But Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal might be even happier headed into this weekend’s Watkins Glen Grand Prix (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN), a late add to the 2016 calendar to replace what would have been a first-time street race in Boston.
We caught up with both drivers a few weeks ago before Pocono, while IndyCar was in the midst of a couple off weekends (albeit still with a heavy testing slate).
And both drivers have extolled the 3.4-mile permanent road course in Upstate New York, recently repaved, while noting how “unbelievably fast” it is after testing there.
“It’s really quick man. It was good fun. I was definitely impressed with what we’re experiencing there,” Rahal, who won Saturday night at Texas, told NBC Sports.
“G-load wise, it might be insane. Mid-Ohio was 4.5 Gs in qualifying in Turn 1. There might be some spots at the Glen where it’s that and then some. It’ll be intense.
“For whoever will go and see it, they should enjoy myself. Watching that on-board, which isn’t even at eye-level, because the camera is a little higher up, you can visibly see a lot more… and people are like holy crap!!
“Everyone is blown away by the speeds. If the fans want to go to any race, go to that place, because it looks like unbelievably fast.”
Pagenaud added similar thoughts from an earlier test this year in June, a Firestone tire test.
“Watkins Glen… oh man, it’s absolutely nuts!!” he told NBC Sports. “The tarmac design they have is really grippy. The tires are very consistent. Not much degradation. There’s very high pace and the commitment level is what impresses me the most. So much downforce but also so much grip, it’s doubly what we get! There’s a video game kinda feel!
“You’ll have to brake as little as possible. It’s hard to feel the car. Push those commitment limits, float with the limits. The reaction is really fast.”
Pagenaud, who tested in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet colors but will have a different primary sponsor this go-around, explained how he thinks the race could play out.
“Passing will be difficult… but you can make it happen before the Bus Stop. Push to Pass is awesome for acceleration. It might be more of an advantage uphill. Should be good device. Honestly… there could be a big game of downforce levels. Some might trim out, or put more on.”
Rahal spent his morning session at the August test watching Ed Jones – the Indy Lights driver, not his actual engineer of his No. 15 Mi-Jack/RLL Honda Eddie Jones – in the car. And he was blown away with what he witnessed.
“It looks crazy from outside. I was telling [Jake] Query – and I went out and watched – Ed Jones was in my car, and I was like, holy crap!! How am I gonna get up to speed that fast?!?
“It looked insane. I watched from Bus Stop, then the Carousel on down. That left-hander before the pit entry and then the last right-hander onto the front straight is ridiculously, crazy fast. You’re flat through the left, and it’s nuts man. From the outside, there’s the grandstand, and your jaw just drops.
“It’s one of the first times you sit and watch… you legitimately will be blown away.”