FORT WORTH, Texas – NTT IndyCar Series rookies Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson and Ben Hanley made their first laps at Texas Motor Speedway during a rookie test Friday afternoon.
For two of the drivers – Schmidt Peterson’s Ericsson and Dragonspeed’s Hanley – Friday’s test was the first time either drive had turned laps on an oval.
“It was really strange at first,” admitted Hanley, who has competed in two of the first four events this season for the Dragonspeed team. “The first four or five laps we did was really odd and difficult to feel the car at first because everything’s new … the banking, the g’s are different, the load on the car is different. So, yeah, you’ve really got to respect the speeds that you’re doing and the track that you’re on and build it up slowly so that’s what we have been trying to do this morning.”
Ericsson, who made 97 Formula One starts from 2014 to 2018, got a bit of help during his first oval test from teammate James Hinchcliffe. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 polesitter shook down Ericsson’s car before handing driving duties over to his Swedish teammate.
“It’s been a good first experience. Obviously, I’ve never tried anything like it before so, for sure, I was a bit nervous this morning,” said Ericsson. “But it was a good feeling, like nervous but very excited to try it. It’s been a long build-up since I signed my IndyCar contract back last year. The road and street courses is stuff I’ve done all my life but the oval is the one sort of big new thing for me so it’s been a long build-up for that. We’ve been speaking a lot about it in the team, and also I’ve been speaking with James (Hinchcliffe) and Robby (teammate Robert Wickens) about it a lot and they’ve been really helpful. I think it’s one of those things that before you actually experience it yourself, you don’t really know what it’s like. That’s why I’m really happy here today and managed to do my first laps.”
Herta, who made history by becoming the youngest IndyCar winner ever earlier this year at Circuit of the Americas, was the only driver who entered the test with oval experience.
In fact, Herta is the defending winner of the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Despite having that experience, Herta admitted he was surprised by just how fast he was going during Friday’s test.
“It’s crazy. I’ve never gone this fast before,” Herta admitted. “It’s definitely a big step up from anything I’ve done so kinda taking it in baby steps and kinda slowly moving up through the ranks, taking a little downforce off as we go and trying to get as quick as possible.”
The first oval race for all three competitors will be the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 next month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a fact that hasn’t been lost on Herta.
“It’s going to be crazy for my first oval race in an IndyCar to be there,” said Herta. “I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, coming here, we’re learning a little bit about the track but just getting me ready for Indy. Obviously, conditions are going to be quite a bit different in June when we’re racing here. It’s probably going to be hotter and I’m almost positive it’s not going to be as cool as this.”