INDIANAPOLIS — The calendar may say March but it sure doesn’t feel like it here in Indianapolis right now. Unseasonably cool temperatures and the threat of the pesky light rain showers have hampered any testing activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week.
Initially, we were supposed to see a two-car NTT INDYCAR Series test on Monday-Tuesday of this week for the new 2024 engine regulations. That went over into Wednesday since the weather has been borderline absurd here and not much track activity was able to be done as a result.
With a 100 degree ambient + track temp needed, there just wasn’t much time allotted where that was the case. It was in the upper 30’s and at times low 40s for much of Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was much better with sunny skies and temps in the upper 70’s, but windy. That wind blew in a cold front which made the forecast down right unbearable on Thursday with conditions of cloudy, at times wet and in the upper 30s again.
So, that scared away Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing initially leaving 10 cars among 4 teams for Thursday. Then with the weather moving the test now to Friday, it took away Arrow McLaren SP too leaving just Andretti Autosport’s foursome, the two Meyer Shank Racing cars and the Juncos Hollinger Racing car.
Andretti was rewarded an extra test day this season since they provide an Indy Lights team which is arguably the main reason as to why they’re staying too.
This is a big test for them too 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 could have been said for AMSP. 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?
They’ll never know since they too had to back out.
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 was 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.
The test will take place from 12-6 p.m. ET with the Turn 2 spectator mounds open.