INDIANAPOLIS — You may have heard some familiar engine noises coming out of 16th and Georgetown this week. You’re brain isn’t playing games with you. Even though it has the looks and feel of the Fall, the 2024 INDYCAR engine package has been getting some on track testing time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week. However, weather hasn’t cooperated to get much running in as unseasonably cooler temperatures have hung around the Indianapolis area.
That changes a bit tomorrow which is why a test on Thursday will happen between 4 teams for 10 drivers on the IMS road course too. This layout that they’ll use will be the normal 2.439-mile one compared to the old F1 course that the 2024 testing is being done on.
See, you don’t want to give the Honda or Chevrolet test cars an advantage or leg up by testing on the actual course they use. So they altered it.
The test on Thursday is a scheduled private test that was planned. So they get to use the course. Rain is supposed to come in overnight on Wednesday and cool things back down again but now as cold as it is now. The forecast for Thursday says low 60s with a chance of rain.
This is a big test for these teams as they try and catch Team Penske in terms of IMS road course dominance. Penske is also 2-for-2 to start the 2022 season off with too.
Plus, there’s been 13 natural road course races during this Aeroscreen era with Ganassi being victorious six times (3 in each season), Penske 4, Andretti Autosport twice and ECR once.
Penske and Ganassi are sitting this one out.
Andretti, has a gap to be filled and hoping to end that bad luck start to the season. They’ve not had very good luck on this track either so why not try something to gain some momentum back.
Prior to the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix, Marco Andretti struggled, Alexander Rossi had no podiums and just one top five, Ryan Hunter-Reay had two podiums but only three top 10’s while Colton Herta was 23rd in his first start back in 2019 and fourth that July.
Then in the Harvest weekend came and changed it all up. Rossi had a pair of podiums, Herta was fourth and second respectively and James Hinchcliffe was a respectable 14th and 13th respectively in the two races.
Now, only Rossi and Herta are still around. Can they plus Romain Grosjean and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco give Andretti their first victory on the IMS road course?
Andretti has 5 Indianapolis 500 triumphs, none of a driver obviously, but all as an owner. He’s had two Indy 500 poles as an owner too. The only thing truly missing for him as an owner at IMS is a road course victory.
This test can go a long way into improvement for the annual May race. Plus, the tracks that they tested on last year they had great races at when they came back to them.
They had a test at the World Wide Technology Raceway and Laguna Seca last year and one could say those were two of their stronger events. Ganassi tested at Portland to where Andretti didn’t and it showed in the pace at the end.
Does a test this time around help the same psyche and pace as last year?
Same can be said for Arrow McLaren SP. They did test in Portland during the summer break last year and learned a lot. They used that to help alter the course of the final half of the season. Will this help here?
Pato O’Ward told me last year that they’ve typically lacked the pace on natural road courses to the Andretti, Penske and Ganassi’s. With this being their Achilles Heel, this test on Thursday is crucial for them.
Juncos and MSR are just trying to keep things going. Simon Pagenaud used to be great here with Penske. He had three wins and five top fours in his first 7 starts on this track. But, over his last 4 he’s had no top fives with finishes of 16th, 10th, 6th and 16th respectively.
Same can be said for his teammate Helio Castroneves. He had 5 straight top sixes in his first 5 Indy road course starts but he’s been 20th or worse in his last four.