Coolest minivan ever: Pagenaud to drive 500+ horsepower Honda Odyssey at Pikes Peak

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Back in April, we told you that Simon Pagenaud, now IndyCar’s latest first-time winner, would be suiting up for Honda at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 30. But at that time, we didn’t know what the Frenchman would be driving in the famous event.

You’d think a guy like Pagenaud would be a shoe-in for some sort of Honda or Acura sports car. But the Honda camp had something unique in mind for him: A highly-modified Honda Odyssey mini-van (pictured) for the race’s ‘Exhibition’ category.

This particular vehicle has several elements that will make it stand out from its fellow Odysseys. Chief among them is its turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 engine that can crank out a robust 532 horsepower. A six-speed transmission and limited-slip differential borrowed from the Acura TL line will also be on the vehicle, as well as a competition roll cage and racing suspension and brakes.

“This is something I’m really looking forward to,” Pagenaud said in a Honda statement earlier this week. “I’ve done a little bit of rallying in France, and I used to watch highlights of the Pikes Peak race on television as a kid.

“Our entry will be unique, to say the least! A Honda Odyssey with power similar to an IndyCar will raise some eyebrows for sure! But with the preparation it is getting from Team Honda Research, it will be a proper race car, and I’m very excited about it.”

Pagenaud’s Odyssey will be one of two ‘Exhibition’ vehicles that Honda will enter at Pikes Peak. In all, the manufacturer is fielding 11 vehicles across nine different classes.

Photo courtesy of Honda Racing/HPD

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.