The Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Gateway Motorsports Park on August 26 to race under the lights. Today, an open test session allowed teams and drivers to get acclimated to the 1.25-mile oval.
There were a total of 21 drivers that combined to turn 873 laps on Tuesday. AJ Foyt Racing’s Conor Daly finished at the top of the speed chart at the end of the day. His best lap speed was 176.907 mph, while 2003 Gateway winner Helio Castroneves was second quick with a speed of 174.559 mph.
The Team Penske domination from the past couple of weeks continued today, as all five Penske cars finished in the top seven during the test session. Yes, five cars, as Juan Montoya returned to the cockpit of a Penske machine. He will be driving the No. 22 Chevrolet this month at Indianapolis, in both the IndyCar Grand Prix and the Indy 500.
Gateway Combined Practice Results
Daly said the egg-shaped oval drives more like a road course, which is fine with him. “I like this place, I think it’s really fun,” said the 25-year old. “Turn 1 is super ‘road coursey.’ It’s a real fight getting into the center of it (Turn 1), and with the wind the way it is, it’s obviously a little sketchy on the exit of Turn 2, but, man, I like it.”
Unfortunately today’s test didn’t go as planned, on numerous fronts. For Ed Carpenter Racing, they had a scare as JR Hildebrand made contact with the Turn 2 barrier on his 22nd lap of the day. “It’s really windy out here and we’re trying to sort it out through Turn 1 and Turn 2, and I don’t know if it was gusty or what, but I thought there would be more grip rolling a little higher through the corner but there just wasn’t,” said Hildebrand. The good news is JR was checked and released from the medical center, and was cleared to drive.
There were quite a few track inspections during the day, due to cut tires and track repairs to grind down the low line in Turns 1 and 2. Heavy rain in the area required extensive work to prepare the track for today’s test. Though the test ended slightly early, it appears things will be ready when the series returns in August. Following the test, IndyCar and Gateway Motorsports Park issued a joint statement on the subject:
“Gateway Motorsports Park and IndyCar overcame tremendous challenges to conduct a successful series open test session today, despite 9.5 inches of rain in the two days leading up to the event. Officials worked tirelessly to prepare the racing surface, which included drilling holes to relieve pressure of ground water and additional proactive measures.
“During the course of today’s practices, conditions developed that made it necessary to stop the test early, within an hour of the scheduled end time. The conditions will be promptly addressed by IndyCar and Gateway officials, and all are confident of a successful resolution when the series returns to the track. It was a valuable day for teams to gather information for the race event in August, and a great day for the fans who attended and were able to see their favorite cars and drivers up close.”
It wasn’t all bad for the many fans that made the trip to watch the cars test. During one of the delays, most of the drivers walked onto the track at the start/finish line and signed autographs, and posed for photos with the fans.
Tomorrow the focus returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Fernando Alonso will have his test day. The session will run from 9-5 ET with a lunch break a noon. That is when Alexander Rossi will receive his 2016 Indianapolis 500 winners ring. Live streaming of the test will be available at IndyCar.com, IMS.com, the INDYCAR YouTube page and the INDYCAR Facebook page. Fans can watch for free from the Turn 2 viewing mounds and South Terrace grandstands.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar