Skip to content

IndyCar opener coming up fast — and so are the drivers

Mar 15, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT

IndyCar Testing Day One Getty Images

The beginning of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season is a week away and, to some extent, the season opened this week with the only official preseason test at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. This year’s test has a little more significance than last year at Sebring because not only will they race at Barber, but they’ll be back in just a few weeks in race number two. The purpose was to not only run through the preseason checklist and try out the engineers’ offseason ideas, but also specifically prepare for the race at Barber.

The drivers also needed to continue to work off the rust. Though many had some testing at other tracks since January (Sebring and Sonoma), last year’s debut of a new car and engine package necessitated far more testing. At Monday’s media session, most drivers mentioned their disappointment in the lack of testing this year and a couple even said there may be more on-track incidents early in the season because of the inactivity.

Monday was media day and a parade of about 25 drivers through the media center. The great thing about a new season in any sport is the optimism. Everyone is still undefeated (or in motorsports, tied atop the championship standings) and there is hope for significant improvement over the prior season or that a move to a new team will be the answer. We think we have an idea how things will play out, but there are many variables and uncertainties. This time last year, how many would have picked Ryan Hunter-Reay to win the title?

What did we learn on track Tuesday and Wednesday? Well, we already knew Will Power was fast and he reconfirmed that – leading both days of testing. We also learned the engineers, crews and engine manufacturers found some speed this winter. Power was more than three seconds quicker than last year’s pole speed without using the softer and quicker optional red side-wall tires (worth about half a second) and all 28 drivers (in 26 different cars) were quicker than last year’s top qualifying speed. Cool conditions (temperatures in the 50s and low 60s), a recent track grinding to improve grip, and a different Firestone tire compound also contributed to the quicker speeds.

We also learned the competition is going to again be tight. The field was separated by 2.8 seconds (1:07.1 was the best time) and the top 16 were within a second. Among those that likely came away pleased were James Hinchcliffe (2nd quick), Justin Wilson (3rd), Tony Kanaan (4th), Takamu Sato (7th in his new ride with Foyt), Charlie Kimball (8th), James Jakes (11th in only 1 day with his new team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan) and Simona de Silvestro (12th with KV Racing) who said she was shocked when she first felt the Chevy power after suffering with the underpowered Lotus program last year. Graham Rahal (fuel supply issue), Marco Andretti and Sebastian Bourdais were in the group that didn’t get as much done and/or find the speed they were seeking. AJ Allmendinger ended up 18th quick as he tries to readjust to IndyCars while continuing his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. After talking with him, he seems most concerned with having the patience needed to get reacclimated. He understands the stiff level of competition and that he can’t just walk back in and pick up where he was when he won 5 ChampCar races in 2006. But, he’s used to running up front in these cars and has a high standard for himself. He also confirmed if Roger Penske is willing to offer a full-time program, he’s willing (and happy) to commit to IndyCar as his first priority.

The NBC Sports Network crew was also on hand at Barber this week to gear up for the season. The production team gathered many of the elements that you’ll see throughout the season while the announcers and producers reviewed some tape (from our broadcasts and examples from other shows) and got caught up with drivers and team personnel. Like the drivers and teams, we all wish the offseason was shorter as well. But, it’s almost here! We’re excited that we get to bring you the opener this year and I hope you can join us next weekend from St. Pete.

Kevin Lee is an IndyCar pit reporter for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KevinLee23

Latest Posts
  1. IndyCar: Helio, RHR, Pagenaud, Carpenter take part in tire test at IMS

    Sep 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Credit: Chris Jones/INDYCAR Credit: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

    Pagenaud reveals that he’s made his decision on where he’ll drive in next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

  2. Rodolfo Gonzalez, ex-Marussia test driver, samples Coyne’s IndyCar

    Sep 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Caterham GP2 driver Gonzalez of Venezuela attends an official F1 test session at the Mugello race track Reuters

    Rodolfo Gonzalez tests for Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar.

  3. NASCAR AMERICA Minute: A quiet start to Chase for Jimmie Johnson (VIDEO)

    Sep 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Qualifying Getty Images

    NASCAR AMERICA discusses how the defending Sprint Cup champion has been flying under the radar in the early stages of the postseason.

