The much-anticipated NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut of the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with hybrid power was put to the test Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Rain and incidents reduced track time in practice Friday, so drivers took advantage of sunny skies and one hour of practice and then NTT P1 Award qualifying Saturday to learn more nuances of the new system.

“First time in the hybrid, and I've had my best qualifying ever, so I'm going to say, between me and the hybrid, we're already on a great start,” said David Malukas, who tied his career best by qualifying third in the No. 66 AutoNation/Arctic Wolf Honda of Meyer Shank Racing.

Learning the new hybrid technology may have been one of the reasons why the starting lineup for Sunday’s The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) is unique. Three NTT INDYCAR SERIES champions who have combined for 10 titles – Scott Dixon, Will Power and Josef Newgarden – were eliminated in the first round of qualifying.

The hybrid system adds 105 pounds to the car. Dixon, who qualified 14th in his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, said the new weight distribution and the deployment and regeneration of the hybrid system affects the car’s balance and handling.

When the hybrid assist button is deployed, additional horsepower is engaged. More horsepower will change the car’s handling.

The other aspect is the power isn’t limitless from the hybrid; it has a short duration before depletion. A driver must regenerate the hybrid unit for future use. When losing horsepower during regeneration, the car will handle differently than it would when having additional horsepower.

That’s the beauty of this hybrid technology: How drivers use it and adapt to the change in the car’s handling differs with every competitor and every team.

“Just comparing to other drivers, that's kind of been the main thing,” Malukas said. “I've really enjoyed seeing the differences because all the drivers that we've had here, Felix (Rosenqvist) and then all the Andretti Global guys, we all have different strategies, and, yet, they all kind of work in their own ways.”

Team Penske teammates Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) and Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet), winners of two of the last three Mid-Ohio races, said the unique nature of the hybrid technology is that every driver likes different aspects. What works for some may not work for others.

Second-place starter Pato O’Ward noticed the changes to his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet but credited his team for ensuring the car wasn’t affected too much by the extra horsepower and different balance.

“There’s just so much you can do, and the car balance is very sensitive to where you pick,” he said. “So, it can actually help you in terms of balance, but it also can hurt you. It’s a new hurdle, a new challenge.”

The new challenge leading into Sunday’s 80-lap race will be figuring out which team and driver did their homework the most efficiently overnight. Saturday was essentially Day 1 with the hybrid, and there are reams of data available to digest.

The best spot Saturday around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn rural Ohio road course where the hybrid assist was deployed was exiting “The Keyhole” hairpin corner, Turn 2. The usage is around 4.5 seconds in duration per application, so using the added power out of the slower right-hand corner leading onto the longest stretch of asphalt without any cornering is the most optimal time for added power.

The added benefit is the set of corners between Turns 4-5-6 leads to heavy braking, allowing the 20 ultracapacitors in the hybrid system – which fits inside the bellhousing located between the Chevrolet and Honda INDYCAR SERIES internal combustion engine and the gearbox, to regenerate.

Regeneration also takes around 4.5 seconds in length, so if the unit isn’t back to full strength exiting Turn 6, it will be shortly after under braking in Turn 7.

Sunday could be a different story. The entire paddock is studying areas to gain where others may not look, which makes this race so intriguing.

“It's just another tool to add, and I think it's going to be really interesting once we get to racing on how it's going to be setting everything up,” Malukas said.

O’Ward said the new system makes Sunday a drive into the unknown for all 27 starters.

“It'll be a challenge to see are you going to keep the same strategies, are you going to maybe change it up a little bit?” he said. “Ultimately, it's become a tool for obviously the drivers and the teams to make either your life easier or your life a lot harder.”

All areas of the track will be dissected to learn when and where the best usage of hybrid deployment and regeneration. No matter what, the hybrid is an option that will be used.

“We saw how close qualifying is, so you don't want to give up one and a half, two-tenths for free that's available for you,” NTT P1 Award driver Alex Palou said. “It's a lot of work to get those, whether you regen here or deploy here, whatever you do. It's free lap time, so you need to take it.

“Tomorrow is going to be tough. It's a lot more work that we do. Cars are heavier, steering wheel is heavier. It's going to be warm. It'll be interesting.”

Christian Lundgaard said his No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda team for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will explore areas to charge from the 10th starting position

“I think the difference across the teams perhaps is how they regen the different functionalities of it and tools and ways of doing it,” he said.

Sunday also will be the first time at this event the hybrid will be used with Push to Pass. That will add an additional 60 horsepower and another tool to use, giving teams a combined 120 extra horsepower.