Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the times after a full day of open testing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Wednesday, posting a final lap of 1:05.6358s (123.847mph) in the #1 Andretti Autosport car on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course to go clear of Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsport's Simon Pagenaud by 0.1607s.
"It was a good day," said Hunter-Reay afterwards. "Made some major gains and we're pretty happy with the car. This track is similar to Barber and we've been quick on the big natural terrain road courses.
"Mid-Ohio has a flow to it that no other racetrack has," he elaborated. "It has high-speed corners - we're using fourth gear at 140 mph through Turn 1 and doing probably 4Gs through there - and it just gives you that reward. It's a track that when you get it right it's so rewarding because you're hanging it out on the edge and you can feel the risk is there.
"It has elevation changes, braking zones, fast corners; it has everything you'd want in a racetrack," he continued. "This is one of my favourite racetracks, and you always have to be a student of the game. You have to over-analyse every bit. You have to constantly be digging to find the place in your driving style to put it all together."
Will Power was looking pacy on Wednesday and ended up with the third-fastest time only two hundredths off the back of Pagenaud, while Helio Castroneves was a similar margin off the back of Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais after the Frenchman managed to set the fourth fastest time and split the two Penske team mates by the end of the day's activity.
"It was a good day," said Power. "This track takes rubber all day and with that becomes quicker and quicker. The team made great changes to the car and we will continue to work on it during practice on Friday and see if we can improve. Overall, I'm happy with the day and look forward to the rest of the week."
"We got a bit of a late start due to the rain this morning," explained Castroneves. "But we were able to use the entire afternoon session to test a few things for the race this weekend. I am happy with the set-up of the car and the track seems to be getting faster and faster every time we went out.
"Today gave us a good gauge as to where we are and I'm excited to get back behind the wheel on Friday," he added.
Certainly Hunter-Reay seems to think that the duo will be among the biggest threats this weekend: "I expect the Penske and Ganassi boys to be right up there on Friday," he said. "It's going to be super-tight as it always is here. Hopefully, the #1 DHL Chevy can stay up front."
Ganassi's Scott Dixon is coming off three back-to-back wins in July (at Pocono and by sweeping the Toronto double-header) and is keen to keep the momentum rolling.