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First laps at Indy leave Strous raring to race
Junior Strous
He grew up hearing stories of Arie Luyendyk’s victories in the legendary Indianapolis 500 and during an open test Tuesday at the Indianapolis, Junior Strous got to run his first laps on the track where his fellow Dutchman scored his biggest victories.

The driver of the No. 18 Shell V-Power Dallara was one of 21 drivers in the Firestone Indy Lights series who took advantage of five hours of open testing on the famed 2.5-mile oval. He will get to race there on May 22 when the Speedway hosts the fifth round of the 2009 championship, the Freedom 100.

The 23-year-old rookie from Wassenaar, The Netherlands, ran scrubbed tires in his first few stints to get acclimated to the track and then ran his quickest laps in the heat of the afternoon to wind up 10th fastest overall. Strous recorded 70 laps with a top lap average speed of 189.576 miles per hour (47.4744 seconds). Fellow series rookie Sebastian Saavedra set the quick time of the day (47.0520 seconds) in the morning under cooler, more ideal conditions.

“I really, really enjoyed my first day at the Speedway,” Strous said afterward. “In the driver briefing, we got extensively warned by Brian Barnhart to respect the track. At first, it felt like a suspended track over the Grand Canyon without barriers or anything.

“We used the first stints to dial in the car with scrubbed tires and then took a lunch break and focused on running in the afternoon. Then we put on new tires and the car was really good. It was fast on its own and it was good in traffic. We ended up 10th and now we are going to rebuild the car and make it faster.”

Tuesday’s laps brought memories of Indy stories told to him by Jaap Luyendyk, Arie’s late father.

“When I got here and looked around and then started running, I could recall the things that Jaap had told me,” Strous explained. “I could see firsthand why those stories were so exciting and why this place is so special.”

Team Director Paul Diatlovich gave his young charge high marks for his initial Indy outing.

“Junior once again took a professional approach to learning to drive here,” Diatlovich explained. “He understood what Tim Wardrop (the team engineer) and I were telling him and did everything we asked. Tests don’t count for anything, but for a young driver trying to learn how to run on an oval, the time spent on the track is invaluable. He made good use of the time and overall it was a good test. We should be competitive when we come back in a couple of weeks.”

While the crew prepares his car for the Freedom 100, Strous will return to Holland to participate in a European GT race where he will drive for a Dutch Aston Martin team.

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