Takuma Sato

AVONDALE, Arizona – All the new-look Indy cars ran on track today for the first time, in this afternoon’s opening session of the Verizon IndyCar Series preseason open test at ISM Raceway.

Twenty-three cars outfitted with the universal aero kit debuting this season turned a total of 943 laps in the three-hour session that went off without incident. Takuma Sato, driving the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, posted the fastest lap around the 1.022-mile oval in the desert at 187.022 mph (19.6726 seconds).

Simon Pagenaud, who won last year’s Phoenix Grand Prix, was second quick with a lap of 186.611 mph (19.7159 seconds) in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

PHOENIX OPEN TEST AT ISM RACEWAY: Afternoon session results

“Very good session, yeah, yeah,” said Sato, winner of the 2017 Indianapolis 500 when he drove for Andretti Autosport. “I was happy to get back behind the wheel. This is our first oval test with the team. It wasn’t flawless because we had some electrical issues again, but the engineers deal with it very well. Once we get going, I think we were very comfortable.”

The testing this week at ISM Raceway marks the first time that all teams can run the universal kit on a short oval. Until now, private team testing has taken place on road courses at Sebring International Raceway in Florida and Sonoma Raceway in California.

That means school is in full session today and Saturday in suburban Phoenix, for drivers, engineers and mechanics alike as they strive to sharpen their cars’ performance prior to returning to ISM Raceway for this year’s Phoenix Grand Prix, the second race on the schedule on April 7 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

“No surprises,” Sato said of the initial short oval experience in the new car. “As expected, there was a huge amount of reduction of the downforce. It felt like qualifying trim already. We’re never going to be able to (go) flat in both ends, that’s a definite challenge. Tire degradation is key, too, because there is more tire degradation. That makes the race fun but I think it’s going to be very challenging, for sure.”

AJ Foyt Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and rookie Matheus Leist impressed by posting the third- and fourth-best laps of the session. Kanaan, in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, turned a lap of 186.112 mph and Leist went 186.094 mph in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevy. Their best laps were separated by a mere 0.002 of a second.

Rookie Kyle Kaiser logged the most laps (62) in the No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet

A second practice is scheduled from 8-11 p.m. ET today. Saturday will see a repeat schedule, with practices from 3-6 and 8-11 p.m. ET. All sessions will stream live on racecontrol.indycar.com.

ISM Raceway is offering free admission on Saturday, which includes a driver autograph session in between the practices.