Mar 15, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT
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
Sep 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Pagenaud reveals that he’s made his decision on where he’ll drive in next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Rodolfo Gonzalez tests for Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA discusses how the defending Sprint Cup champion has been flying under the radar in the early stages of the postseason.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
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.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
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?
Sep 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Where does everyone in the Chase besides Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have to finish Sunday in order to go to the next round?
Sep 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Points shift after second-to-last IMSA weekend of 2014 in Austin.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Sunday’s Challenger Round finale.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
NASCAR’s top series is set to experience multiple changes next season.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Truex has suffered eight DNFs in 2014 while driving BK’s No. 83 Toyota Camry.
Sep 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Formula One dropped the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam last year after several seasons of bad attendance and money loss.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Martin Brundle’s retort to Christian Horner a great bit of levity from Singapore.
Sep 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
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.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT
Mike Conway is operating from a position of strength as he looks to continue open-wheel/sports car balance into 2015.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Bourdais set for Petit Le Mans appearances.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
They’ve already got the IndyCar title. But can Team Penske claim the Sprint Cup as well this season?
Sep 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
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.
Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum head for the Lone Star State.
Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
A wild doubleheader in Los Angeles has left Block with an 18-point edge over Wiman as the series heads for Seattle.
Sep 22, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
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
- Report: Grand jury now hearing testimony in Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. case 1
- 2015 Sprint Cup rules to feature reduced testing, less horsepower 6
- COTA: A circuit to behold from the passenger’s seat 0
- NASCAR AMERICA: Team Penske pushing for incredible season (VIDEO) 0
- Lotterer: “F1 (racing) isn’t what it used to be anymore” 0
- Joey Logano avoids “yellow fever,” wins at N.H. to advance in Chase 3
- Wreck involves several Chase drivers; Keselowski spins, suffers minor damage 1