Team Penske Runs Strong at Phoenix IndyCar Test

February 13, 2017


Photo courtesy of Steve Swope

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – It had been more than 17 weeks since Team Penske’s INDYCAR program had been on the track before heading to Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) for a Verizon IndyCar Series open test on Feb. 10-11 and it was a welcome sight for the four full-time drivers and teams.

“It has been a long time since that Road America test back in October on the heels of a very successful season, but now it’s back to zero – another year,” said defending series champion Simon Pagenaud, who was behind the wheel of the No. 1 PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet at the PIR test. “Overall, the sessions were great. It was an opportunity to build on the knowledge base of last year and try to understand what we learned over the winter.”

Being fast is the name of the game, but test sessions can be a little different since teams have varying agendas and programs. On the combined scoring chart for all four three-hour sessions, Josef Newgarden ranked third with a speed of 191.932 mph on the 1.022-mile oval. Helio Castroneves, who is embarking on his 20th INDYCAR season and 18th with Team Penske, ranked fourth at 191.668 mph followed by Will Power at 191.637 mph. Pagenaud ended up with the eight-fastest lap at 190.842 mph. All four of those quickest laps were recorded in the afternoon session on Saturday.

The on-track time was particularly beneficial for Newgarden as he adjusts to his new team after making the offseason switch to Team Penske from Ed Carpenter Racing in October.

“We’ve accomplished a lot with the Verizon Chevy. The car was good early on Friday, so that was definitely nice,” said Newgarden. “The transition is going very well, actually. (Engineer) Brian (Campe) is getting used to my terminology and my sensitivities and the other way around. This has been great. We’ve been able to log a lot of track time and work through a ton of things.”

Castroneves’ drive and desire seemingly has grown since finishing third in the championship standings a season ago at 41 years of age.

“It was great to reconnect with my Hitachi Chevrolet team and car,” said Castroneves. “We got quite a bit of work done. The list was fairly long but we were able to get through it. Everyone gets caught up in the speeds but testing isn’t always about that which is why I feel really good, but I thought our speed was good when we needed it.”

What a difference a year has made for Power. Last season at this point he was working through a series of illnesses that cost him physical conditioning time that ended up contributing to a relatively slow start. This time around, though, he’s fit and ready to go.

“The Verizon Chevrolet team got a lot done. I’m really looking forward to getting a quick start this season. Last year I wasn’t able to do that,” said Power. “We’ve been very focused here on getting some things sorted out so that we can get out of the gate fast. We had a little change on the timing stand with Jon Bouslog coming over from the No. 2 car, but that hasn’t really effected anything. The communication is good. The car felt very comfortable.”

All four teams will travel to Florida’s Sebring International Raceway on Feb. 28 to work on road and street course setups in advance of the 2017 season opener, March 10-12 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida as the Verizon IndyCar Series waves the green flag for the season on the shores of Tampa Bay for the seventh straight year.