IndyCar Spring Training is Underway

Posted in IndyCar on February 3, 2023 by Oilpressure

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Some are saying that the 2023 IndyCar got underway yesterday, with the first of two open-test or Spring Training days for the NTT IndyCar Series. This is the first Spring Training held in the post-COVID era. The last pre-season open test was at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in February of 2020. This year, they are at a new venue – The Thermal Club, in Thermal, CA; just outside of Palm Springs.

Personally, I think the new IndyCar season begins in exactly one month, when the cars take to the Streets of St. Petersburg on Friday March 3. That will be the first official practice for the race weekend. But this is a well-deserved appetizer to fight off the chill of winter, during a week when we in the south have been plagued by three ice storms in three days.

Prior to the cars taking to the track on Thursday, there were two Content Days which took the place of Media Day. I attended Media Day, the last time it was held in Indianapolis. It was early February, and I left work and drove to Indianapolis on a Monday night for Media Day, which was all-day on Tuesday.

I met some friends at Charlie Brown’s early that morning. Then we spent the whole day in the IMS Media Center, with drivers and team owners. At one point, we went downstairs under The Pagoda for the unveiling of Scott Dixon’s new Target livery. We also went out onto the track for a presentation to Helio Castroneves – a section of fence that he had climbed in one of his previous three wins.

At the end of the day, I went to Dawson’s for a tenderloin before climbing in my car for the 4.5-hour drive home. I had a blast and decided I was going to make Media Day in Indianapolis a new winter tradition. The following year, they moved Media Day to Phoenix to coincide with Spring Training, and it hasn’t returned to IMS since. Oh, well.

Needless to say, I did not travel to Palm Springs this week.

However, it looks like the week has been enjoyed by many. The weather certainly looks inviting and the track sounds interesting. The Thermal Club is a very exclusive club, where the members have to buy property on-site and build a house within the first five years of purchase. The properties surround a race track used primarily for club racing. Owning a beautiful home overlooking a race track sounds like a dream scenario. But unless your pockets are extremely deep, that’s all it is – a dream. This is not for those families on a budget. (IndyCar photo)

Thermal

There is a total of five miles of track at the Thermal Club; with three distinct layouts and multiple configurations. IndyCar will be using the 17-turn, 2.9-mile layout. This will be interesting, because few fulltime drivers have turned a wheel at this facility. Since there is no race scheduled here, teams will be focusing more on performance than gathering data for use at a later date.

There have been some whispers about The Thermal Club hosting an IndyCar race at some point in the coming years, but it is currently not built for that. There is no infrastructure to host large crowds. From what I’ve heard, I’m not sure we will ever see a race at The Thermal Club, but I can see it becoming an annual Spring Training destination.

To the chagrin of some, there was no live streaming coverage yesterday, nor will there be any today. While it would’ve been nice to get a glance at the cars in their 2023 livery, I get why there is no streaming. I mentioned that there is no infrastructure for crowds at The Thermal Club, well there is no TV infrastructure for TV. There are no cables run, there is no area for a TV compound. It would’ve cost a fortune to set up multiple cameras in a venue not yet set up for television, when this is not anything more than a test. I don’t believe it is even open to the public.

Marshall Pruett of Racer.com did us all a favor on Wednesday, by posting this nine-minute video of a Garage Tour. This was just video from his phone as he wandered through the paddock, but we got to get at least a glimpse of most of the cars, and what they will look like in 2023.

Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin tend to rotate sponsors and liveries throughout the season. I am assuming that will be the case this season also, but for Spring Training, both of their cars were decked out in Shell/Pennzoil colors. McLaughlin had the Yellow Submarine livery that is a favorite to many, including me. Newgarden will be in a new color scheme – an all-red Shell V-Power car, trimmed with a thin yellow stripe. To me, it is way too similar to the red Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars that featured yellow lightning bolts in trim.

Several rookies made their debut yesterday. Sting Ray Robb (yes, that’s his real name) has joined Dale Coyne to run the No. 51, in a livery minus any sponsorship yesterday. Marcus Armstrong was in the good-looking dark-green No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants car for Chip Ganassi., while Benjamin Pedersen took his first laps in the orange Sexton Properties Foyt car. Augustin Canapino made his IndyCar debut in the new No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing car with their new bold team livery.

Several veterans also got acquainted to their new teams. Alexander Rossi moves over into a third car with Arrow McLaren from Andretti Autosport, Kyle Kirkwood left AJ Foyt to take Rossi’s old seat at Andretti and Santino Ferrucci replaces Kirkwood at Foyt.

Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport (AA) set the fastest time in yesterday’s morning session, with a time of 1:39.9303. Teammate Kyle Kirkwood showed how quickly he can adapt to a new track by posting the second-quickest time of the first session, while Simon Pagenaud was third-quick.

Rinus VeeKay was fourth fastest, and the fastest Chevy of the Thursday morning session. Josef Newgarden rounded out the Top-Five in his Chevy. Four teams were represented in the Top-Five, but Pagenaud’s Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) still has a technical alliance with Andretti, so they are quasi-teammates.

Will Power, Romain Grosjean, Marcus Armstrong, Scott Dixon and Jack Harvey made up the lower half of the Top-Ten. Seven Hondas, three Chevys and one rookie made up the Top Ten for the morning.

Like the morning session, the afternoon session was also paced by Colton Herta with a time of 1:39.372 – about a half-second quicker than his morning time.. But instead of an Andretti teammate just behind him, it was Christian Lundgaard in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as the second quickest. Alex Palou clocked the third-fastest lap of the afternoon for Chip Ganassi Racing. Romain Grosjean for Andretti and Will Power for Penske, closed out the Top-Five. Power had the fastest Chevrolet in the afternoon session. The remainder of the Top-Ten consisted of Scott Dixon, Callum Illott, Scott McLaughlin, Simon Pagenaud and Marcus Armstrong. Like the morning session, the afternoon’s Top-Ten consisted of seven Hondas, three Chevys and one rookie.

I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn, except that Colton Herta is fast – but we knew that. Many that excelled in the early session were off the pace in the afternoon and vice-versa. It really means nothing, because different teams were looking for different things at different times. Today will probably not divulge much more than yesterday did.

Another two and a half hour session gets underway today at Noon EST, 9:00 local time. The afternoon and final session starts at 4:30 EST, 1:30 local. As mentioned, there is no streaming, but you can follow Live Timing & Scoring here. Hopefully, we can get a lot more photos of the track, drivers and cars through social media this weekend.

No, the IndyCar season hasn’t started; but it sure feels a lot closer.

George Phillips

Something New to Complain About

Posted in IndyCar on February 1, 2023 by Oilpressure

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Groundhog Day is not until tomorrow, but it seemed like I was watching the Bill Murray semi-classic when the television schedule for IndyCar was released last week. When the dates and venues for the 2023 season were announced last September, we had to go through the usual gnashing of teeth over the lack of ovals, too many street courses and of course; the regular wondering when Michigan and Cleveland will finally re-appear on the schedule. Now we are going through it again.

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Some Common Sense Needs to Prevail

Posted in IndyCar on January 30, 2023 by Oilpressure

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I don’t normally like jumping into controversial topics, especially when I think I am in the vast minority. I also try to avoid politics. That’s a dangerous minefield to wander into.

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It’s That Time of Year!

Posted in IndyCar on January 27, 2023 by Oilpressure

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We have reached that point of the offseason, where things get fun. All of the seats have finally been filled, and even many one-off seats for the Indianapolis 500 are now taken. The cars take to the track next week near Palm Springs, CA at the Thermal Club – a club track that sounds interesting.

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An Interesting Storyline for This Season

Posted in IndyCar on January 25, 2023 by Oilpressure

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As we head into the 2023 season for the NTT IndyCar Series, I find myself intrigued with a storyline that has not gotten a whole lot of play – and it sort of baffles me. It involves driver Kyle Kirkwood, as he moves from AJ Foyt Enterprises to take over the No. 27 at Andretti Autosport that was vacated by Alexander Rossi.

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A Retro Look With a Contemporary Feel

Posted in IndyCar on January 23, 2023 by Oilpressure

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Most regular readers of this site know how much I detest change, and I usually tend to embrace anything that reminds me of times gone by. That’s why I was so happy to see that rookie Benjamin Pedersen will be sporting a livery this season. that spanned the late sixties to the late nineties.

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A Terrible & Trendy New Concept

Posted in IndyCar on January 20, 2023 by Oilpressure

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The Roar Before the 24 will be taking place this weekend, with a lot of drivers form the NTT IndyCar Series shaking off some winter rust. For those unfamiliar, this is the practice and qualifying weekend before next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. There is also some IndyCar news, as Sting Ray Robb was confirmed in the last open seat for the regular season – the second car at Dale Coyne Racing. We also learned on Thursday, that Benjamin Pedersen will drive a Coyote Orange car for AJ Foyt with the Number 88, to signify that AJ is now 88 years-old. That sort of begs the question why they didn’t run No. 87 last season when he was 87, but I guess that’s a conversation for another day.

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