NTT IndyCar Series teams took one week off after the season finale at St. Petersburg before getting back in the groove as testing for the 2021 championship began on Monday at Barber Motorsports Park.
The majority of the paddock was in attendance, with 21 veterans and newcomers lapping the 2.4-mile road course in Leeds, Alabama. Among the notable participants, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson made his formal debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 48 Honda, as did Alex Palou in the No. 10 CGR Honda. Felix Rosenqvist also got to know his new team in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy, and Felix Antonio da Costa completed his maiden run for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the No. 15 Honda.
The only full-time teams absent from the test were Carlin Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, and the second RLLR entry.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden led the slower morning session in the No. 2 Chevy, followed by Sebastien Bourdais in the No 14 Chevy and Colton Herta in the No. 88 Andretti Autosport Honda. In the faster afternoon session, Chevy continued to hold sway as Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay took control in the No. 21 Chevy, with Herta next up and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward claiming third in the No. 5 Chevy.
— Ed Carpenter Racing (@ECRIndy) November 2, 2020
“We had a good day, had a good plan, and it just felt great,” VeeKay told RACER. “The track has a lot of grip from the resurfacing; the last time I was here was in a Indy Pro 2000 car in 2018, and it feels a lot different in an Indy car! It’s nice to be fastest, but it isn’t normal yet. I hope it becomes more frequent as I do more test days.”
For Palou, who ended the day just over 0.1s behind Dixon, moving from the small Dale Coyne Racing outfit has required a lot of recalibration.
“It’s been a really nice few days, getting to know the team and entering the shop, and seeing all the details of how a big team works,” he said. “New setup for me, new track for me, new people to work with, and learning a lot with the champ.
“One of the good things about being so big, is everyone is committed to winning. Everybody here talks about it. And it changes the driver’s mindset a lot. It’s also different working with a six-time champion like Scott and a legend like Dario. Scott, he is not only incredible how he drives, but also how he talks to the team, and transfers what he needs to them. I need to work on this and learn this side of things. I’d love to do what he’s done in 20 years.”
New to Barber, getting only his second run in an IndyCar, and sharing the track with other IndyCar drivers for the first time, Johnson finished the morning session 5.3 seconds behind the best set by Newgarden on the daunting circuit. With an afternoon of additional running, Johnson effectively halved the margin to VeeKay by bringing it down to 2.7 seconds. Johnson led the field with a session high of 100 laps completed.
What emoji or GIF would describe your feeling at this moment? pic.twitter.com/RPoJ1gbmru
— Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (@RLLracing) November 2, 2020
All times below, taken from the afternoon session, are unofficial:
Rinus Veekay, 65.615s
Colton Herta, 65.738s
Pato O’Ward, 65.907s
Alexander Rossi, 66.018s
Jack Harvey, 66.099s
Conor Daly, 66.134s
Ryan Hunter-Reay, 66.190s
Marcus Ericsson, 66.257s
Scott Dixon, 66.258s
Sebastien Bourdais, 66.358s
Alex Palou, 66.365s
Antonio Felix da Costa, 66.375s
Josef Newgarden, 66.410s
James Hinchcliffe, 66.441s
Felix Rosenqvist, 66.501s
Will Power, 66.620s
Simon Pagenaud, 66.635s
Dalton Kellett, 66.647s
Scott McLaughlin, 66.941s
Marco Andretti, 67.089
Jimmie Johnson, 68.398s