Phoenix IndyCar Test

The much anticipated Promoter Test for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Phoenix International Raceway got underway today. The Chevrolet-powered teams seemed to be slightly quicker early on in the first session, though all times were unofficial. Helio Castroneves was fastest in the first session, and Marco Andretti was quickest in the night cap. Below are some highlights from Friday’s action on the 1-mile oval.

Castroneves unofficially broke the track record with a lap of 19.5858 seconds, as all four Team Penske drivers finished the first session in the top six. The top ten drivers were separated by less than a half-second. “We tested here two weeks ago,” Castroneves said. “We’re working very close, not only myself, my group No. 3, but the entire Team Penske Hitachi car seems to be very dialed in.”

Fortunately there were no incidents on Friday. Most of the action on the track consisted of single-car runs. Max Chilton and Luca Filippi both appeared to look comfortable in their respective machines, having little to no experience on ovals. Gabby Chaves was 11th and 7th in today’s sessions, filling in for Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 7 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

The sun was setting during the evening session, which did have an affect on the drivers.

Combined Results from Friday:

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Robin Miller from RACER had a quick video recap from each session on Friday. The interview with James in the first video is well worth your time.

Friday photo gallery, courtesy of IndyCar:


Saturday

Friday was fast at Phoenix, but the speeds went up even more on Saturday. Several drivers broke the 190 mph barrier in today’s first session. Simon Pagenaud led the afternoon portion with a time of 19.2884 seconds at 190.747 mph. ECR teammates Joef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter were second and third quick.

“It’s encouraging, for sure, when you look at where we were on the ovals a year ago starting the season,” Carpenter said. “It’s really encouraging to see the effort that the team’s put in to really improve. And not just our team, but the team at Chevrolet with their updates on the aero kit, too.” In all, 16 cars eclipsed Arie Luyendyk’s 1996 official track record of 19.608 seconds on Saturday afternoon.

Today’s test was open to the public, and thousands of them came out to watch the incredible show.

A few drivers had a rough evening, including Team Penske’s Will Power. Smoke from the rear of his Dallara-Chevrolet brought out a caution flag. The AJ Foyt Racing duo had a couple of scares as well. Jack Hawksworth got into the marbles in Turn 2, and came to a stop next to the wall. Pagenaud had to slow suddenly due to low tire pressure, forcing Sato to take evasive action in which he brushed the wall.

Helio Castroneves ended the final test session at the top of the charts, with a lap of 19.2735 seconds, at 190.894 mph. Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay were second and third fastest. The combined results from Saturday are below.

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Video from Saturday’s action, courtesy of IndyCar.

Saturday photo gallery, courtesy of IndyCar:

The Phoenix race weekend is just five weeks away. The race will be April 2 under the lights, and will be the second stop on the 2016 schedule. You can purchase tickets here for the event. The race will air at 8 PM ET on NBCSN.

Driver Quotes:

Juan Montoya: “The Verizon car did pretty good here this morning. It handled pretty well. Phoenix International Raceway is one of my favorite tracks and the new banking they put in a few years ago will definitely make it more challenging and will test the strength of our cars. We’re just getting settled in and it’s good to have so many cars around and run with a little more traffic. This afternoon’s session will be even better with everyone running on the track.”

“So far it’s been good. We came here and tested before, so yesterday was a really good day for us for what we wanted to do. Today we had a couple… did a little bit of qualifying simulations, nothing too extreme. Just figured out an idea of what we need to do. I think it’s going to be interesting because NASCAR is going to be here about two weeks before we race, two, three weeks, so I think it’s going to change the track a lot with all that rubber they’re going to lay down and everything, so we’ll see how the track changes.”

Helio Castroneves: “We tested here obviously two weeks ago. Just keep going. We’re working very close, not only myself, but the entire Team Penske Hitachi car seems to be very dialed in. Again, there were areas we didn’t have time to test when we came here because I was mostly looking for the aero balance. This was the first time I was able to make the car the way I want it. So far the track is pretty smooth, no issues. I feel that it’s going to be fast. Obviously it’s going to be a very tight field. I do believe the rest of the cars are still up to speed, and tomorrow is going to be another fast day.”

“Unfortunately we didn’t have time to practice the Hitachi car. We had a mechanical failure and we are fixing for the afternoon. We’re going to go back and keep working on the No. 3 machine.”

