Chilton tops the times at Sebring IndyCar test

Chilton at COTA in February. Image by Abbott/LAT

Chilton tops the times at Sebring IndyCar test


Chilton tops the times at Sebring IndyCar test


Thirteen NTT IndyCar Series drivers ventured out on Tuesday for a final burst of pre-season testing at Sebring International Raceway’s short course, and like Monday’s test, Carlin Racing came out on top.

This time, it was team veteran Max Chilton who led the 11 Chevy-powered drivers and the two representing Honda, as the No. 59 Carlin car sat atop the unofficial time chart for most of the day.

The Briton’s lap of 52.1126s was mirrored by Carlin testing teammate Felipe Nasr, who went fastest 24 hours earlier. The Brazilian finished the day in second (+0.0624s) with the No. 31 Chevy, and close behind the Carlin duo, Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Rinus VeeKay was third (+0.0952s) in the No. 21 Chevy ahead of Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (+0.1424s) in the No. 1 Chevy. Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward completed the top five in the No. 5 Chevy (+0.1950s).

“Definitely optimistic about our pace, and there’s a good vibe in the team after the last two days,”Chilton told RACER. “It’s been a long winter; I haven’t been in the car for five-and-a-half months – since Laguna Seca. We’ve done a lot of development on the car, but haven’t had a driver out late last year to test those things, so until you put it on the track, you don’t know. With the limited running we’ve done, we feel we’ve made great gains with damping and the car as a whole.”

In sixth, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud led a second cluster of drivers who were a bit behind Chilton, as the No. 22 Chevy (+0.3075s) was followed by ECR’s Conor Daly in the No. 20 Chevy (+0.3430s), Penske’s Will Power in eighth with the No. 12 Chevy (+0.4469s), AMSP’s Oliver Askew in the No. 7 Chevy (+0.4826s), and in 10th, the first of the Hondas, represented by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal, was well shy of Chilton in the No. 15 entry (+0.6741s).

In 11th, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett turned his best lap on the last lap (+0.9580s) in the No. 14 Chevy, RLL’s Takuma Sato was 12th in the No. 15 Honda (+1.1343s), and DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley completed the list in the No. 81 Chevy (+1.1618s).

For Chilton, who says there are a few candidates to drive the sister entry next week at St. Petersburg, the two-day trip to Sebring helped confirm an off-season of hard work by Carlin Racing’s mechanics and engineers is paying off.

“We had the COTA test, which was a bit compromised for everybody with the rain, and we were quick there, but when I left COTA, I didn’t know how to feel about where we were,” he said.

“Nasr, who’s a rookie, was quick, and you can’t argue we weren’t good there, but this test helped show the direction we’re on. Nasr was marginally faster than Scott Dixon yesterday, and all day today, we were the ones to beat. It’s only testing, so you shouldn’t read too much into it, but it’s definitely good progress. Even if people were sandbagging, which I don’t think they were, we’re definitely in a competitive position, which is good for the crew and the whole project moving forward.”