Armstrong felt “pretty comfortable straight away” at Indianapolis

Marcus Armstrong during his Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation.

Marcus Armstrong during his Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation. Image: Walt Kuhn/Penske Entertainment

Marcus Armstrong’s first laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were on the road course layout. However, the 2022 IndyCar rookie of the year took his first laps on the oval on Wednesday, completing his rookie orientation program ahead of entering the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

The New Zealand native completed 93 laps around the 2.5-mile oval with a best lap of 217.898mph. Outright speed wasn’t the main goal in Wednesday’s run. It was all about getting familiar with faster speeds on a superspeedway.

“Honestly, I felt pretty comfortable straight away,” Armstrong said.

“Yeah, I would say as soon as I could, like phase three for example, as soon as I could go flat, I was flat and it wasn’t necessarily difficult. I had a ton of confidence as well, but that’s also because of how rock solid this car is around here.”

Armstrong had to complete a three-phase program for his rookie orientation. The first phase was 10 laps between 205 and 210mph, requiring much precision to keep the lap times within a window spanning 1.045s. The second phase was 15 laps between 210 and 215mph and the third phase was 15 laps over 215mph.

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With the four corners having the same banking and radius, one might think that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wouldn’t be as difficult for a rookie to master.

However, with how fast the track conditions can change, Armstrong has no illusions on how difficult his practice programs will be for April’s open test and May’s scheduled practice and qualifying days ahead of race day on May 26, 2024.

“They all feel pretty different, especially with the wind even though it’s fairly low,” Armstrong said.

“I can understand how a month round here is. It is going to be difficult to sort of know what you’re looking for and to try and be productive for qualifying or the race, because I’m sure with a month around here with different conditions constantly you can probably chase your tail a bit.

“So I’m going to be working hard with my engineers and team to understand what I need to do to maximise the month of testing.”

There were a few benefits for Armstrong on his rookie orientation day. The weather conditions were cool and ideal for a rookie’s first practice runs at Indianapolis and having the wealth of knowledge from three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon could only helped the 23-year-old.

“If I didn’t have the reference of these guys telling me that this will be like that and that will be like this, then the learning process would be a lot longer,” Armstrong said.

“So, having them certainly shortens it up, but it’s also very instinctual as well.”

Armstrong will be driving the #11 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing full-time in the 2024 IndyCar season. In 2023, Armstrong did not compete on the ovals, leaving those races to Takuma Sato.

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