Road America revisited: Team test 'was a blast'

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Scott Dixon joked that driving an Indy car at Road America was like riding a bicycle – just a completely different bicycle than the last one he rode.

Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was back at work a few weeks after wrapping up his fourth series title at Sonoma Raceway. He joined nine other drivers for a team test Sept. 22 in preparation for the Verizon IndyCar Series race June 23-26 at the famed road course. Road America, which held its first race in 1955, hosted Indy car races from 1982-2007.

“It’s good to be back here, but quite strange coming back to such a large track,” said Dixon, who last drove at Road America in 2002 in Champ Car. “It’s nice to be back in this area and see so many fans out today, especially for a test day for the first time. The race itself should be pretty good and racing here is the heart of American road racing.”

Joining Dixon were Chip Ganassi Racing Teams teammates Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, Team Penske’s Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Takuma Sato of AJ Foyt Racing and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing.

“The last time I was here was 12 years ago, but Road America is always on my list of favorite tracks,” Kanaan said. “Coming back here today was a blast. It’s a fast track and such a long course that it’s awesome. I’ve enjoyed it, but not being here for 12 years, the first few laps this morning were really cool.”

For Sato, Newgarden and Kimball, it was their first experience driving an Indy car on the 4.048-mile road course, though Newgarden drove the track in the Skip Barber National Series and Kimball drove the track in a Formula Ford 2000 early in their careers.

“There’s nothing like it on the calendar before,” said Sato. “In terms of downforce, it could be one of the lowest downforce we use, but the layout of the track is completely different. It’s a very classic track that’s narrow and bumpy. There are a lot of high-speed corners and some 90-degree corners as well.”

Rahal, who finished third in his only Indy car start at the track in 2007, was most impressed by the cornering speeds the current Verizon IndyCar Series’ package produced on the track.

“You forget how fast it is and in these cars, it’s very quick,” Rahal said. “Today I’ve been surprised at the way the car pulled down the straights I thought that was going to be the weak link. On best lap time vs. (when I was here in) 2007, we’re not that far off.”

Spectator areas and the paddock were open to the public to watch the on-track action on the final day of summer and get a few autographs and photos. Admission was $20, with $10 of each ticket sold donated to the Wilson Children’s Fund to benefit the family of the late Justin Wilson.

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