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Firestone Tire Indy 500 Detail

Source: Penske Entertainment: James Black / other

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — “That refresher deal was very strange. I didn’t like that. It was like eating your vegetables,” said Ryan Hunter-Heay on Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

RHR was one of a handful of drivers who had to knock out veterans refreshers and rookie orientation in an Indianapolis 500 open test session. For Hunter-Reay, it was the first time since his rookie year back in 2008 that he had to go through an ROP.

“After I got through that I had a blast,” he said. “On that first lap back I was like a kid on a bike. Pure excitement!”

After losing his ride at Andretti Autosport after the 2021 season, RHR was without a ride in 2022 and thus left out of the Indianapolis 500. He’s now back with his new team in a one-off ride for the big race in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Hunter-Reay became reacclimated with the famed oval in a breeze. Even the drivers who are still regulars in the series like Josef Newgarden had to get reacquainted as he and his Penske teammate prepare for the month of May.

The test session was one long shakedown essentially, fine-tuning the base points for each car in order to lay the foundation to find the one thing that matters at Indy: speed.

“It was a really great day,” said Newgarden, who had the fastest overall lap speed during the session at 227.686 mph. He also had the fastest trap speed entering turn three at over 237 mph.

“Today, as a team, I feel like we were very efficient with our time,” he added. “We split everything up and divided and conquered. So, really happy for Team Penske today and feeling good for next month.”

Newgarden and the other 32 drivers had to outwit physics and mother nature as well during the session with winds gusting over 30 mph at times, causing unsettling conditions for the sensitive cars traveling over 220 mph. All that while also getting used to the aerodynamic changes implemented by the NTT IndyCar Series to help make the racing more entertaining on ovals this season.

“It was a tricky day, it wasn’t cold. This was a relatively warm day and the wind was pretty gusty,” Newgarden said. “Difficult to access (the aero package) year-over-year after today. It seems like for sure there is a small benefit already to be able to follow relative to last year. I think some of that is going to be the extra downforce that’s on the car, but we haven’t explored everything.”

There were thankfully no accidents during the session, but there were a couple of moments between Katherine Legge, back to IMS for the first time in a decade, running out of fuel twice. Callum Ilott, fresh off a tough week on social media, bumped Rinus Veekay in the pit lane, adding to a frustrating day for Ilott who completed only less than ten laps due to issues with his Juncos-Hollinger car.

Devlin DeFrancesco had the fastest speed without the aid of an aerodynamic tow from a car in front at over 221 mph.

Drivers are expected to be able to test again tomorrow, but the weather outlook is bleak and many drivers are not expecting any laps to be turned tomorrow. Some teams got as much work done today as possible in anticipation of not being able to test on Friday.

“I don’t think what you saw today was not necessarily the ticket for what everyone is going to be using,” said Newgarden. “There is still a lot to go through.”