  4. Report: Grand jury now hearing testimony in Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. case

    Sep 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    NASCAR New Hampshire Auto Racing AP

    A local media report states that one of the drivers who raced with Stewart and Ward during the Aug. 9 race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park has been called to testify.

  5. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA breaks down 2015 rules package at 5 p.m. ET

    Sep 23, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Jimmie Johnson AP

    Coming up today: An interview with NASCAR executive VP Steve O’Donnell; Jeff Burton on what kind of racing the new rules package will produce; the New Hampshire edition of “Scan All 43″; and why is Jimmie Johnson driving a tank?

  6. NASCAR: Chase clinch scenarios for Sunday’s race at Dover

    Sep 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT

    Jimmie Johnson, your Dover winner from this past June, needs to finish 24th or better Sunday to move on to the Contender Round of the Chase. Photo: AP AP

    Where does everyone in the Chase besides Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have to finish Sunday in order to go to the next round?

  7. IMSA’s points standings get shaken up in Texas

    Sep 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    CGRpostCOTA Getty Images

    Points shift after second-to-last IMSA weekend of 2014 in Austin.

  8. Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Dover

    Sep 23, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

    All the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Sunday’s Challenger Round finale.

  9. 2015 Sprint Cup rules to feature reduced testing, less horsepower

    Sep 23, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT

    Pocono 400 Getty Images

    NASCAR’s top series is set to experience multiple changes next season.

  10. Reports: Ryan Truex will not return to BK Racing after missing New Hampshire

    Sep 23, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Toyota/Save Mart 350 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Truex has suffered eight DNFs in 2014 while driving BK’s No. 83 Toyota Camry.

  11. Report: Korea aiming for 2016 F1 return with night street race in Seoul

    Sep 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Korea - Race Getty Images

    Formula One dropped the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam last year after several seasons of bad attendance and money loss.

  12. Martin Brundle delivers brilliant comeback to Christian Horner’s dig (VIDEO)

    Sep 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Previews Getty Images

    Martin Brundle’s retort to Christian Horner a great bit of levity from Singapore.

  13. COTA: A circuit to behold from the passenger’s seat

    Sep 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT

    Photo: Tony DiZinno Photo: Tony DiZinno

    Not that we needed further evidence that Circuit of the Americas is awesome, but riding shotgun with Dindo Capello in Audi provides us said further evidence.

  14. Mike Conway sorting out 2015 open-wheel/sports car plans

    Sep 23, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT

    ConwayTOR2 Getty Images

    Mike Conway is operating from a position of strength as he looks to continue open-wheel/sports car balance into 2015.

  15. IndyCar driver presence returns for this year’s Petit Le Mans

    Sep 23, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT

    GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma - Day 3 Getty Images

    Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Bourdais set for Petit Le Mans appearances.

  16. NASCAR AMERICA: Team Penske pushing for incredible season (VIDEO)

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano AP

    They’ve already got the IndyCar title. But can Team Penske claim the Sprint Cup as well this season?

  17. NASCAR AMERICA: The evolution of Joey Logano (VIDEO)

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 Getty Images

    It hasn’t always been easy for Logano since he broke into the Sprint Cup Series in 2009. But there’s no disputing that the kid once known as “Sliced Bread” (as in, greatest thing since) has grown up.

  18. NASCAR: Penske, Roush Fenway squads test at Texas Motor Speedway

    Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Credit: Texas Motor Speedway Credit: Texas Motor Speedway

    Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum head for the Lone Star State.

  19. Red Bull GRC: Ken Block, Joni Wiman now the ones to beat in title race

    Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    GRCLogo

    A wild doubleheader in Los Angeles has left Block with an 18-point edge over Wiman as the series heads for Seattle.

  20. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA recaps day of survival in N.H. at 4:30 p.m. ET

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 Getty Images

    Coming up today: Highlights and analysis from Joey Logano’s Chase win at Loudon; an interview with Penske president Tim Cindric; Kevin Harvick’s Chase progress; Denny Hamlin’s nightmarish day; 16-year-old Cole Custer’s historic Truck win.

Video from NASCAR America

The evolution of Joey Logano
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Keselowski (1744)
  2. J. Gordon (1227)
  3. C. Custer (1136)
  4. K. Harvick (1131)
  5. B. Myers (1089)