The Verizon IndyCar Series will race at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2 next year, under the lights. It will be the first IndyCar race on the 1-mile oval since 2005. Today, a handful of drivers took to the track for testing. Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Carlos Munoz joined former AA driver James Hinchcliffe, who is now with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
The test session was really for Honda, who is refining their aero kit package for the upcoming season. Early estimations are that they will turn laps in under 20 seconds, which would be more than five seconds quicker than the NASCAR Cup cars that raced there last weekend.
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PIR is a special place for the Andretti family. Marco’s father Michael won there in 1986, and his grandfather Mario won four races at Phoenix. The third-generation driver said that Mario is still an enormous help to him. “He helps a lot. He still knows all the feedback we’re talking about. He can still relate and give good feedback and suggestions. He’s extremely passionate. He’s extremely tough on me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Marco told Bruce Martin how he believes the IndyCars will perform at PIR next year. “It’s running more like Iowa right now just because of the amount of grip and the amount of load through the wheel, but I’m not sure how it’s going to race quite yet. We’ve just been out there alone right now. I’m thinking we can get a second groove in between 1 and 2, which I think is going to really improve the racing. If that happens, I think we’ll put on a heck of a show.
Hinchcliffe told Martin that adjusting to the short oval might be tough. “It’s funny because you go to a place like Indianapolis Motor Speedway and you’re doing over 230 miles per hour, but after coming off a place like PIR, it’s going to feel slow. This place, everything is so relative, and when you have so much happening in such a short lap at such high speeds, this feels faster than Indy. It really does. Changing that mentality of how to drive a short track like this compared to a super speedway like Indy, it takes a couple of laps.”
Obviously with this being a closed test, there weren’t photos or any videos available, as Hinchcliffe pointed out.
The only glimpse was an Instagram post from Munoz.
Munoz told the media after the test session that the track actually feels comparable to Pocono. “I think it’s completely different. I think it’s a little bit similar to Pocono, but in a smaller way because 1 and 2 are completely different from the other corner. It feels like Pocono a little bit, but a much shorter oval.” Carlos just signed a new contract with Andretti Autosport yesterday.
Chevrolet will get their opportunity to test at PIR next month. Team Penske drivers Will Power, Juan Montoya, Helio Castroneves, and Simon Pagenaud will all be testing there on December 8.