It was a busy day in the Verizon IndyCar Series. With Fernando Alonso announcing his Indianapolis 500 plans next month, the motorsports world was buzzing. Michael Shank’s team was also finally in the Indy 500. Lost in the shuffle, was the fact that IndyCar was having an Open Test at the newly renovated Texas Motor Speedway.
The all-day testing session was supposed to include everyone, but prior to the start, many Honda teams were holding out of the test, due to precautionary reasons with their high-mileage engines. There were 14 drivers that ended up participating, turning a combined 1,780 laps around the speedway without incident.
Scott Dixon was fastest, with a lap of 221.974 mph. Graham Rahal was second quick at 220.705 mph. Penske drivers Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves also eclipsed the 220 mph barrier, and Marco Andretti rounded out the top five.
Teams were primarily working on finding the right aero configuration for when they return on June 10 for the race. In addition to that though, they had to figure out how the changes to the track affected the cars. The track was repaved, with Turns 1 and 2 being widened and re-profiled to 20 degrees of banking.
“The track has changed a lot,” said Will Power. “There’s a lot of grip once the rubber goes down and there’s no tire degradation, so the track really looks after the tires. But once the grip comes and you’re wide open, it’s quite similar to before.” Pagenaud agreed with his teammate. “The radius of Turn 1 is different, the exit of Turn 2 is as well. It definitely helps promote the side-by-side racing. It’s just about us learning how to make the tires work best with the race track.”
Gabby Chaves made his return today as well, shaking down the No. 88 Chevrolet with new team Harding Racing. Larry Curry has assembled a nice group that will compete in next month’s Indianapolis 500. If things go well, they also plan to enter additional races later this season. Chaves put in a total of 49 laps on Wednesday.
Things didn’t go as smoothly for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Due to the Honda precautions, the plan was to not run Mikhail Aleshin’s No. 7 car. The team reached an agreement with IndyCar and Honda to install a manufacturer spec engine in James Hinchcliffe’s car, and have both drivers split time behind the wheel.
Learning of this, Chevrolet filed an official complaint that SPM broke Rule 16.5.3 that states no manufacturer spec engines can be used during an open test. They can only be used for safety, engine, or tire tests. SPM parked the car, and will instead run it tomorrow (Thursday) when Hinchcliffe and Ed Carpenter run the Firestone tire test.
Below are photos from today’s test, courtesy of IndyCar.