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
Apr 19, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT
In a just-released video interview, 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski – looking perhaps as somber as we’ve ever seen him, at times seemingly ready to break into tears – discusses how heartbroken, if not potentially betrayed he felt in 2009 when team owner Rick Hendrick picked Mark Martin to drive the No. 5 Chevrolet instead of giving Keselowski the opportunity, even though Bad Brad insists Hendrick had previously promised him that ride in 2010.
Apr 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
The former Red Bull F1 competitor will start sixth on tomorrow’s grid at Silverstone.
Apr 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
If it has wheels and tires, it typically can be raced down a dragstrip. But take a pickup truck, throw in a high-power diesel engine in it, and you have a rolling battering ram that will take down anything in its path – even guard rails that are supposed to prevent that very thing from happening.
Apr 19, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
The former GP2 competitors qualify up the grid in their respective classes for tomorrow’s WEC opener at Silverstone.
Apr 19, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT
While we don’t condone street racing whatsoever, the video below is one of the best we’ve seen in a long time. Even better, it’s more of parking lot racing, with radio controlled cars burning up the asphalt and concrete — so no actual humans, animals or real-life vehicles were put in jeopardy. An added bonus is this is an outstanding homage to the Fast & Furious series, with particular emphasis on actor Paul Walker, who was killed last December in a tragic street racing crash.
Apr 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
If the Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t *the* coolest place to hold an Easter egg hunt, we figure it’s at least one of them.
Apr 19, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT
The future of Swan Racing in Sprint Cup racing is not looking good.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Toyota takes the pole for Sunday’s FIA WEC opener in Silverstone.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:09 AM EDT
Couple new sponsors for GTD team within TUDOR Championship.
Apr 19, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT
All smiles for Daniel after qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Apr 19, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
Massa and Bottas both make the top 10 despite wet conditions playing against them.
Apr 19, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Jim Clark’s record that has stood since 1968 has now been broken by Hamilton in China.
Apr 19, 2014, 1:45 AM EDT
Could Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel take advantage of the wet track to snatch pole position?
Apr 19, 2014, 12:45 AM EDT
Report reveals that Red Bull failed to supply accurate data, and what was supplied actually undermined the team’s argument.
Apr 19, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT
Red Bull driver fastest in a quiet final session ahead of qualifying later today.
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