By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
There was a new face in the Verizon IndyCar Series pit lane as 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Brad Keselowski, took some laps in a Dallara DW-12 for the first time. The occasion was an open test at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, WI in preparation for the upcoming Kohler Grand Prix for the IndyCars June 23-26.
Keselowski, who drives the #2 Miller Lite Ford for Roger Penske in the Cup Series, accompanied the team to the test during an off-week for NASCAR. The Michigan native has publicly stated in the past that he would jump at the opportunity to run the Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske, and Wednesday’s test perhaps put him one step closer to that possibility.
While it is a bit early to read anything into the brief test, the Cup Champion certainly walked away impressed with the machinery.
“I’ve always wanted to drive an Indy car, I think Tim Cindric knew that,” he said. “The opportunity came up to dip my toes in the water and kind of expand my knowledge base and put it in the back of my mind for wherever it goes, I don’t know. But it was a heck of an opportunity and I’m glad to have a chance.”
“It sure was getting in the corners a lot deeper,” Keselowski continued. “I think the Indy car just pulls so many G’s through the center of the corner and in the brake zone. You have to build confidence in it because the stock car does everything it can to wreck your confidence and in the Indy car it’s important to have confidence. So you have to kind of unlearn everything you learned in a stock car to be good in these cars. That’s a heck of a process but a fun one.”
Keselowski has some experience at Road America, having taken an Xfinity car to fourth place on the circuit in 2010. Before hopping into Simon Pagenaud’s #22 Penske Chevrolet, Keselowski took some pointers from the IndyCar points leader.
“It’s a very different beast. Our Indy cars are now predominantly aero, so the grip level you get is very speed dependent, ” said Pagenaud. “The Cup car is very mechanical, so you have to be very academic about your driving. You transfer weight and the front of the car turns. We have it a different way. Our braking is so strong it might take him a while to find the limit of braking. I think the car is going to be quite impressive for him. I can’t wait to see his reaction after his first run.”
In finding the limit of braking, Keselowski took a quick spin at Canada Corner, but otherwise had a trouble-free run in the car that was set up with extra downforce for the trial run.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him (Pagenaud) and his team, everyone at Team Penske,” said Keselowski after the run. “This 22 Menards team, they did a great job today and I had a lot of fun going with them. Simon was fast, really fast and gave me a good rabbit to chase. I learned a ton today and had a lot of fun. I’ve got to let it soak in here to think about all of it.”
Team Penske President, Tim Cindric was rather non committal as to whether or not the test would lead to a future 500 ride for Keselowski. “We’ll see what happens,” quipped Cindric,
The IndyCars will compete at Road America next weekend for the first time since 2007, while Keselowski will rejoin his NASCAR team as the Cup Series tackles the road course in Sonoma.