3 veteran drivers test skills with Indy rookies

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Without the added boost, Barrichello hit a top speed of 214.083 mph in 83 laps around the track Thursday.

On a day six of eight rookies passed all three phases of their rookie test, it was James Jakes who landed atop the speed chart. He went 218.268 after failing to qualify for last year’s race.

Another rookie, Wade Cunningham, passed the first two phases of his test but ran out of time to complete the final phase. English rookie Katherine Legge never made it onto the track as team owner Jay Penske tried to find a replacement for a Lotus engine.

Regular practice is scheduled to open Saturday. Meanwhile, the high-profile “rookies” were busy learning some lessons.

“The walls are very close and I don’t want to think about it,” Barrichello said.

Jourdain, who grew up in Mexico and is now driving for Bobby Rahal’s team, was sixth among the eight drivers on the track. His fastest lap was 213.633.

Alesi, in contrast, did the lightest work, finishing only 18 laps, none faster than 186.387. He’s driving for Tyce Carlson’s startup team, Fan Force United, and is one of two drivers attempting to make the field with a Lotus.

Part of the reason for Thursday’s slowdown was that none of the drivers wanted to push the limits on a cool, breezy day that gave them a brief glimpse into what makes this track so tricky.

“I’m thinking it’s going to take some time to get comfortable in the car,” Jourdain said. “So I want to treat it (the speedway) with the respect it deserves. If it comes quick, great. If not, I don’t want to lose my patience.”

Veterans such as Castroneves and Kanaan, Barrichello’s friend and teammate with KV Racing Technology, know that one mistimed gust of wind can send anyone into a wall, and all of that experience has taught these veterans not to take unnecessary risks.

How far might they push things next week? That depends on the situation.

“I’ve not done anything in a long time, so you want to be conservative,” Jourdain said. “But you also want to race. So the most important thing is to go out and see how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling good, then you will start going faster.”

Or at least give you a chance to turn back the clock.

“It makes me feel younger,” said Barrichello, who turns 40 in two weeks. “I think Texas helped me in a lot of ways, and it was a good first experience here.”

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