Productive Test For Rusty Mitchell at ORP (Indianapolis, IN) 6 May 2010--If someone was looking for a sneak peak at what the starting grid for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 might look like, a trip to O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP) for the Star Mazda ...
Productive Test For Rusty Mitchell at ORP
(Indianapolis, IN) 6 May 2010--If someone was looking for a sneak peak at what the starting grid for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 might look like, a trip to O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP) for the Star Mazda presented by Goodyear Championship two-day test that took place at this week would be a very good place to start.
With the Star Mazda championship becoming fully enmeshed with the "Road to Indy" program, and with the series returning at the end of the month for the "Night Before the 500" race on the .686-mile track, the testing was very important for the drivers looking to make the most of the series ORP round as part of the huge Indianapolis 500 race weekend slate of events.
One of those pilots, driver Rusty MItchell, was on the pace in his No. 66 Motorola/Petro Com Mazda as he looks to continue the impressive form he showed in oval competition last season. Despite only having previously run on dirt ovals, Mitchell made a strong impression in his 2009 oval debut as he scored sixth at Milwaukee and then improved on his career-best finish at that point with a run to fourth at Iowa (Mitchell later scored pole position and a second-place finish at Trois Rivieres last season).
This week, Mitchell couldn't be disappointed as the unofficial times not only showed the Star Mazda competition to be closely matched as just tenths separated the top seven drivers, and they also showed that the Motorola machine was well-tuned to the oval once again despite the run being Mitchell's first on the track.
The laps, which were well below the track record-setting times set by the NASCAR Nationwide Series machines when they visited the track, send the cars close to the walls as the drivers chase a fast lap time.
"There is more banking up top, so you can carry more speed if you run closer to the wall," said Mitchell. "But you have to have the car underneath you to do that. If it washes up even a little bit, you are going to be in the wall before you know it."
Testing at the track not only gets Mitchell warmed up for the race return to ORP in May, but it also helps Mitchell Motorsports continue to develop the oval program as the team also looks ahead to the second oval race on the Star Mazda Championship schedule when the series returns to Iowa Speedway June 19.
"Even though it doesn't directly translate (set-ups) from ORP to Iowa, these tests give us the chance to keep learning about how the car reacts to changes and get more data," said Mitchell. "The more we have in our log books, the faster we can make changes to get more speed. It will be interesting to see how this track changes when we come back and get more rubber down. We will have to run two grooves and there will have to be some give and take to make passes--at least early in the race!"
That the "Night Before Indy" event includes the Star Mazda Championship is no accident, as the field of formula car drivers all carry an aspiration of making it to the Brickyard just down the road. Mitchell is no different as he looks forward to seeing the 500 in person this Memorial Day weekend.
"Running in the 500 is a huge dream of mine, it's the ultimate race," said Mitchell between sessions. "I'm really excited to be going this year, and even more that I get to race before going to see the 500, so I am really looking forward to it making it to the Speedway. Hopefully and can be running there someday."
Mitchell will return to action in two weeks as the Star Mazda Championship makes a West coast swing with a visit to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for round three of the 2010 Championship on May 23rd as part of the American Le Mans Series visit to the Monterey peninsula track.