James Hinchcliffe: “It feels like the first day in school. We traveled to some races in the second half of the year. I still felt like a little bit of an outsider because I wasn’t doing my job. To now be back here and be back in the car with everybody, it’s great to see all those familiar faces again. I’ve been driving the car. Obviously testing and driving an Indy car is phenomenal always, but it’s competition that you really miss after a while. It’s nice to be back here with a bunch of cars on track and get sort of those competitive juices flowing again.”

Gabby Chaves: “I think the first session was pretty good. We’re just working through our plan and making the changes that we want. We’re going in the right direction for sure, and finding speed in every outing. I’m really happy with the work from the No. 7 crew. It’s great to be part of it and to contribute to getting better.”

Max Chilton: “In the first session today I didn’t do a great amount of running but it was very productive – getting around 35 laps in. I was comfortable from the start and got flat out pretty quickly. We did a qualifying run and then I got out of the car and went up top to the stands with Dario Franchitti to watch. The turn-in point on this track is critical and I wanted to get a different vantage point and hear Dario’s thoughts on what I was doing compared to others.”

“Today we didn’t do a lot of running but it was still productive. We’re doing things the way there are supposed to be done. We are slowly making changes and improving the car. We’re focused on maximizing the time we have in the car today to make sure I’m feeling comfortable.”

Scott Dixon: “Everything is good so far with Team Target. It’s really great being back here at Phoenix and the track is really going to be fast. I’m excited for the race and hope we can put on a good show. We focused the first session on aero work and balance of the car for the most part. We only ran one set of tires where most others did more in the session, so I feel confident where we’re at on the time charts.”

“We tried a few different things today in the afternoon session. We trimmed the car out a bit and did a few qualifying simulations but didn’t quite get things where we wanted them. Overall the Target car is fast though and we’re pretty happy with where we are at.”

Tony Kanan: “It’s obviously great to be back racing in Phoenix. Even with a different track configuration than the last time I was here in 2005, it’s still one of my favorite race tracks. I didn’t do any race runs during that first session, but I didn’t feel much difference in the track with the changes they’ve made. I have a lot of fond memories here with two wins and I’m just glad we’re getting the chance to come back and put on a good show.”

“We spent most of the first session working on qualifying runs and then the team switched the car over to the race setup to get ready for tonight’s session. The car has felt pretty good most of the weekend and it’s been a lot of fun getting back into the swing of things here at Phoenix. We’re looking forward to getting back out tonight for the night session and working through a few more things to make sure we’re ready to go for the race in April.”

Will Power: “I haven’t been here before. Obviously I tested here. It’s very smooth. It’s fast. It’s going to be interesting tonight to run in traffic. Obviously we’ve just been running by ourselves, probably qualifying-type trim. It’s just one of those things you’re going to have to work out, understand where you can pass, what lanes you can run, how it’s going to behave in traffic. That’s what tonight will be all about because it’s the time that the race will be held, so we’ll see.”

Simon Pagenaud: “It’s been good. We’ve been working on the Hewlett Packard Enterprise car pretty well.  We’ve been doing race stuff all day and the times have improved so I feel very comfortable in every condition now. We managed to get a snapshot of what qualifying would be like this time of the day.  The car was fast. So far so good.  Chevrolet has done a great job with the aero package and the engine, so we are just scratching the surface, but so far it’s gone pretty good.”

Graham Rahal: “Testing has gone okay today so far.  We have some work to do to get a little more speed and catch up to the competition.  The Rahal Letterman Lanigan boys have done a great job because this car is obviously quick and led the pack for the Hondas so far in the first session. We’re going to try to keep doing that all year, that’s our goal. I’m really proud of our guys for the effort.  The car looks amazing with really, really fine attention to detail.  But I’m hopeful we can find some more speed today and tomorrow.”

“Yeah, it’s good. It’s been a lot of fun to be out here, and cars obviously very quick around this place. You know, really our first session today just totally focused on a couple qualifying simulations. We didn’t run a ton, but I think from what I’ve seen so far, we’re the fastest Honda on the no toes, obviously Marco with the toe got us there right at the end of the session, but I think we’re close.”

Conor Daly: “It’s really cool to be back in the car and on this type of an oval. It’s a whole new experience for me. It’s a really cool track though I think, really unique Turn 1 and 2 and very different from 3 and 4. I’m just trying to get used to it. We’re going through the day as we planned. It’s great to be able to test and just do some work on the car. That’s what we’re doing, we’re here to gather information and make sure that when we come back for the race. We’re very well sorted.”

