Flat-footing Turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is intimidating.
The overwhelming notion to lift is difficult to overcome.
Rusty Mitchell wasn’t rushing the process, but he carved his way through the famed oval without the slightest lift aboard the No. 17 Team E Indy Lights car in his third practice session Friday at IMS.
“I was flat about one hour into the day,” Mitchell said. “Turn 1 being the [corner] holding me back to that point. With it being a test day I just wanted to build up to it, but the car was capable the entire time.”
While Mitchell is quick to credit his team for providing a solid car. Team E owner Neil Enerson is equally quick to praise Mitchell’s prowess behind-the-wheel.
“Rusty was a wonderful surprise for Team E during our first time on ovals with him,” Enerson said.
Mitchell’s second-ever oval experience in a Lights car came just a few days earlier when he and Team E completed a test at Chicagoland Speedway in order to attain an oval license for the upcoming Freedom 100 at IMS on May 27.
Prior to that, the speedy 28-year-old completed an Indy Lights test at Phoenix International Raceway and logged four oval-race starts in a Star Mazda machine.
“Rusty showed a lot of maturity and was very disciplined in his approach to getting up to speed,” Enerson continued.
Mitchell was quite enamored with IMS, as were the other 17 drivers who found themselves powering around the narrow oval for Friday’s open test. His response when asked about the experience was exactly what one would expect.
“Driving Indy was really cool,” he said. “There is more driver input [at IMS] than most of the ovals I’ve been on. Other than the Milwaukee [Mile], this oval is the most challenging track to drive side-by-side on. Passing is not as easy as it looks.
“Running in traffic here is all about timing and judging your passes correctly. If you don’t, it will kill your momentum for up to two laps.”
After Mitchell found his footing and adapted to the car he quickly vaulted into the top-five. By session’s end, he was bumped to sixth overall averaging 189.183 miles per hour on lap 84.
Stefan Wilson set the fastest time of the day, touring the course with an average speed of 190.571 mph.
Mitchell is hoping to put together enough funding for several more races this season, but for now his focus is on the May 27th Freedom 100. His first-ever Series’ start occurred on April 17 at Long Beach where he finished 11th narrowly missing a top-ten in his debut.
Team E holds the Indy Lights’ track record at Indy — set by Bobby Wilson in ’08 — averaging 191.412 mph. Mitchell will look to add to the team’s success at Indy when the green flag is waved in late-May.
One thing is certain, he won’t be lifting in Turn 1 no matter how intimidating it is.