"It certainly got my attention," he said of his first run of the day. "I got to turn 1 a lot quicker in an IndyCar than a Cup car - and I went through there flat out!" he said, revealing that his top time this week had peaked at around 217mph. By comparison, the NASCAR Cup lap record for Pocono - set last year by Joey Logano - was 179.598mph.
"The difference from being here in 2008 is remarkable. This was a bumpy old place before. Now it's very, very smooth. There has obviously been a great deal of investment in the track," he continued, complimenting the new safety features and SAFER barriers that had made IndyCar racing at the 44-year-old track feasible again. "All those investments have been made. I said at the time to run an IndyCar around here would be a blast, and it is. It's going to be a very good race."
"It was fun and bloody hell it was fast," was Penske driver Will Power's summary. "You are wide open and [expletive] quick in those corners ... It's a great layout, very smooth and safe, and I liked it.
"I love the fact all three turns are different," he added. "Turn 1 was the trickiest, turn 2 was easy flat and so was turn 3 - I'd like to see us lifting in turn 3 to help create more racing."
The IndyCar Series' official return to Pocono Raceway takes place on July 7 as the 11th round of the 19-race 2013 season. The race also forms the second round of a three-race 'mini-championship' sponsored by Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, which will pay out a special $1million bonus to any driver who can claim the Triple Crown of Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.
The prize harks back to previous Triple Crowns in the 1970s and 1980s, with Indianapolis and Pocono stalwarts throughout and joined by Ontario (California) Speedway from 1971-1980 and by Michigan International Speedway from 1981-1989. The only driver to win that Triple Crown was Al Unser in 1978.