“I’m feeling good with how things went. We’re just working away. We’re a couple of days behind other teams that have tested here, which is to be expected. Information is very important. They have some and we have a little bit less. It’s just about working through that, getting used to the track, getting used to everything. It’s all new for both Luca and I here. I’m happy with what we’re doing, it would have been nice maybe to have a few more sets of tires to run some things but it is what it is. I’m just happy to continue working and that’s the thing that we have to do. It doesn’t matter where we are on the time sheet right now, there’s no winning here, it’s one of those things that we’re happy with what we’re doing.”

Ed Carpenter: “We didn’t run as much as we initially thought, we had a couple of issues when we started. That was disappointing as we had just tested here the other day, but we came with a different car and had a couple of electrical issues to work through. Then, Josef was having a good day so we jumped to what he was working on just to speed up the process. Now we’re in good shape, I think we’re both pretty happy, especially for the minimal amount of running the 20 did relative to everyone else. We still have a lot to accomplish yet tonight and tomorrow.”

Josef Newgarden: “It was awesome to get back on track, especially with everyone here finally. You can test, simulate, make all the changes you want, but it’s tough to get a representative read until you get on track with everyone. It’s nice to be back. Phoenix is still awesome and fast like it was when we were here a few weeks ago. It’s just cool to come here with Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, especially with the 100th Running Limited Edition bottle on the car.  It looks great and we’re feeling good to start the year off.”

“Yeah, I mean, to me it’s not — it’s interesting, it’s got characteristics of Iowa and Milwaukee to me. I think it’s a little easier than Iowa, but it’s still damned tough. I’m not trying to make it sound easy, it’s not, it’s really difficult. But maybe just a little — it’s different than Iowa. Iowa you sustain the loading for longer than here. You know, there’s — I think you reach about the same peak loading as Iowa in Turns 1 and 2, but it’s more crimped and you get in and out of it quicker so it’s not as sustained, and 3 and 4 is more open than Iowa and not quite as banked.”

Marco Andretti: “I love this place. I always have. I even drove the old configuration back when I started, which makes me feel pretty old. That was like 2005. A lot of fun so far. Really it’s a place that makes you work. In the middle of turn one in particular it gets pretty heavy. Not a terrible start. But they’re putting up some pretty big times. We’re just trying to hang in there until we get the car to our liking.”

“So far so good. The main focus right now is to really get a race car underneath us. There are pretty staggering speeds by some of the guys which is fun, but it is definitely crazy. On a one-mile oval, 200 mph, 190-something average…  It’s good fun. It seems to just be getting quicker and quicker. Tonight might even be quicker yet so we’ll just keep going out and seeing how much we can wring the thing out, but the main priority is getting a race car set up.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “Yeah, it’s great that we can finally make that an official news, but we’ve been working towards 2016. Sully has been working really, really hard with all his partners and Jimmy and Kevin to make this happen, and I think people underestimate how challenging it is to find a budget to run these kind of programs, but we did put it together, and although it may be a bit late, we’re still in pretty good shape and building off of two strong years.

Luca Filippi: “Today, I felt more confident and we had a solid session. We had more things to try and also myself, I’m also learning, especially in traffic. So far I’m enjoying it. It was nice to have two days of testing here because every time you learn something new it’s always good to sleep on it and the day after it’s already more conventional and everything comes a little more automatic, maybe not as much as I’d like but I’m still happy and positive. I definitely feel that we are going in the right direction.”

Alexander Rossi: “Yeah, I’m very excited to be here and to have the opportunity to participate, especially with a team with so much pedigree as Andretti, and I’m really looking forward to getting in the car for the first time, as you said. I’m here kind of in an observatory role. I’ve never been to an oval before, never driven an oval, and obviously never driven the car. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and get to know the people and how they work and operate. It’s a little bit different than what I’m used to, so it’s good to have an idea before I get in the car for the first time.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Today was the first time we’ve had the DHL car on a short oval with the altered Honda aero kit so we were really just trying to march through a list of items to test. Not the deficit we wanted to see to start out testing, but we have another three sessions – a day and half – left to go so we’ll get there. It’s great to be here in Phoenix; looking forward to seeing all the fans here at the PrixView event tomorrow and returning for the race on April 2nd.”

“I felt really good with my car in traffic, especially on the first of two group runs that we did. The thing is around this place, it’s just like Iowa a couple years ago, everybody in practice couldn’t pass, and then in the heat races that we had, nobody could pass. But you have to get beyond lap 20 to really start mixing it up. That’s when the tires start to fall off a bit, that’s when the handling care sticks of each different car is magnified, and that’s when the difference is going to be made, and also we’re going to be hitting traffic here, so lap traffic or whatever it may be, different strategies, that’s when the racing is really going to get hot around here.

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