sunday in his second IndyCar event, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
At least he spent two days testing at Barber Motorsports Park a couple of weeks ago, even if one was marred by rain.
IndyCar rules merely state that the series decides who receives rookie status.
Beaux Barfield, president of competition, said Friday he made the decision on Barrichello based on past precedent and the level of experience.
IndyCar did not classify Sebastian Bourdais, a winner of 31 open-wheel races, as a rookie last year.
In NASCAR, ex-Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya was the 2007 Rookie of the Year.
Going back even further, Nigel Mansell was the reigning Formula One champion and was counted as a CART rookie in 1993, winning the points title.
Tony Kanaan, Barrichello’s KV Racing teammate and best friend, also argues that Barrichello meets the definition of a rookie.