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Professional

IndyCar: New road course at Indy gets rave reviews

INDIANAPOLIS – IndyCar drivers were unified Wednesday: The new road course at Indianapolis is a whole lot better than the old one.

Heck, they couldn't even find anything to complain about.

After a 6-hour test session on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course, virtually every driver who took laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway raved about the course, praising everything from the curbs to the turns to the chicanes.

"I'm impressed," defending series champion Scott Dixon said after posting the fastest lap of the day, 126.161 mph. "The track was just so much fun today. It's a demanding circuit, the cars all seem very close, so I think that's going to create some fantastic racing. The sections, especially seven, eight, nine, 10, really keep you on your toes."

Dixon was just one of the guys who applauded the modifications, even in chilly, overcast weather.

The old course had been routinely panned by racers on two and four wheels for being too slick, having too many different track compositions, and a lack of passing areas. A $5 million-plus offseason face lift has changed everything.

France's Simon Pagenaud said fans could see side-by-side racing through the first four turns on race day. There are hard-braking turns everyone acknowledges will test the drivers, and speedway President Doug Boles said there are still some finishing touches that need to be applied.

Those who competed on the old Formula One course, which opened in 2000, contend the modifications have been worth every penny. Just ask Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya or Japan's Takuma Sato.

"There are two or three really hard-braking turns, so I think there will be a lot of late-braking carnage that will make fans very happy," said England's Martin Plowman, Sato's teammate.

That, too, was by design.

Track officials have been seeking ways to improve attendance on at least two of Indy's three major weekends – the Brickyard and MotoGP. They're hoping the changes in IndyCar's maiden Indianapolis road race on May 10 will appeal to all fans. Practice for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins May 8, with qualifications scheduled the next day.

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