LONG POND, Pa. -- On their way to and from family picnics and other Independence Day activities, spectators streamed into the Pocono Raceway main grandstand for a look at the sleek, fast cars on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
It's been 24 years since IndyCars have been on the racetrack, and fans who attended the free Open Test caught a glimpse of what's in store for the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7.
"These cars are bloody quick around here," said four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Energizer car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. "The performance level is unbelievable."
That's an apt summation.
Click it: Open Test combined results || Aero, tire specs updated
All 24 cars posted lap times better than the track record of 42.510 seconds (211.715 mph) set by Emerson Fittipaldi on Aug. 19, 1989, out of the gate in the three-hour morning session. Qualifications at 1:15 p.m. (ET) July 6 will make it official.
Marco Andretti of nearby Nazareth, Pa., topped the speed chart with a lap of 220.963 mph (40.7308 seconds) in the No. 25 RC Cola car for Andretti Autosport. The NASCAR Sprint Cup record at Pocono is 179.598 mph by Joey Logano in 2012 -- a year after repaving of the tri-oval.
"I think this just became my favorite racetrack," said Andretti, who recorded his best lap on a qualifying simulation. "I have to give credit to INDYCAR. They did a great job with the aero (package) and also Firestone with the tire choice. First and foremost, that's the positive from coming from the (June 25) test. I think it will produce good racing because it's going to put guys on the opposite ends of the downforce level, which is the risk you run."
Tony Kanaan, who can continue on the path to a $1 million bonus by winning the second of the three legs of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown, was second (219.802 mph; 40.9460 seconds) in the No. 11 Sunoco "Turbo" car for KV Racing Technology-SH Racing.
IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Helio Castroneves (219.123 mph) was third in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car, and Ed Carpenter was fourth (218.788 mph) while doing a qualifying simulation in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka car. Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was fifth (218.293 mph) in the No. 1 DHL car.
Top to bottom, the field was separated by 1.1 seconds.
Andretti is third in the standings, compliments of eight top 10s. He's seeking to add to the family success at the track. Grandfather Mario won the 1986 race -- the same year his dad, Michael, started from the pole.
"I think we’re on the right track," he said. "Honestly, I think when we put these things in traffic it can be so different. There are a lot that has to go right in order to be victorious. We found that in my last three races. We’ve been very strong but just come up short. There are a lot of elements in this sport that have to go right. You never have it mastered."
The 160-lap race is at noon (ET) and will be broadcast by ABC.
"I think the fans are going to have a lot of fun because the way the layout is, having the long and wide straightaway makes for a lot of passing and action, and that’s where the main grandstands are," said Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car. "So I think for the series and the way the car is behaving on the ovals, this is going to be another replica of Indianapolis (record 68 lead changes). I think they are in for a good show."