Will Power (12) leads a pack of cars during a test at the Milwaukee Mile. (IndyCar Photo)

Penske Rules IndyCar Milwaukee Mile Test

WEST ALLIS, Wis. — IndyCar returned to The Milwaukee Mile, one of the most historic tracks in its history, by showcasing a device for its future – the Hybrid Power Unit.

The test at the 1.015-mile Milwaukee Mile was the first time IndyCar had raced at the historic facility since Sebastien Bourdais won the 2015 ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 on July 12, 2015.

Team Penske’s Will Power was the fastest driver at 161.521 miles per hour in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin followed at 160.759 mph in Newgarden’s No. 2 Chevrolet and 160.639 mph in McLaughlin’s No. 3 Chevy.

Andretti Global’s Colton Herta was fourth at 160.137 mph in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda with Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward rounding out the top five at 159.993 mph.

The 20 drivers ran a combined 2,403 laps in the two sessions. There were a series of simulated races held in the late afternoon, featuring pack ups behind a pace car, caution periods, pit stops and a red flag so IndyCar could gather data on the Hybrid Power Unit.

That boosted the number of laps run to 3,563 total laps. There were no major issues during the one-day test.

For the drivers that had previously raced at The Milwaukee Mile, it was great to be back at the historic venue. For the newcomers, it was an experience to remember.

“It’s great to be here,” said Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “I love it. I’ve always loved the Mile. I think it’s a tremendous challenge. Great race track. Everything that they’ve done to spruce up the pit lane, fix that mess, get the boxes looking nice and everything, is very much appreciated. It was beautiful, awesome today.

“It was great to be back here turning laps. I think it’s particularly coming off Road America, these are two of the best in the country, right here in Wisconsin. Great day.”

Rahal indicated it will take a bit of time for the drivers in the IndyCar Series to fully understand the capabilities of when to use the Hybrid Assist and when to regenerate the system. Both will take some technique and expertise for fully utilize the new tool that will boost horsepower in the Chevrolet and Honda engines.

“Yeah, it’s a major challenge here to utilize it because of the fact you’re so busy already with all the other things going on that it kind of becomes an afterthought as a driver, I think,” Rahal said. “Until the team said, ‘Hybrid, hybrid,’ I thought, ‘Oh, OK, got to hit it, got to hit it.’

“But you’re so focused on the driving aspect on a short oval like this that I think it makes it difficult to maximize the effect of the hybrid.

“However, on the simulated restarts we were doing, when you utilize it, it’s a clear boost. I would also say in traffic when you get really bogged down, it was nice to be able to pull the deploy and really feel a lot of gain.

“That can make racing quite interesting, I think. As challenging as it is to remind yourself of it all the time, I think the net effect is going to be positive.”

The Hybrid Power Unit will be on all cars beginning with the July 7 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, for the rest of the 2024 season and into the future.

The intention of the hybrid assist unit is to increase horsepower through a rechargeable system that stores up energy through braking or throttle position or manually through steering wheel paddles or buttons.

“I really like it,” said David Malukas, who returned to action for the first time since he fractured his left wrist on Feb. 9 in a mountain bike crash. He was later terminated at Arrow McLaren on April 29 after missing the first four races of the season.

Malukas has since been hired at Meyer Shank Racing in the No. 66 Honda.

“It adds a lot of play on deployment stages and when to do it, whether you want to do one shot or two shots,” Malukas said. “I enjoy it. I did a lot of testing with the hybrid with Arrow McLaren in the offseason but coming into it, it feels very similar.

“Now, I’m picking and choosing the differences between Honda and Chevrolet.”

Many of the drivers that were interviewed during the test would like to see the current unit generate more boost to the engine. That may come in time, but for now IndyCar is focused on reliability.

“I think it would be nice if it had more juice, for sure,” Rahal said. “I think it’s a start, number one. Number two, I think it works quite well. Like I said a second ago, I think at lower rpms, when you fall out of the power band, you can feel it. It definitely has an effect.

“I think it’s early days. Everybody has to be patient with it, too. F1 didn’t start with the same power that it delivers today in their first gen. Let’s give this thing some time to develop. I think it has big potential.

“For me today it was a bit of a zoo trying to figure it out in a short period of time. There’s a lot happening. This is a very low-grip track. You’re sliding around so much, too. Not the easiest thing to do to remind yourself constantly to hit the button.

“I think in the end, as it does become second nature, it will be fine. We just got to give it a little bit of time to develop.”