Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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May 3, 2014

Drivers gearing up for Grand Prix

INDIANAPOLIS — With the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis just over a week away, drivers hit the revamped road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday for an open test.

Group opinion of the track was high, including that of seven-year IndyCar Series veteran Graham Rahal.

“Awesome. I love it,” Rahal said. “Already I can tell you it’s probably my favorite road course track that we go to. I had a blast out there.”

Tony Kanaan, last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, opened Wednesday’s activities with a ceremonial first lap. The testing list consisted of 25 drivers, from four rookies to IMS fixtures like Kanaan and Helio Castroneves. The track was open for two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, as drivers got accustomed to the new design, which features increased passing zones.

“It is wicked fast out there, one of the more enjoyable tracks I’ve ever driven,” said seven-time IndyCar race winner Ryan Briscoe, who was second-fastest in the morning session. “IMS has done an awesome job of putting it together.”

Will Power had the best A.M. time for a lap around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course (1 minute, 11.2128 seconds). Third-best was Sebastien Bourdais (1 minute, 11.3181 seconds). The times showed how tight the Grand Prix should be.

“You’ll probably still see the cream rise to the top, but qualifying in this field is so close,” Briscoe said. “Any day, anyone can be in the front and anyone can fall to the back.”

Next week’s three-day schedule begins with practice on Thursday. On Friday, practice will be followed by qualifying for the USF2000, Pro Mazda, Indy Lights and Grand Prix events, with races for the first three starting at 3:30 p.m. Those series will run again on Saturday starting at 1 a.m., and the 82-lap Grand Prix finale is set for a 3:50 p.m. start.

Rahal said attendees will get their money’s worth at the first-ever Indy Grand Prix.

“I hope we get a great crowd, because I can tell you, we’re going to put on a good show here,” Rahal said.

“When it comes down to racing, you’ll get guys pushing one another and making mistakes. It’ll be pretty entertaining.”

Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports writer Brent Glasgow on Twitter @ BGlasgow37.

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