INDIANAPOLIS – Spring has officially sprung in Central Indiana. Yes, the calendar officially turned to spring a month ago, but the recent weather in Indianapolis has really made it feel like the most important month of the year here.
Oh yeah, so will Wednesday.
29 NTT IndyCar Series drivers will take to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an eight hour test session in preparation for next month’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/IndyCar Radio Network).
The session will be broken down into three parts, the first being a veteran only session from 11 am to 1 pm, followed by a rookie orientation and veteran refresher program from 1 pm to 3 pm, then finished with a three hour (3-6 pm) final session for all participants.
The test is very beneficial for what we’re going to see next month, so here are five storylines to watch for it.
Will Power leads his Team Penske teammates of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud during the 2018 Indy 500 – IndyCar Media Site
Will Offseason Changes Work?
This test is going to be largely beneficial to everyone involved. See, the series is trying to make the racing closer again. Last year, wasn’t as close as they would have liked it to be. With the new car that was supposed to make the racing closer, the ‘500 actually went backwards.
Prior to the DW12 aerokit being introduced in 2012, the most lead changes in Indy 500 history was 29 in 1960. But, over the past seven years, we’ve seen at least 30 lead changes in each race. Under the new car from 2012 through 2014, we saw some of the most competitive Indy 500’s in history. There were 34 lead changes in 2012 and again in 2014 but a race record of 68 sandwiched in between in 2013. Then, came the manufacturer specific aero kits from 2015 through 2017 which produced 37,54 and 35 lead changes respectively. Last year, with that new car, there were 30 lead changes, most coming on pit sequences. Some blamed the weather, others cited not just the weather but the way the downforce was taken off of the cars and moved to the bottom of the machines themselves. IndyCar and IMS wants the racing to get closer again and have tried adjustments between this year and last to make that happen. That’s why Wednesday’s test is key to get back to that.
In the fall, Firestone conducted a tire test among some of the series veterans. Will Power, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal took to the track in a day long session hoping to make the cars closer again.
All said that it worked. But, you have to think the track being resealed and cooler temperatures in October helped. What about in May?
The changes will be on the forefront on Wednesday.
A first look at the AFP that will be unveiled on the cars during Wednesday’s test – IndyCar Media Site
1st Look For The New Safety Device
Another big item on the list for Wednesday is the new “Advanced Frontal Protection” device in which all 29 cars will have on them for the day long test. The series first announced this safety device back in February but through the first four races, they haven’t used it yet. Indy, was always going to be the first place to see it.
Well, it’s time to see how this new device will work. With where it is placed, it shouldn’t cause any vision problems among the drivers. The titanium device stands only three inches tall and is less than an inch wide. It will be located in front of the drivers along the chassis.
Last year in this test, we saw the second version of the Aeroscreen on Josef Newgarden’s car. This year, a potential new safety device will be used on all 29 cars.
Simon Pagenaud starts his qualifying run in 2018 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – IndyCar Media Site
Speed Won’t Matter
It’s only natural to look at the speed charts at the end of the day, but don’t get too wrapped up in them when it’s all said and done. See, this is just that, a test. All the teams will have different check lists to go over, with most giving up speed in April to gain more in May.
With how important Indy is, teams show up with pages of setups and checklists that they’d like to try. Wednesday is a good day for a jump start on that.
So, don’t think the speeds on Wednesday will reflect what we will see when they return to oval configuration on May 14.
Felix Rosenqvist practices on Friday morning at the Barber Motorsports Park – INDYCAR Media Site
A part of the day that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the rookie orientation portion. It’s kind of redundant to see the same few cars circle the track over and over and doing so in different phases for two straight hours.
But, what I like to see is how wide eyed they are by the end of it.
See, most of these drivers have never turned laps at these speeds before, let alone felt the g forces on their bodies that they’re pulling in these corners at these speeds. Imagine doing so without power steering too.
For Marcus Ericsson, Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci, they’ll have a life changing experience on Wednesday. All four have been stellar to start the young season off with too as Herta won in COTA becoming the youngest Indy Car race winner ever. Overall, he and Rosenqvist sit in the top 12 of the standings with three in the top 16.
Hopefully, they can get through all three phases at ease and get the prerequisites over with before coming back in a few weeks.
Fernando Alonso tests at Texas in April – IndyCar Media Site
For the third straight year, we have a ton of national attention on a test at IMS. Two years ago, it was for Fernando Alonso’s first laps by himself on the famed 2.5-mile oval. That garnered world wide attention.
Last year, we saw Danica Patrick taking part in the veteran refresher course for this test day. That brought national attention.
This year, we see Alonso making his comeback to Indy Car in taking part in his No. 66 Chevrolet in the test session.
Alonso, tested at Texas a few weeks ago, but will still have to complete the refresher course start at 1 p.m. ET. You can bet that part of the day will get a lot of people talking.
The Turn 2 Viewing Mounds will be open for public viewing.
Testing will be streamed on indycar.com, the NTT IndyCar Series Facebook page and Periscope. Announcers for the test are Kevin Lee, Anders Krohn, Robin Miller and Katie Hargitt.
The lineup of NTT IndyCar Series teams and drivers scheduled to participate
AJ Foyt Racing – Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist Andretti Autosport – Conor Daly, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian – Marco Andretti Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – Marcus Ericsson, James Hinchcliffe, Oriol Servia Carlin – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing – Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist Dale Coyne Racing – Santino Ferrucci Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan – Sebastien Bourdais Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – JR Hildebrand Ed Carpenter Racing – Ed Carpenter, Ed Jones, Spencer Pigot Harding Steinbrenner Racing – Colton Herta Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM – Jack Harvey McLaren Racing – Fernando Alonso Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato Team Penske – Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power