Indy Lights drivers relish Indy car seat time at Watkins Glen test

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – While some Verizon IndyCar Series regulars got their first taste of Watkins Glen International during Thursday’s team test, other drivers were on hand to get their first experience behind the wheel of an Indy car.

Four drivers currently competing in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires developmental ladder – turned laps in the one-day test on the 3.4-mile permanent road course. For Andretti Autosport’s Shelby Blackstock, Dalton Kellett and Dean Stoneman, it was their first time in an Indy car. Carlin Racing’s Ed Jones (pictured above) drove the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda of Graham Rahal for a second time.

Both the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights are on the weekend schedule for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, set for Sept. 2-4. For schedule and ticket information, click here.

Blackstock was behind the wheel of Carlos Munoz’s No. 26 Honda, Kellett stepped into the No. 27 of Marco Andretti and Stoneman turned laps in 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Honda before the Verizon IndyCar Series regulars took over driving duties later in the day. By INDYCAR rule, when a car is shared on a test day, the Verizon IndyCar Series driver can run no more laps than the Indy Lights driver.

Blackstock immediately recognized the difference in the step up to the Indy car.

“They’re three times as physical,” the 26-year-old driver said. “We have limited time in the car today, but it’s a great progression. The car – it’s a proper race car, it’s a lot of fun.”

Blackstock said the recent repaving of the Watkins Glen track surface has added so much grip that it makes driving the Indy car even more demanding than expected.

“I thought the car was ungodly physical, so it was good to hear that Carlos had the same thoughts,” Blackstock said. “It was double the steering weight than normal, apparently. Other than that, it was great to be here and have this opportunity.”

Jones, who sits 16 points out of first place in the Indy Lights championship battle, drove the entire morning in Rahal’s No. 15 Honda, which he also tested at Sonoma Raceway last year. Kellett, a native of Toronto, Ontario, a four-hour drive from Watkins Glen, had never visited the track before.

“This is my first time coming down here to Watkins Glen and also my first time in an Indy car,” Kellett, 22, said. “What could be a better combination. The track is awesome, it’s a lot of fun, there are a lot of high-speed corners.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the races, both for the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights. Just being here learning and adapting to the Indy car has been a great experience.”

The INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen airs live Sept. 4 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 2 p.m. ET. A pair of oval races precede the Watkins Glen event, with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 21 (3 p.m. ET) and the completion of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Aug. 27 (9 p.m. ET), both also airing on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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