Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Spring Training Day 1

Day one of Verizon Indycar Spring Training is in the books. Spring training is the first and only test of the offseason in which all teams and drivers who will race a majority of the Indycar races get together and test out the cars and setups.

The day started off as a rough one. Cold weather and a damp track delayed the festivities. What was supposed to be a 10:00am-Noon, 2:00pm-5:00pm day had to be adjusted to a 1:10pm-5:00pm. Lots of track time was lost.

There were only a couple of incidents today. Sebastien Bourdais had an off, making contact on the right rear of the car, causing minor damage though it was enough to cut his day short. Mikhail Aleshin had some sort of internal failure (see Steve's tweet). Juan Pablo Montoya brought out a red flag, though he suffered no damage. And Oriol Servia ended his day after seven laps with a mechanical issue.

Lap times were down compared to Spring Training at Barber last year. Track conditions probably have a lot to do with that, as the cold air impacts track grip as well as engine effectiveness. In 2013 Spring Training, Will Power (on day 2) finished with session-leading lap time of 1:07.132. Today, Power led the field with a 1:07.649.

General Observations

Many drivers are sporting their new liveries at the test, which offers the majority of fans a first glimpse at the new paint schemes. I think the best so far has easily been Sebastien Bourdais's KVSH Racing car sponsored by Hydroxycut. Absolutely gorgeous.

Three rookies in the Indycar field are still getting up to speed. As documented above, Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Hamilton Peterson Motorsports ended the day with mechanical failures, though he was the quickest of the rookies, finishing just over a second off of Will Power's time. Jack Hawksworth finished two-tenths off of Aleshin for Bryan Herta Autosport in P19. And Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport rounded out the rookie class in P20, just off of Hawksworth.

TBA is still nowhere to be found. If you find TBA, please bring him to Dale Coyne Racing so their second car can get underway. Thank you.

Even though Chevy locked out the top four positions, Honda did have an impressive showing, proving pace that was feared to have been missing. Several drivers not at Andretti Autosport, the flagship Honda team, did well, including Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson, and Simon Pagenaud.

Having said that, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske look to be alligning themselves for a head-bashing season. Team Penske has been amazingly quick out of the gate, taking the top three spots. Scott Dixon snagged P4, leading the way for Chip Ganassi Racing. Tony Kanaan also makes his official debut for Chip Ganassi Racing, a combination many people are still having a tough time getting used to. Kanaan finished today P12.

Scott Dixon Scott Dixon of New Zealand, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Tony Kanaan of Brazil driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet speak to the media during IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports Park on March 17, 2014 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dixon (left) and Kanaan (not left) address the media (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Imgages North America)

Mike Conway had an impressive debut for Ed Carpenter Racing, doing things to that car that had never been done a road course (mainly, keeping pace with the front-runners). Him on the twisties and Ed on the ovals could be trouble for the rest of the field.

Many teams and drivers have learned valuable things about the car and have gathered lots of data. Look for several teams and drivers to make strides tomorrow in Day 2!

Official session lap times and laps run:

Day 1
Pos Driver Time Laps
1 Will Power 1:07.649 48
2 Juan Pablo Montoya 1:07.717 55
3 Helio Castroneves 1:07.721 51
4 Scott Dixon 1:07.822 40
5 Takuma Sato 1:07.861 39
6 Ryan Briscoe 1:07.883 44
7 Justin Wilson 1:07.886 31
8 Simon Pagenaud 1:08.068 35
9 James Hinchcliffe 1:08.162 32
10 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:08.319 30
11 Charlie Kimball 1:08.320 41
12 Tony Kanaan 1:08.325 42
13 Mike Conway 1:08.473 42
14 Graham Rahal 1:08.490 33
15 Josef Newgarden 1:08.579 25
16 Sebastian Saavedra 1:08.653 50
17 Marco Andretti 1:08.668 28
18 Mikhail Aleshin 1:08.729 28
19 Jack Hawksworth 1:08.922 36
20 Carlos Munoz 1:08.929 42
21 Oriol Servia 1:09.216 7
22 Sebastien Bourdais 1:09.666 11


Bring on day 2!

-Matthew Hickey

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