Day One of the IMS Open Test

Greetings from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! The folks at Barber Motorsports Park are either ecstatic to have the IMS Open Test going on right now, or very unhappy. I can’t decide. It is great exposure to get fans fired up leading into the Month of May. On the other hand, With the Indianapolis 500 looming large and casting its vast shadow over everything IndyCar related – Barber may come off as an afterthought next weekend.

That may change next week, but I can assure you that all teams, drivers media and fans that are assembled at IMS for the first of a two-day test all seem focused on the Month of May, even though we still have a third of April to go.

I cannot tell you how good it is to be back on the hallowed ground that contains this historic 2.5-mile oval. Most of my friends and co-workers think I’ve lost my mind when the calendar rolls around to this time of year. My co-workers know I sort of check out in May, but when I told them I would be off Thursday and Friday to come up for a two-day test in Indianapolis. When they asked what does it involve, and I said watching cars drive around for hours – I was met with a blank stare. They just don’t get it.


I’ve never cared for this phrase, but when I come to IMS – I am in my happy place. When I drove through the tunnel Thursday morning, all types of thoughts and emotions come running through my head. I’m taken back to my childhood, when some of my happiest days were spent in this facility with my family. I also take time to just look around while driving to the Media Center. I look over to Turn One and think of all the heroic passes that have taken place over the years there, as well as those that didn’t work out so well.

Once I get settled into the Media Center, I wander over to the window that overlooks the main straightaway. Looking north, then south; I think of all the historic moments that have happened over the past 112 years on certain spots.



I look to the exit of Turn Four and think about the horrible accident that took the lives of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald in 1964. A little further south, is where Kevin Cogan took a hard left just before the start of the 1982 race, and speared the car of Mario Andretti. I look at the Yard of Bricks and think about the legendary back and forth battle in the opening laps of the 1961 race, between Jim Hurtubise and Parnelli Jones. So many moments have happened on this track that still covers the same strip of land, since the bricks were laid down in 1909.

Then there is my recent personal history at the track, when Susan and I tied the knot at IMS, eleven years ago on the evening of Fast Friday. An IndyCar sponsor that still prefers to remain anonymous was kind enough to offer up their suite overlooking the pits. Our plan is to buy a commemorative brick this May to eventually be placed in the Pagoda Plaza.

Obviously, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has played a big part in my life, since childhood. This is why when I get in here, my mind wanders all over the place.

As for this trip, IMS adjusted Thursday’s schedule for potentially bad weather on Friday. The new starting time was an hour earlier – 10:00 am EDT. I live in the Central Time Zone. I was already getting up early enough, to make it by 11:00 am, but I was not adjusting my schedule. Consequently, I arrived around 10:30 am, about thirty minutes after the green flag flew.

Instead of traditional press conferences, they brought many drivers in for a “bullpen” session. Clint Eastwood allegedly said “A man needs to know his limitations”. I recognize that asking good interview questions is not my strong suit. Instead, I listen while others ask. There were a lot of canned and prepared answers, but I did listen while Alexander Rossi explained how honored he is to drive the Johnny Rutherford tribute-car.




I think this is the third Open-Test I have attended. To me, this is the Month of May in its embryonic stage. The facility is practically empty as the public is not allowed past the Turn Two viewing mounds. The only people wandering around are teams and drivers, media and IMS employees milling about getting the place ready for May. Even the stands behind the pits have not been erected yet.




You get the sensation that the Speedway just started to wake up with this test. For the next few weeks, it will increase in traffic until the giant crescendo at the end of May.

There were a few sprinkles at the end of The two-hour session for Rookie Orientation and the Refresher laps. By the time the rain stopped, it was time for all cars to run. I made it out to the pits and caught a few random shots.






One shot I took was of the front wing of Pato O’Ward. In Wednesday’s post, I noted that it appeared to be a heavy metallic black. Seeing this wing up close and personal, confirmed just how good it looks. I also took a photo of the tiny little wickerbill on the rear wing of Alex Palou.



There were no incidents yesterday, which was good – and also surprising, considering how windy it was. All drivers behaved, but some had better days than others. Callum Ilott had the most frustrating day, to the point they parked it for the day with over an hour to go.

The quickest of the day was Josef Newgarden, who turned a 227.686 mph with a little more than an hour to go in the session. The surprise was the second-quick of the day; Conor Daly, who turned a lap late in the session at 227.466 mph. For what it’s worth, the three slowest times were from Katherine Legge (220.113 mph), Benjamin Pedersen (220.109 mph) and Ilott at 212.269 mph. Ilott’s team has some definite work to do, but that’s why you test.

Fan favorite Tony Kanaan was decent. His 224.792 mph was good for fifteenth quick on the day. Other notables included Marco Andretti, who was eleventh-fastest at 225.279 mph, and last week’s winner Kyle Kirkwood, whose 226.727 mph was fourth quick on the day.

The weather forecast does not look great for Friday. It is sunny as I type in the Media Center at 7:00 pm EDT on Thursday night, but that will change overnight. Hopefully, it will rain sooner than later, so it will get out of here. Regardless, Thursday’s temperatures in the mid-80s will give way to Friday’s temps in the mid-50s. Thursday I was in a polo. Friday, I will be in a sweatshirt and polar fleece. Such is central Indiana in spring.

Unless they completely cancel Friday’s test, I plan to be here all day before driving back home Friday night. Please check back Monday for a full report on Friday’s test (rain or shine). For photos and videos during the day, please follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog. Hopefully, there will be something to report.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Day One of the IMS Open Test”

  1. TommyDaComic Says:

    Thanks for sharing George… Lots of great reminders of why this track and The 500 loom so large in so many lives…

  2. Embrace ‘Happy Place’. Can’t think of a better descriptor for the race track.

  3. You must be enthused about Kanaan and Castroneves preparing to race in the 500 again.
    Would we expect twenty years ago that they’d still be doing this?
    Incidentally, I wish that Montoya and Bourdais were in the mix.

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