Team Penske 1-2-3 leads shortened first day at Spring Training

IndyCar, IndyCar News/Releases, INDYCAR PR — By on March 17, 2014 6:36 pm
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[Source: INDYCAR press release]

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Team Penske Cars Lead Shortened First Day of Barber Open Test

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Juan Pablo Montoya’s goals for the two-day Verizon IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports were simple: learn, discern and apply.

The scheduled seven hours on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course were cut in half because of a chill and mist in the morning of day one, but Montoya and teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves made the most of their combined 154 laps. The test day was especially effective for the newest member of Team Penske.

Montoya, driving the Chevrolet-powered No. 2 Verizon Team Penske car, was .0678 of a second off the front-running Power’s best lap of 1 minute, 07.6492 seconds. Castroneves was third on the time chart at 1:07.7214.

“I’m trying to learn how to get more out of the car and we’re getting there,” said Montoya, the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner who is returning to Indy car racing after stints in Formula One and stock cars. “It was good today, but there’s a couple of places that I need to do a little better job and be a little cleaner, but we’re getting there.”

Twenty-two drivers, including four who will make their first Verizon IndyCar Series start on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 30 (3 p.m. ET, ABC), participated. Testing continues on March 18 with a full-day of testing.

“I think it will be really good,” added Montoya, noting the more favorable weather forecast. “We’re going to try to get in some long runs and hopefully running in some traffic. I think that is going to be one of the key things (heading into St. Petersburg).”

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns in five weeks for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Reigning series champion Scott Dixon, who has been the runner-up in each of the four races at Barber, was fourth on the time sheet (1:07.8225). Like Montoya, he favored what could be gained and applied at St. Petersburg and in the future at Barber.

“This early in the season to get miles is the important thing,” he said. “Everybody has their first new engine spec of the four for the season so there’s a lot to be learned on drivability, there are some brake options that are being circulated that we need to get through, and really it’s just about getting ready for that first race that is less than two weeks away. There’s a lot to be achieved.”

Takuma Sato, entering his second season in the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing, was fifth quick (1:07.8691), and Ryan Briscoe was sixth (1:07.8834) was sixth in the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing car.

Five Chevrolet-powered cars and five with the new Honda 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 split the top 10. Every driver but Oriol Servia (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) had tested at least once during the offseason. Still, the looming season opener carried weight into these sessions.

“Every mile we do in testing goes a long way,” said James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport. “We only have two days left (of testing) until we head to the first race at St. Pete and we’ll be making sure all the software and calibrations are as good as we can get them.”

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

Hydroxycut will be the primary sponsor of the No. 11 KVSH Racing car for seven races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, including the March 28-30 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and co-sponsor for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Sebastien Bourdais, fresh off a podium finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring, drove the Chevrolet-powered car with Hydroxycut livery on the Barber Motorsports Park course during the preseason Open Test. Hydroxycut, the country’s No. 1 selling weight loss supplement brand, was the primary sponsor of the 2013 Indianapolis 500-winning car driven by Tony Kanaan.

“Having Hydroxycut, a world class brand that’s been chosen by millions, back on board with us long term is the last piece of the puzzle for our assault on the 2014 championship,” KVSH Racing partner James “Sulli” Sullivan said.

Mistic Electronic Cigarettes will be the primary sponsor for the other events as well as the co-primary sponsor for the Indianapolis 500.

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Tire degradation is foremost on the minds of Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe when they return for the fifth Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in late April on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn course that features hard braking and flowing corners and 80 feet of elevation change.

“With the treatment that was done to the track last year with some grinding it improved lap times but it also took a toll on the tires, so you need some sort of compromise,” Hinchcliffe said. “The other big compromise at this track is setup-wise the low-speed corners you’ll be dealing with a lot of understeer and some of the other corners the rear slides out. So you want a nice, stable rear and a well-connected front.

“We have a good basis to go on, but Firestone has a new tire this year and in testing at other places it’s been considerably quicker. I think we’ll be testing the limits of arm strength around here.”

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The entrant name for No. 77 car driven by Simon Pagenaud has been changed to Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports in recognition of Davey Hamilton rejoining the team for 2014.

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Gehl-branded equipment returns as a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing associate sponsor after a five-year absence.

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Roger Griffiths resigned late last week as Honda Performance Development’s technical director.

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Scott Dixon couldn’t repeat after winning Verizon IndyCar Series championships in 2003 or 2008, but is hoping for better luck in 2013, even if means he wears a bull’s eye on his chest, literally and figuratively.

“I think it’s obviously a good problem to have,” Dixon said. “I’ve been in this situation a couple of times before and we actually haven’t defended it that well. In ’09 we had a close shot and nearly won another championship. We will just have to sort of see how it goes. For us in the past when we have come close to another three championships I think it’s always been the start of the year that has kind of hindered us. I think we need to focus on making a good start in the first three or four races.”

Dixon could help his case with a strong run in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park next month. Dixon has finished second at the 2.38-mile road course every time he’s raced there.

“Barber has always been – I think I’ve finished second here every year I have come here. It would be nice to improve on that maybe. ”

NEXT: INDYCAR Spring Training Day 1 Quoteboard

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