ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Eleven Indy cars ran at Road America today, testing in preparation for the upcoming KOHLER Grand Prix. One car included a surprise driver.
Brad Keselowski took a day off from his regular job as a Team Penske NASCAR driver to hop into Simon Pagenaud’s No. 22 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for a few exciting laps around the scenic 4.048-mile permanent road course.
“I’ve always wanted to drive an Indy car, I think (Penske Racing President) Tim Cindric knew that," Keselowski said. "The opportunity came up to dip my toes in the water and kind of expand my knowledge base and put it in the back of my mind for wherever it goes, I don’t know. But it was a heck of an opportunity and I’m glad to have a chance.”
Pagenaud shook down the car for his teammate before the late-afternoon run by the Indy car newcomer.
“First thing I told Simon is he has a very secure job, at least from me," Keselowski said after the test. "I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his team, everyone at Team Penske. This 22 Menards team, they did a great job today and I had a lot of fun going with them. Simon was fast, really fast and gave me a good rabbit to chase. I learned a ton today and had a lot of fun. I’ve got to let it soak in here to think about all of it."
Photo Gallery: Road America Open Test - Wednesday, June 15, 2016
This isn't the first time an Indy car-NASCAR crossover has taken place. Kurt Busch tested an Indy car in 2004 at Sebring International Raceway, eventually earning rookie of the year honors after finishing sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Scott Dixon did a car swap in 2011 -- McMurray driving Dixon's Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park while Dixon jumped in McMurray's stock car at Talladega Superspeedway.
Keselowski appreciated early on the differences in handling and braking between the Indy car and stock car.
“(The Indy car) sure was getting in the corners a lot deeper," he said. "I think the Indy car just pulls so many G’s through the center of the corner and in the brake zone. You have to build confidence in it because the stock car does everything it can to wreck your confidence and in the Indy car it’s important to have confidence. So you have to kind of unlearn everything you learned in a stock car to be good in these cars. That’s a heck of a process but a fun one.
“It’s certainly a different feel, trying to get acclimated to a different seat and you lean back more. I was kind of sitting in Simon’s seat and it doesn’t always fit you perfect, so it wears you out pretty quick. But it’s a good way to get worn out.”
Also testing today at Road America were all four Andretti Autosport drivers (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and Alexander Rossi), two Chip Ganassi Racing Teams drivers (Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan), two from Ed Carpenter Racing (JR Hildebrand and Spencer Pigot) and one each from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe).
The KOHLER Grand Prix weekend runs June 23-26 and includes the Verizon IndyCar Series race on June 26 (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network) plus doubleheader race weekends for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy.