Firestone Tire Test at IMS

RHRxFour drivers and teams returned to the Greatest Race Course in the World today, for a Firestone tire test on the famous oval.

The four participants were defending Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (Penske), two-time Indy 500 Pole sitter Ed Carpenter (CFH Racing), and GP of Indy winner Simon Pagenaud (SPM). Two Chevrolets, two Hondas, and a lot of Firestone rubber. Cars were turning laps all day, but there was a break in the middle of the day, which provided us with some interesting news.

The first domino in the Silly Season game has yet to fall. It just so happened that this year’s big fish was at IMS today. Pagenaud was testing with the SPM team because his contract with them runs through October 1. After that, he is officially a free agent, and has a big decision to make. Today though, we learned that he has already made his decision. Simon said that he has made up his mind, but the small final details of the contract are still being worked out. He said that he wasn’t ready to announce yet where he will be driving next season, and there are plenty of rumors out there that will just make your head spin.

At this point, the strongest indication is that he is leaving SPM. There are three possible destinations, though none of them seem to make any sense. As you might expect, the three teams courting him are the “big three” in IndyCar (Penske, Ganassi, Andretti). The majority seem to think that he’s headed to The Captain’s team, although Roger has never fielded four cars during a season. A move to Andretti would only occur if James Hinchcliffe is walking out the door, because Michael Andretti won’t field five full-time cars next year. That leaves Ganassi, who already has Sage Karam waiting in the wings. Hunter-Reay said that Simon is leaving, Castroneves said he hasn’t heard anything, and all three owners are denying reports that he’s headed to their team.

Then there’s this: Aside from Hinchcliffe, all of the drivers for these three teams are already under contract for 2015.

So far it has been a well kept secret, and Pagenaud’s inner circle is keeping this one close to the vest. Nobody is quite sure where he is headed, and how that will affect the rest of the free agents looking for work. What we do know is that his decision has been made, and will soon be finalized. Then, and only then, we will know where Simon is headed.

As far as today’s test session, the weather was absolutely perfect, the speeds were decent, and there were no incidents on the track – aside from the squirrel that found his way to the yard of bricks and brought out a brief yellow as workers tried to chase him down. Castroneves ran 188 laps today, just a dozen short of a full 500-mile race. The drivers were mostly out by themselves, though often two of them were sharing the track. They were close enough early on that Hunter-Reay got a nice tow off of Castroneves and clocked in at a speed above 230 mph. I timed him around 5.5 seconds behind Helio in Turn 1.

Testing will continue tomorrow, with another full day slated for the same individuals. The test runs from 9 AM to 5 PM, which is closed to the public. However, there is public viewing available at the sound end of the Speedway, in front of the Museum. Pictures from today’s test can be found on my Twitter page, and below is a video from IMS/IMS Productions/IndyCar recapping the day.

IndyCar Firestone Tire Test 9/23/14 from indy44 on Vimeo.

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