Verizon IndyCar Series teams tested the new superspeedway aerokits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, but Thursday it was back to the road course kit with two practice sessions around the 14-turn, 3.439-mile infield track at IMS.
For three hours and 40 minutes, 25 drivers tested under mostly sunny skies preparing for Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, with Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon taking the first and second rounds, respectively.
“It’s a lot of fun when you’re at Indianapolis, road course or oval,” Dixon told media after the second session. “I think this track is a little different to a lot of them in the sheer fact you trim out so much.
“It can be frustrating at times piecing a lap together. When you do it’s rewarding.”
Dixon was rewarded with a fast lap of 1:10.6971 on his 22nd of 24 laps.
“As all of us have been off track trying to explore the limits,” said Dixon, who started sixth but finished 15th in last year’s Grand Prix of Indy. “The track is pretty slippery I find this year, maybe due to the tar field getting a little bit older. But it’s definitely been a lot of fun today.”
One of the drivers to find himself off course was Team Penske’s Will Power. The defending series champion spun off into the dirt and gravel on the back half of the track early in the second session.
“It’s a track you can do that on because (there’s) not too many things to hit (off-course),” said Power who wound up second fastest despite the blooper. “I was very loose at the beginning of the session. I’m just trying in the braking zones, as well, trying to get everything dialed in.”
One question going into the weekend is how tires will hold up with the new aero kit combined with weather conditions.
“(Once you) start to trim out a lot, you’re probably going to work the rear (tires) a lot harder,” Graham Rahal said after being the fastest Honda in the second session at P7. “You never know what can happen here or in the race. I think we saw that last year. A lot of guys I thought were really strong, when we went to the long run, they struggled a little bit.
“With a straightaway this long, you ought to be able to pass at least a couple guys in one shot.”
In the first practice session Chevrolet swept the top five position before Takuma Sato’s Honda claimed the sixth position. Rahal’s fastest second-session lap was 1:11.1422.
“I think all the Chevys are quicker than the Hondas here on trap speed,” Rahal said. “I think it’s probably just a bit of drivability. I mean, these guys are over here talking about adjusting it to their driving style.
Rahal finds it’s hard for his team adjust his No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda to his driving style at the track.
“It’s pretty pitch sensitive,” Rahal said. “You find you’re sideways more than you’re pointed straight. As I said, if you’re doing that, it’s fast, that’s okay. That’s where we’ve been this year.”