IndyCar officials listened to drivers' complaints about the chicane, man-made turns that slowed cars on Pratt Street before the light-rail tracks, in last year's race. So they left it out when setting up the track for this year's Grand Prix of Baltimore.

Drivers didn't want to slow down. They wanted an uninhibited run into a widened first turn and the ability to pass anyone in their way.

"We were unanimous in wanting the chicane out," KV Racing driver Tony Kanaan said. "We all agreed we could handle the railroad tracks without it. But after the morning practice, we all agreed we couldn't go over the railroad tracks."

The chicane is coming back.

"I think it's definitely the right thing to do," said Will Power, who won the inaugural race and is trying to clinch the series championship here Sunday. "The chicane completely fixed the problem. They'll put the curbs in tonight and away we'll go. There was a specific area where you could get over the tracks without the chicane, but you can't have a situation where you have to be inch perfect every lap."

It was expected that cars would go about 180 mph, 10-to-15 miles-per-hour faster on the straight and then enter a wider first turn side-by-side. It would result in improved passing through the corner, making the race more fun for the drivers and more exhilarating for the fans.

Taking another suggestion from the drivers, IndyCar even returned the push-to-pass program to its original set-up, allowing drivers to push a button on the steering wheel to immediately add turbocharger boost and additional RPMs for a maximum of 20 seconds when in position to make a move on the car ahead.

And that change may still be a benefit, as the chicane that is being installed overnight will allow a little more speed than last year's model to carry over heading to the first turn.

"It's still a great venue and it's going to be a very good race," Power said.

Drivers were confident the removal of the chicane would increase speed, but few thought the increased speed would also increase the intensity of the bumps.

Something caused the surface to settle and create a dip before the rail tracks that resulted in IndyCar rookie of the year Simon Pagenaud and his Schmidt Hamilton Honda taking flight when the car hit the tracks.

And Ryan Hunter-Reay's Team DHL Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe's car, too, lifted off while going over the bumps into turn 1.

Asked about the re-installation of the chicane, nearly everyone seemed resigned to its need.

Slowing the cars at the light-rail tracks also solves the issues entering Turn 1.

"The cars were running about 20 mph faster than last year into Turn 1," driver Justin Wilson said. "My car was one of those that left the ground. Once we put the chicane in, things got pretty good. By going slower into the turn, the bumps were less bumpy. Without the chicane, the straight was so bumpy we were bouncing."

Pagenaud, the rookie whose incident was the first to raise the red flag, was stunned by the way his car reacted to the combination of the dip and the tracks.

"I took off like a plane," Pagenaud said after the second practice session that included a quickly assembled chicane made of tires. "What can I say. I landed pretty well."

Power, who was fastest in the session, covering the 2.04-mile course in 1:21.0185 at an average speed of 90.646 mph, laughed at Pagenaud's aerobatics.

"He could have done a flip ... and a double ankle tap before he landed," Power said,

"I just invented it actually," said Pagenaud, who was second fastest, going 90.123 mph in 1:21.4883.

Immediately after his flight, Pagenaud said the track was unraceable, but after his first lap with the chicane in the second practice session, he completely changed his mind.

"It's fun now," he said. "It's a good race track. I'm enjoying it now."

After the inaugural race, drivers noted the Baltimore track was bumpy, but fun, a challenging track that produced good racing.

Friday, for awhile, some were saying much different things. Graham Rahal said "it's the worst paving job in the series." Others complained of increased bumpiness. But Kanaan and Power both defended the course.

"Who said those things?" Power asked. "We have good racing here."

"We had a major problem this morning," Kanaan said. "And yeah, it's bumpy — but it's part of street and road racing. It's rough, yes. But that adds to the set-up of the car."

"And the headaches," Power said, swinging his head as if was hitting a wall.

Kanaan looked at Power and helpfully provided a solution.

"Take four Advil before the race," he said.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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