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Danica Patrick highlights veterans, rookies who took to IMS on Tuesday

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A number of rookies and veterans took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday to complete refresher courses and rookie orientation as part of testing at IMS this week.

Most prominent among the veterans to complete a refresher was Danica Patrick, who returns to the Indianapolis 500 this year for the first time since 2011. Initially, things got off to a rough start for Patrick, whose No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing was plagued with a water temperature issue when she first ventured out on track, prompting the ECR team to bring her back in for a quick check of the car.

No major issues persisted, though Patrick acknowledged that the car’s steering felt heavier than anticipating and required some adjustments for comfort, and she was able to continue running throughout the day, completing her refresher program late in the afternoon, meaning she is now good to go once practice begins later this month.

Patrick explained afterward that the goal for today was simple: knock the rust off and complete her refresher course, rather than focus on putting together an ultra quick lap.

“I just kind of wanted to get today over with, not in a negative sense, but just that it’s been seven years since I drove an IndyCar here. Yeah, it’s been a long time,” she detailed in a press conference afterward.

Patrick also explained that a heavy steering sensation made things a little more complicated, despite a well-documented and intense workout regime she has become known for.

“The car, it just felt very hard to drive. The weight of the wheel was very heavy for me. So I don’t know what the heck I’ve been doing because I feel a lot stronger than when I was here before. You have to see the videos, I crushed it like crazy. I can pick some weight up. But I did not feel very strong out there,” she joked.

Patrick will also take part in Wednesday’s manufacturer test, and described the goal as getting the car to a point where she can be flat out around the IMS oval.

“I feel like tomorrow (the goal is) just a smooth day where I get flat out and feel the changes, have good information leading into two weeks from now where we really are going to have to get down to business,” she finished.

Among the rookies, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Robert Wickens also encountered some issues during his rookie orientation, with his No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda suffering gearbox problems. Consequently, the SPM team rolled teammate James Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda for Wickens to complete his orientation.

However, the rest of the day was trouble free and Wickens was able to finish all three phases of rookie orientation.

Wickens explained that switching to Hinchcliffe’s car was far from simple, requiring a quick seat fitting, and also pressed them for time a little bit.

“It wasn’t ideal because we didn’t really do a seat fit for me in his car. Apart from the seat going in, everything was more get on with it, get the orientation done. We were actually a little pressed for time to get all the phases through in the time allocation we had,” he explained.

But, the team completed everything they needed to go to get Wickens back out there and allow him to finish the orientation program.

“The guys worked hard to get the (No. 5) car ready. Yeah, I mean, I love it around here. It was my first taste of Indianapolis. I love the oval. I ran the GP course 12 years ago. Yeah, it was good to do my first laps at the oval, full throttle laps, flat laps. It was very special,” Wickens added.

Other drivers to venture out on Tuesday were SPM’s Jay Howard, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist, and Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser.

Howard and Karam completed their refresher courses without incident, with Leist and Kaiser doing the same for their rookie orientation programs.

Times are below. Wickens was fastest on the day with a quick lap of 220.111 mph. Patrick’s best lap came in at 218.500 mph

Testing continues on Wednesday in a private, manufacturers’ day at IMS.

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Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).