All four Team Penske drivers ended the Chevrolet test at Phoenix International Raceway stating that the mile-long oval could produce one of the best spectacles in the IndyCar Series schedule.
Helio Castroneves, who took a win and two runner-up finishes in the last four IndyCar races at Phoenix, 2002-’05, said: “We are going around in 20 seconds and wow, it’s fast. And we’re just testing. I guarantee you when we start really putting the right things together, this is really going to be an amazing place.
“To go around 20 seconds in a mile here, it’s pretty fast. In the past Turn 1 used to be a little bit sharper and now the outside is open. We’re at 180-185mph on the straightaway and corner speed is about 177mph. So that shows how fast we are going at this place.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun. Trust me, it’s going to be amazing!”
The three-time Indy 500 winner added that the fact that IndyCar’s first race at PIR in 10 years will be an evening event will only heighten the its appeal.
“That’s the cool thing about it,” he said. “Obviously the heat here can be very tough on the equipment and the drivers. So going under the lights, it’s actually going to help not only the equipment and the drivers, but the fans as well.”
Teammate Simon Pagenaud, who will be seeking his first ever oval win when the Verizon IndyCar Series takes the green on Saturday, April 2, said: “These cars are just riveted to the track and we can probably run side-by-side in some areas of the track, so it should be good racing.
“I think it is even more spectacular at night. You get to see the sparks coming out from the racecar, and you get to see cars going faster because the air is more dense at night.
Describing the physical forces created by PIR’s high-grip surface and corner configuration, Pagenaud said: “Well Turn 1 is banked and Turn 3 and 4 are flat, so it’s very different feeling.
“Turn 1 has a lot of g-force – probably up to 5g – and you feel everything inside your body get squished onto the right side of the car. Even your head on the headrest is squished. It’s quite an intriguing feeling, but you’re just going as fast as you can and it feels like you’re inside of a washing machine really.”
A lot of heritage, a bit insane
The 2014 IndyCar champion, Will Power, said he was pleased to see Indy car racing return to its roots. “I think it’s cool the series is coming back here. It has a lot of history and that’s what IndyCar needs – to go to places that have that history and kind of rebuild the fan base again.
“I really think they will get a big crowd out here. I think fans are interested to see what these cars are like and how fast they are compared to NASCAR. They are a lot faster, which I think fans will enjoy.”
Added Power: “I think it will be a good race. We’ve just got to get the package right and it will be really exciting for the fans.”
Juan Pablo Montoya has competed at Phoenix 16 times in NASCAR cars – 14 times in Sprint Cup, twice in Nationwide – with a best result of fifth place. He said: “My first actual oval experience back in an IndyCar was at this track two years ago. It’s funny because the memory of two years ago to now is very different. Now it’s not a big deal. You go wide open, flat all the way around and we’re going seven or eight seconds quicker than a Cup car. It’s kind of insane.
“Turn 1 is very tight, but at the same time you can still run flat out through there, so it’s quite a challenge.
“People don’t realize how fast we go, to be honest with you. A Cup car, I think, races here in about 28 or 29-second lap times and we’re doing low 20s. It’s insane how fast it is, so it should be a great race. I think we’ll see more when we come to the Open Test.”