Duno completes rookie test in time for Kansas debut

Updated: April 26, 2007, 8:25 PM ET
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Driving an open-wheel Indy car for only the second time, Milka Duno earned her IndyCar series rookie license Thursday -- three days before she will make her series debut at Kansas Speedway.

Milka Duno
Orlin Wagner/AP PhotoDuno will make her IndyCar auto racing series debut on Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

The 34-year-old Venezuelan, who is moving to Indy cars from sports car racing, becomes the third woman in the IndyCar series behind Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick.

All three are in the field for Sunday's Kansas Lottery Indy 300, marking the first time three women are expected to compete in one race in a top-level circuit.

"Out there, we're all drivers," she said.

Duno had hoped to arrive in the Kansas City area on Tuesday and take her rookie test Wednesday, but was prevented from doing either by heavy rain.

On Tuesday, her flight from Miami was grounded in Louisiana for nine hours.

"If I flew to Australia, it would take me less time than it took for me to get from Miami to Kansas," she said.

Windy and unseasonably cool conditions Thursday morning kept her from taking the track until after 11:30 a.m., when the temperature rose past 50 degrees. She finished testing shortly before 5 p.m., after completing 210 laps on the 1.5-mile tri-oval, and learned she had passed several minutes later.

"It's almost like passing a college exam," Samax Motorsports owner Peter Barron said. "It's good to get this step out of the way."

There was not supposed to be any testing at Kansas Speedway on Thursday, but the Indy Racing League and track officials granted Duno an extension. Even though IndyCar qualifying is not until Saturday, track time is booked solid on Friday for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice and an ARCA race.

"I'm super happy that the league, and Honda, and all the folks at Kansas Speedway worked with us to make this happen," Barron said. "There's always a certain amount of drama, but we're very happy we got this sorted."

Weather also wiped out most of Duno's other planned tests, allowing her only one 140-lap outing at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago.

"I was not thinking too much about that," she said. "When I have to do something, I take the opportunity as, 'This is the only practice I have, the only time I have.'

"The plan was that I would have four days to one week of practice, but because of the weather conditions we couldn't. I just said, 'OK, we will do what we can.'"

Duno plans to compete in 10 of the series' 17 races this year, concentrating on ovals -- with the exception of the Indianapolis 500, which she plans to enter next month. She is expected to run a full schedule in 2008.

Despite her limited experience, Duno said she would do more than just try to finish Sunday's race.

"I'm going to do my best," Duno said. "I'm very competitive. But at the same time, I'm going to try to learn everything, how to drive with all the guys together."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press