Graham Rahal says Wednesday's six-car test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway suggests the series has made strong progress toward improving the racing on big ovals.
Rahal, along with Scott Dixon (Ganassi), Will Power (Penske), Alexander Rossi (Andretti), Tony Kanaan (Foyt) and Ed Carpenter (Carpenter), tested on the iconic 2.5-mile oval today with a tweaked aero package and revised Firestone tires, and said the changes were for the better.
"I felt like the series made good gains with the aerodynamics," Rahal told Motorsport.com, "but the tires were the majority of the gain.
"The opportunity to have some wickers and other stuff that can help the racing, like [underfloor] tunnels - nothing's definite yet, but it would be great if we're not so handcuffed.
"So Bill [Pappas, VP of competition], Tino [Belli, head of aerodynamics] and Jay [Frye, president of competition and operations] all did a really good job of identifying the things that could help. But it's tricky because the rear wing mainplane is so small that it's not that effective, so maybe a slight redesign of that - and also maybe the front wing - is ultimately the best way to go. I'm not sure.
"But the new tire is a big, big help. With the old tire you got this death-plow of understeer toward the wall when you ran in traffic. It would just let go aggressively. We actually ran that toward the end of this test today, and all six of us walked into the meeting room afterward saying, 'Holy crap.' We all got a reminder of the way it was in the 500 this year.
"This new Firestone, it starts to understeer but it's progressive, you can just breathe the throttle and it responds, and you can come off the turn with enough momentum to pass, particularly with the higher downforce configuration.
"We all ran together in a group for the last three hours of the day, focusing on different aero parts, and then wed two full race-stint runs. One guy would lead for two laps, then go to the back of the train, and so we all took it in turns to find out how it was to run at the front, to run second in line, to run third, fourth, fifth, sixth. There's no doubt that if you're sixth in line, life is still more difficult. But we identified some good packages that would help you move forward."
Rahal said that although IMS is a relatively flat oval, what was tried today would also be applicable to IndyCar's other two banked superspeedways - Texas Motor Speedway and the tri-oval Pocono Raceway.
"This configuration directly relates to Pocono, so bam, we found things we can apply right away," he said. "And this package will also help eliminate some of the late-corner understeer out of Turns 1 and 2 at Texas, definitely.
"So overall it was a very positive day, I'd say."