INDIANAPOLIS — Rookie eagerness to experience Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course was initially tempered by light morning rain during Monday’s NTT IndyCar Series test for Honda-powered drivers.
Felix Rosenqvist managed to run eight laps in his No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, but it was just some tinkering with the engine and not proper all-out driving. The rookie from Sweden has raced on the track before in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and soon discovered that driving an Indy car is different.
He also needed to refresh his memory.
“Honestly, it was weird,” he said while walking back to pit lane to run in the afternoon when conditions were more promising. “When I went out this morning, I forgot how the track is, the turns. (Laughs.) I had one corner where I tried to do third gear and it was actually first. Normally, I don’t do that. I actually forgot. Now I know it again. It will be fine.”
Drivers were able to get busy in drier conditions shortly after noon as teams prepared for the upcoming INDYCAR Grand Prix race weekend May 10-11.
“It has a good flow to it,” said Rosenqvist, 27. “It’s a fun track. Even the few laps I did, it’s nice.
“It’s actually much more fun in an Indy car. That chicane on the backstretch, it’s so much easier in this car. You can run over the curbs without jumping.”
Fellow Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson managed to complete three early laps in his No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.
“I thought it was fun,” Ericsson said. “I did it in the simulator the other week and it was pretty good. I enjoyed it. Pretty straightforward, three big braking zones and then some technical stuff in between that. I looked at some videos from last year as well. There seemed to be some good racing here with some passing opportunities. I’m looking forward to it.”
The 28-year-old former Formula One driver likened the layout to some of the tracks he raced on overseas.
“It’s more of a European-style track feeling, for sure, quite smooth with some big braking (zones),” Ericsson said. “It reminds me of that. But the lap is still quite short. It’s something I’m more used to. For me, it’s good. I like these tracks. I love Barber and Long Beach, they have lots of character, these types of tracks. I love that.”
Rosenqvist enters May in 12th place in NTT IndyCar Series points. He debuted with a fourth-place finish in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and also finished 10th at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Ericsson is 16th in the points. The top rookie so far has been Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing. He’s in 10th place.
Like Rosenqvist, Herta has raced on the IMS road course in Indy Lights. He won on this track last year. And the 19-year-old driver asserted himself early in his second start this season, becoming the youngest winner in Indy car history with a victory in the INDYCAR Classic at the Circuit of The Americas road course in Austin, Texas.
Herta sped out of pit lane three times in his No. 88 Honda in the morning, and each time it started to rain. He was as eager as anyone to get out in the afternoon.
Ericsson is convinced he’s shown more speed than his early race results might indicate. His best finish so far has been a seventh at Barber Motorsports Park.
“I think we have a lot of potential,” he said. “I think we’ve shown that. In every race, we’ve been super fast. We haven’t been able to connect the whole weekend. I need to get the hang of the tires. It’s very different from what I’m used to, coming from Pirellis with tire warmers to Firestones which don’t have tire warmers. It’s a different way to sort of getting a feel on new tires. That’s where we’ve been lacking.
“When we do long running, we’ve been super strong. We just need to get me a bit more comfortable on new rubber, and when we do that we’re going to be really up there fighting. We’re going to cause a lot of trouble for the other guys then.”
INDYCAR Grand Prix practice and qualifying takes place Friday, May 10. Practice sessions begin at 9:10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET, with each streaming live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. NTT P1 Award qualifying airs live at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass.
Live race coverage starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.