Helio Castroneves ensured that he and Team Penske remained at the top of the testing timesheets as the Verizon IndyCar Series concluded a two-day promoter test day at the Phoenix International Raceway.
Competing en masse
for the first time at the historic 1.022-mile oval since 2005, 21 drivers participated in the test, which serves as a preview for the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix on 2 April. More than 5,300 laps were completed, with 18 drivers clocking times faster than the official track record set two decades ago by IndyCar great Arie Luyendyk.
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud led the way, with the Brazilian - who also topped day one - setting the fastest lap at 19.2735secs at the wheel of the #3 Hitachi Chevrolet during the climactic evening session.
"We had a little issue with the Hitachi car in the first session, but were able to take full advantage of the second one," said Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of the 2002 Phoenix IndyCar race, "The car seemed to be very solid in qualifying trim and we were able to jump into race mode. It's going to be fast and non-stop. The Phoenix fans are going to have a heck of a race."
Pagenaud was fastest in the afternoon session and second overall for the four sessions, with a lap of 19.2884secs. Both Penske drivers were more than three-tenths of a second under Luyendyk's 1996 record lap of 19.608secs, but won't see their marks recognised as official Indy car records can only be set during qualifying and the race.
"We've been doing race stuff all day and the times have improved, so I feel very comfortable in every condition now," Pagenaud reported, "We managed to get a snapshot of what qualifying would be like at that time of the day. The car was fast. So far, so good."
Since only four of the 21 drivers raced Indycars at PIR before, most spent the weekend becoming acclimated with the track that generates high G-forces in the turns.
"It's a very, very grippy place," said Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #11 Team Hydroxycut/KVSH Racing Chevrolet, "We're pulling over five Gs and it's a big commitment on such a place like this when you start to average speeds over 175mph. To give you an example, Milwaukee would be 3.5Gs, so it's a big commitment and big consequences if you get it wrong. It's a fun place but you've got to make sure you don't make a wrong assumption. That could be pretty costly."
Teams will now shift their attention to road/street course preparation with a private test at Sebring on Tuesday and Wednesday (1-2 March), before the season kicks off at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg over 11-13 March.
Combined timesheet - Phoenix International Raceway (26-27 February)
1. Helio Castroneves
190.894mph 248 laps
2. Simon Pagenaud
190.747mph 337 laps
3. Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 19.2917s 190.714mph 295 laps*
4. Ed Carpenter Chevrolet 19.3316s 190.321mph 253 laps*
5. Marco Andretti Honda 19.3351s 190.286mph 267 laps**
6. Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 19.3474s 190.165mph 202 laps*
7. Will Power Chevrolet 19.3560s 190.081mph 117 laps*
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 19.3986s 189.663mph 253 laps**
9. Scott Dixon Chevrolet 19.4259s 189.397mph 252 laps*
10. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 19.4375s 189.284mph 238 laps*
11. <>Graham Rahal Honda 19.4492s 189.170mph 240 laps*
12. Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 19.4915s 188.759mph 234 laps*
13. Takuma Sato Honda 19.4998s 188.679mph 249 laps**
14. Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 19.5228s 188.457mph 262 laps*
15. Carlos Munoz Honda 19.5478 188.216mph 284 laps*
16. James Hinchcliffe Honda 19.5614s 188.085mph 310 laps*
17. Gabby Chaves Honda 19.5629s 188.070mph 328 laps*
18. Max Chilton Chevrolet 19.5699s 188.003mph 307 laps*
19. Luca Filippi Honda 19.6833s 186.920mph 233 laps**
20. Conor Daly Honda 19.7490s 186.298mph 255 laps**
21. Jack Hawksworth Honda 19.9946s 184.010mph 194 laps*
* denotes time set in session 3; ** denotes time set in session 4