As Indy car test sessions go, it was considered a thank you from a manufacturer. Judging from Ricky Taylor's smile after climbing out of Simon Pagenaud's car, he was quite welcome.
Taylor spent the day testing the Team Penske No. 1 Chevrolet - the same car Pagenaud will drive in two weeks when the Verizon IndyCar Series season opens at St. Petersburg, Florida - around the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course in Homestead, Florida.
The test was considered a courtesy by Chevrolet and General Motors to Taylor for his seven wins in four years in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship - most notably his victory last month in a Cadillac prototype with Jeff Gordon, Max Angelelli and brother Jordan Taylor in the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance race.
But there is the possibility - even an underlying hope, if you ask Ricky Taylor - that a courtesy test in an Indy car could lead to something more permanent in the future.
"It can't hurt," Taylor said after his first stint in the car. "Every driver dreams to be an Indy car driver. It can't hurt to be involved with (Team Penske); there are no negatives to that. To get to know all the guys and get to drive the car and get an actual feel for it in a low-pressure environment is a great opportunity for me. Even if it doesn't lead to anything, it's a big learning opportunity."
Pagenaud, who set up the car before Taylor got behind the wheel, had as much fun teaching as Taylor had learning.
"Ricky's definitely shown that he deserves to drive Indy cars," said Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. "When you get the call to test for Team Penske, it's really cool. It's a big honor for him and for us. He's a super-nice guy and he's been taking it all in. It's a great opportunity for him."
The day-long test also drew veteran Team Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, both of whom live nearby. Castroneves noted that Taylor had been practicing on an Indy car simulator, which helped him get up to speed quickly.
Circumstances aligned to create the opportunity. Taylor, who lives in Apopka, Florida, is preparing for a sports car test at nearby Sebring International Raceway in central Florida. Meanwhile, the Team Penske car and crew will be at Sebring for a test next week, so a private session on Homestead's 2.21-mile, 14-turn road course fit into the schedule.
Most of the Verizon IndyCar Series teams will test next week at Sebring, the last track time before the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10-12. The race airs live at noon ET March 12 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
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