The Racing Capital
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March 02, 2012 | By Robin Miller - SPEED.COM
Courtesy of Speed.com
Rubens Barrichello will be the oldest rookie at this year’s Indianapolis 500 and he likes the sound of that plus the fact he’s running on the IMS oval.
"I will turn 40 on May 23, just a few days before the race and I’m liking the idea of being a rookie, that makes me feel young,’’ said the 39-year-old Brazilian who was officially confirmed Thursday as a full-time driver on the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR circuit for KV Racing Technology.
"I’m thrilled to be running in the Indy 500 and I went there in 1993 to watch and it was amazing. I can’t wait and I think it will be a great experience. I ran F1 in Indianapolis but it was nothing like the Indy 500.
"Obviously I have no idea how to set up a car on an oval but TK (Tony Kanaan) is the king of the ovals and he will teach me.’’
The most experienced driver in Formula One history with 322 starts was asked to clarify his stance on ovals after it had been reported he had promised his wife there would be no turning left in his career.
"We were watching an Indy car race on an oval and there was a crash and she said, `You would never do that would you?’’’ he related. "I didn’t think I would because I thought I would be in F1 forever but now I have this opportunity.
"My kids want to see their daddy on an oval so we went to mom and she’s fine with it. I can’t wait.’’
The process of testing his friend’s Indy car at Sebring in late January to becoming teammates with Kanaan and E.J. Viso was only a few weeks and involved a little trickery.
"I was with Rubens when he found out that he was ride-less in F1 so I asked him to come over and test my new car and help me out,’’ said Kanaan. "Then I told Kevin (Kalkhoven) and Jimmy (Vasser) that Rubens wants to race Indy cars and he’s got full sponsorship
"After his first test at Sebring he was ready and said to me, `Do you have a sponsor?’ And I said, 'no, I thought you did.' Jimmy gave me the evil eye but at the end of the day we’re all happy now.’’
Barrichello, who will be sponsored by a Brazilian construction company (Embrase), has been developing F1 cars for 19 years so with the new Dallara chassis and Ilmor engine his timing couldn’t be better.
"I think I can help the team. I was running competitive times in only 20 laps and I like the challenge,’’ said the two-time runner-up in the world driving championship. "I guess the biggest difference is not having tire warmers. I didn’t have any temps in my tires the first time I went out and almost spun. So that’s going to be a different technique.
"But I’ve enjoyed driving the car and it gives you great feedback in high speed corners. The cars are pretty much the same so a driver can make the difference and I like that.’’
Barrichello was reminded that Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Bobby Unser all won races after the age of 40 and Dario Franchitti is still the Man to beat in INDYCAR in his late 30s.
"I love what I do, I know I can drive well and I haven’t reached my peak just yet,’’ said the 11-time F1 winner whose last victory came in 2009 for Brawn Racing. "I was disappointed when Williams released me but now this has led to something else and I’m very thankful.
"I love the sport and I love the speed and I’ve had a fantastic reception from this team. I’m over the moon.’’
But not over the hill.
"If he didn’t believe he could win he wouldn’t be here,’’ said Kanaan. "I think he’ll be on top right away, fighting for wins and the championship.’’
Vasser, the 1996 CART champion, said it was awesome to have a driver of Barrichello’s caliber on the team but cautioned a reporter who said KV was now a super team.
"I wouldn’t go that far,’’ he replied. ``I think we’ve got a super group of drivers and personnel but we’re not a super team of results yet. But this is the kind of pressure you want to have.’’