"I've obviously got a big smile on my face. The track was just so fun today," said 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, Scott Dixon. "There's much more flow to it."
With just north of $5 million in improvements to the 3.439-mile, 14-turn course, the changes should increase the tracks raceability. "One and seven are the two big pass zones." said former "500" pole winner, Ryan Briscoe.
Both Turn 1 and Turn 7 come at the end of a long, fast straightaways, two ingredients required for passing opportunities. Some drivers compared the track to the ultra competitive Sao Paulo course in which the Verizon IndyCar Series ran from 2010-2013.
Currently the fastest track on the IndyCar schedule, much of the speed can be chalked up to the off-season track improvements. "This is the smoothest track we go to," said Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud.
With 1,532 laps turned in the 5 available hours, the day wasn't without several minor incidents. The Turn 1/2 complex proved difficult for many drivers in the morning 10am-noon session, when countless spinning or locked up cars over shot their entrance point. The newly paved and rubber-free course is likely to be blamed for the challenges and shouldn't be an issue come race day.
Mikhail Aleshin, who you'll find at the bottom of the time chart, missed the entire afternoon session due to mechanical woes. Aleshin's issues commenced in the first few turns of his first afternoon lap and required a tow back to the pits, ending his day.
The complete time sheet:
1 - Scott Dixon 1:09:5969
2 - Ryan Briscoe 1:09:6558
3 - Simon Pagenaud 1:09:7544
4 - Helio Castroneves 1:10:0209
5 - Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:10:0237
6 - Will Power 1:10:0260
7 - Justin Wilson 1:10:0388
8 - Juan Pablo Montoya 1:10:0983
9 - James Hinchcliffe 1:10:1387
10 - Jack Hawksworth 1:10:1566
11 - Sebastien Bourdais 1:10:2344
12 - Takuma Sato 1:10:2792
13 - Charlie Kimball 1:10:3347
14 - Marco Andretti 1:10:3401
15 - Oriol Servia 1:10:3473
16 - Sebastian Saavedra 1:10:3601
17 - Carlos Munoz 1:10:4388
18 - Tony Kanaan 1:10:4392
19 - Franck Montagny 1:10:4860
20 - Carlos Huertas 1:10:6464
21 - Mike Conway 1:10:6953
22 - Josef Newgarden 1:10:9278
23 - Graham Rahal 1:11:7026
24 - Martin Plowman 1:11:7311
25 - Mikhail Aleshin 1:12:2211
IMS will host it's next DW12 May 5th when Mikhail Aleshin, Martin Plowman, Jack Hawksworth, and Sage Karam run their Rookie Orientation Programs and Kurt Busch returns for extra track time. The cars will return to the road course the following Thursday in preparations for the May 10th Grand Prix of Indianapolis.