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Rahal optimistic about earning pole for Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Doornbos is trying to keep it simple. Graham Rahal is trying to keep it fast.

Both are making their game plans work.

Instead of looking at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2 1/2-mile track as one huge oval, rookie Doornbos sees it as two long straightaways separated by four fast corners. He figures that’s a lot less tricky to handle than the 13-turn Formula One road course he had to navigate the last time he drove at Indy.

And Rahal, already with two poles this season, wants another one for the Indianapolis 500 race on May 24.

He got on the track for the first time Thursday during an early flurry of activity amid a threat of more rain. Within a half-dozen laps, he reached more than 220 mph.

“Basically, it’s an absolutely brand new car that has been at the shop since last fall, and all winter the team has been working on it,” Rahal said.

“I think they did a pretty good job, because the thing looks fast for sure.”

Doornbos, in his first IndyCar season this year as Rahal’s teammate with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, easily passed his rookie test on opening day Tuesday but was not among the three who made it onto the track in Wednesday’s 45-minute rain-shortened practice session.

Doornbos was back on the track Thursday and, within his first four laps, was up to more than 221 mph. His top lap later in the day was at 223.592, seventh-fastest among the 32 drivers on the track.

“I think it’s great. I sleep on the track, I eat on the track, I do everything on the track . . . I race on the track, so it’s going to be an intense month,” said the 27-year-old Dutchman, one of six rookies trying to land spots in the race.

Marco Andretti had the top speed of the day at 225.478 mph.

“We really worked on the car the whole day. The car was good to run with it,” Andretti said.

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