|Scott Dixon posted the fastest time on a very fast Watkins Glen circuit|
One of the big topics of conversation here at Watkins Glen has been the speed of the Indy cars. For some perspective, Scott Dixon led opening practice with a lap time of 1:23.8921 (144.614 miles per hour) – over 5 seconds quicker than Helio Castroneves' track record of 1:29.1919 from 2007.
The main factors in the speed increases are the down force with the current aero kits and the recent repave of the circuit after last year. The repave has made the track billiard-table smooth. Of course, the teams have had nearly a full-season to get their heads around the aero kits. As for the smooth surface, we ran into Will Power, who likened the track to an oval.
"The track is way faster, just a lot faster," said the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. "Like 5 seconds faster…It is crazy fast and fun. That is what I say after the session. It is a fun track. Just because of the commitment. It has such a high load, it is almost like an oval. So smooth with so much grip. The tires shudder in corners due because there is so much grip."
Championship leader Simon Pagenaud, who is running the Hewlett Packard Enterprise colors on the No. 22 Chevrolet this weekend, commented on his impression of the track, "It is fast, it is super fast," said Pagenaud. "It is the fastest road course we see all year. It is very grippy with the new Tarmac. With the aero kit we have, it is showing what we can do. It is very impressive. We still have some work to do. I don't think we have the magic setup yet."
Texas winner Graham Rahal, who was the quickest Honda in opening practice echoed the sentiments of Power and Pagenaud. "It is a silky smooth track, we never get that anywhere else," said Rahal. "This track is in a different league. It is fast and a lot of fun. The commitment is very high. Some corner have run offs and other don't have enough runoff. You have to trust your car and the equipment."
Lucille Dust reporting for AutoRacing1