With just days to go before action gets underway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of this year's 96th running of the Indy 500, Rubens Barrichello found himself going round and round in circles for the first time - very fast - at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
"Last night I went to sleep thinking about it," said the former F1 driver. "When I woke up I was on the other side of the bed, so I already was ovaling in my dreams!"
Admitting that it was completely different from anything he'd ever tried, he broke the 200mph barrier on his second run after Tony Kanaan had earlier "broken in" the KV Racing Technology car to get him started. He said it was a good job that the radio broadcast wasn't been retransmitted anywhere, because it hadn't exactly been in the cleanest language possible.
"I said it was truly awesome, but not in a good manner!" he joked. "I was very rude on the radio because I was so excited." The driving - if not the language - was good enough to satisfy IndyCar officials as to Barrichello's ability to perform safely on ovals.
Other than Barrichello, there were ten other drivers working in Texas at a 6.5 hour test that was open to the public to attend, and which was split into morning and afternoon sessions. All four Ganassi drivers were present (Scott Dixon topping the timesheets ahead of Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti, with Graham Rahal a little further back) as were all three Penske drivers (Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.)
Ed Carpenter was looking happy to be back on the ovals he knows best after the first four street and road track races of the 2012 season, while AJ Foyt team mates Mike Conway and Wade Cunningham were also in action.
Dixon pronounced himself "pleasantly surprised" with the options available to him on the new Dallara DW12 chassis for oval running, which includes new aerokits specifically created for running on speedway.
"Coming here today and having the car in a situation where you can take a lot of downforce off it's pretty difficult," he said. "Qualifying could actually be difficult for a change."
"It will be exciting, but more on the safe side," reported Castroneves. "The car is much more safe."
IndyCar's vice president of technology, Will Phillips, was also pleased with what he was seeing and said that lap times were closing on where they had been with the old specification car.
"Comparing it to the old car, we're not that far off," he said. "We're running as much as 70 horsepower less than the old car, so the efficiency of the car is significantly improved."
1. #9 Scott Dixon
(H) 212.371mph 24.6644s Practice 1
2. #83 Charlie Kimball
(H) 211.330mph 24.7859s Practice 2
3. #10 Dario Franchitti
(H) 210.525mph 24.8807s Practice 2
4. #12 Will Power
(C) 210.367mph 24.8994s Practice 2
5. #20 Ed Carpenter
(C) 210.078mph 24.9336s Practice 1
6. #38 Graham Rahal
(H) 210.011mph 24.9416s Practice 2
7. #3 Helio Castroneves
(C) 209.076mph 25.0531s Practice 2
8. #2 Ryan Briscoe
(C) 207.886mph 25.1965s Practice 2
9. #14 Mike Conway
(H) 207.508mph 25.2424s Practice 1
10. #14 Wade Cunningham
(H) 206.986mph 25.3060s Practice 2
11. #8 Rubens Barrichello
(C) 206.848mph 25.3230s Practice 2
12. #8 Tony Kanaan
(C) 205.045mph 25.5456s Practice 2
(C) = CHevrolet, (H) = Honda, (L) = Lotus
Total Laps for Combined Sessions: 1172