Scott Dixon

Initial driver assessments of how the redesigned Indy car with a universal aero kit handled on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile, 13-turn road course in Friday’s test ranged from “difficult” to “different” to “similar in downforce” to last year.

Verizon IndyCar Series drivers came away from the afternoon session in colder temperatures just under 50 degrees with more insight on what they will need from these cars in the fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 12 (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network)

“It’s actually quite difficult to get it right,” said Team Penske’s Will Power, the INDYCAR Grand Prix winner in 2015 and 2017 in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. “It’s definitely more difficult here. It’s a lot more harder. There’s obviously less grip, quite a bit less downforce, so yeah, a lot harder to get the car in the window. Much harder.”

But the 2014 series champion likes it that way.

“I enjoy it. It should be hard, it should be difficult,” said the 32-time race winner. “There should never be a track that we go to that’s easy. It should always be tough. Around here at the speedway, it should be tough.”

Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, who won the INDYCAR Grand Prix in 2014 and 2016, acknowledged how driving his No. 22 Menards Chevrolet differs from the past.

“It’s quite a different behavior,” the 2016 series champion said. “The braking is very impressive. It brakes really late. It’s very stable, the braking. Then it’s very active through the corner. There’s a lot more hand motion in steering than there was before.

“It’s just a different driving style, the way you use the brakes, the way you use the throttle. We used to roll a lot of speed with the old car in the high downforce. Now, you have to maximize your braking. It’s a different focus.”

But four-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing offered a contrary take after running his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for more than five hours.

“I would say this is the closest to last year’s car in this configuration,” the 41-time race winner said. “This car is where we were the most trimmed out with last year’s car. The actual downforce level is quite close. Obviously, the car and the characteristics of how it works on the aero side is a little bit different, but I’d say here and Watkins Glen is most similar in terms of downforce level.”

Dixon thought the session was “fun” in getting a read on how the car performs.

“All in all, I think we made good gains for us in data and for direction and for when we come back,” he said. “Any time you can run, we’re learning a ton.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal also sounded encouraged after his run in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda.

“I love it,” Rahal said. “It’s different, for sure, but everywhere we go is different. It’s got really good potential. It’s quick down the straights. It brakes well here. I think when the track grips up, the lap times will be similar. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good day to get out there and turn some laps for everybody and see where it goes.”

Lap times weren’t available since it was a manufacturer test day. Like Power, Rahal didn’t mind the increased difficulty in handling a car with less downforce.

“Oh, it’s more difficult, but it’s the new norm,” he said. “Everywhere we go, it’s more difficult. The competitiveness stays close. The lap times are right on top of each other. Everybody has found a way to make the cars better and better and be close.

“I’d lie to you if I said I’m used to it, but there are definitely times and days where I feel like I’m closing in on it. But am I used to it? I’m not there yet. Every time I get in, I feel something different. I get a little bit of a different sense out of it in different places. It’s a challenge.”

Rahal, who has six career race wins and finished second in the 2015 INDYCAR Grand Prix, expects this year’s race to be entertaining.

“It’s always a good race here,” he said. “I feel really confident in that.”

 Tickets are available for the INDYCAR Grand Prix race weekend, Friday and Saturday, May 11-12, at In addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series race, all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder will contest doubleheader events over the weekend.

Three days of testing on the IMS oval, originally scheduled for March 27-29, have been postponed to April 30-May 2 due to the inclement weather forecast today in Indianapolis,