Sebastian Saavedra was delighted to be back in action in an IndyCar for the first time since the Baltimore Grand Prix in 2011, and demonstrated his enthusiasm on just his second day of practice for the Indianapolis 500 by topping the Sunday timesheets with a lap of 221.526mph (40.6272s).
"Starting the month of May this way, it's a very satisfying feeling," he admitted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Saavedra returned to the Firestone Indy Lights series after failing to get a full time ride in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and the step back seems to be working well for him - he's currently the points leader in the Indy Lights championship. In addition, he's the official test and reserve driver for Andretti Autosport's IndyCar operation, and very proud of it as well.
"There's some big strategy at Andretti Autosport, and we're five cars and all of us, we have homework to do every day," he said. "We have things to try, and we sit down all together to see what works, what we need to try for the next day, but everything is a big strategy. Everything needs to be very well established. It's the professional way to do it."
Not far behind Saavedra are Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing rookie duo Bryan Clauson and Josef Newgarden, who also featured strongly on Indy 500 Opening Day as well.
"Finishing second and third today shows how competitive SFHR is," said Newgarden. "We're learning a lot more having a second car here, and it's really elevated the program overall. I feel super-comfortable in the car because the team makes me feel comfortable. They've done a great job of giving us a good program and making it easy on us."
"If you had told me that we were going to come out here the first two days and top the speed charts, I would have told you that you were crazy," added Clauson. "Another great day for us - these SFHR boys build fast Honda race cars!"
SFHR's general manager Andy O'Gara was finding it a real bonus to work with two two motivated and talented newbies.
"It's honestly a great fit for us at SFHR," he said. "Both of them come from similar upbringing and backgrounds as Sarah and me. Both of them work really well together. They work extremely well with the engineering staff, and they give it 110 percent, even outside the race car whether it be nutrition, working out, simulations, listening to driver coaches, spending the time with the engineers. It's a full-package deal and they've certainly brought everything to the table."
Behind the top three, series veterans Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay also all managed to top the 220mph mark on Sunday.
"Just making sure all the systems are working and everything's okay," said Dixon. "My first couple of timed laps, the car seemed nice. It's nice to drive. We're on the same set of tyres. It seems there are a few more cars running more laps and doing a little more race stuff yet. We'll probably step into that the next couple of days."