A full day of running was put to good use by 33 NTT IndyCar Series drivers on Thursday at the Indy Open Test which was led by Team Penske and Josef Newgarden.
With the last two hours of action filled with drivers chasing each other in higher downforce race-day trim, Newgarden hit a peak of 237.023mph on entry to Turn 3 and used the speed in the draft to claim the fastest lap in the No. 2 Chevy, but he also found speed on his own, recording the second fastest no-tow speed of the day at a 220.648, which bodes well for the two-time IndyCar champion when the series returns in May.
In the final minutes of the day, Conor Daly shot to P2 in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy (227.466mph), displacing Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who’d held the spot for a good while in the No. 9 Honda (226.788mph). Kyle Kirkwood maintained his impressive form of late with a lap that placed the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda in fourth (226.727mph), and CGR’s Takuma Sato completed the top fix in the No. 11 Honda (226.265mph).
With rain forecast for Friday, IndyCar adjusted Thursday’s schedule to start early and give veterans a two-hour session from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Reigning Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson topped the field with a best lap of 224.330mph in the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
The next session, dedicated for rookies and veterans in need of refresher runs, saw Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti lead the nine-deep group with a 221.569mph in the No. 98 Andretti Honda. Every member of the group passed their mandatory phases and all rookies were cleared to participate in the afternoon session.
It was the 2-6:30 p.m. window that turned interesting as climbing temperatures reached 85 degrees and escalating winds fired gusts of 30mph at all angles. As a whole, most teams used the final session to pile on more of the newly-available downforce and sample its effects while running in a pack, but with the thin air and high winds, most drivers struggled to get a read on the car’s behavior in such unstable conditions.
“We started with last year’s race downforce and then we added two of the options,” Dixon told RACER. “We did finish the run with everything on. It will be interesting to see where everybody ends up in the race and how much stuff people put on.”
After the Penske-Ganassi-Andretti top five, the stars of the day were Stefan Wilson in sixth and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 14th as both made their debuts for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, the lone Indy-only entrant at the test.
The only contact that took place occurred on pit lane when Callum Ilott was released into the path of Rinus VeeKay; VeeKay clouted the outside wall, but both drivers were unharmed. Ilott was assessed a five-minute hold penalty by the series.
Friday’s running is scheduled for 10 a.m.-4 p.m., weather permitting.