PHOENIX (Feb. 12, 2017)—The Verizon IndyCar Series teams left the Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway either frustrated or happy after the two day session. Fortunately for A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply Racing team, they were in the latter camp.
“Overall with everybody being new, working with each other and learning each other, I thought it went very well,” Foyt said. “We got up in the top 10 with new drivers, new engineers and a lot of new crew members, so all in all, I’m very happy.”
Switching to the Chevrolet aero kit and engine would prove challenging for any team, but this year Team President Larry Foyt also hired new drivers, new engineers and nearly a whole new crew for the No. 4 car--which also received a new number.
“Certainly it’s an ambitious undertaking this season with all of the new circumstances around our team because there’s so much to learn,” the younger Foyt said. “We’re just trying to go as quickly as we can because the season is just about upon us. It was a good weekend but obviously we were just scratching the surface with the new aero kit. It was a really good test. We have a lot of data, ran through a lot of basic things and we stayed on the conservative side because we didn’t want to have anything to set us back.”
Carlos Muñoz, who is piloting the flagship No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, concurred, saying, “I’m really happy with the progress of the 14 ABC Supply crew, we finished higher up tonight so we’re much happier than we were yesterday. We were not looking for the speed this weekend, we were just finding the right balance on qualifying and race downforce. There is still a little bit of work to be done but I think we have a good baseline for the race.”
Conor Daly’s car had a problem early in the two-day session which caused him to miss the first of four practices but by the final session, his speed was in the top-10 along with his teammate.
“We started this afternoon session in a much better place than we had so that was nice,” Daly said. “I want to make sure we don’t fool ourselves because I’m sure the track was quite good but it was good we were able to run as many laps as we did. We tried a lot of stuff this afternoon which was good to do. I wanted a little bit more speed myself and a little bit more comfort but that’s what testing is for. In the end, we did a lot of laps with no issues so that’s good.”
Several drivers experienced troubles – all of which were in the second day of the test. Alexander Rossi spun and lost control in Turn 2 which was also where Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato contacted the wall in separate incidents. Josef Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais also had light contact in Turn 1 but did not hit the wall. J.R. Hildebrand tagged the wall in Turn 4 after light contact with Will Power’s rear bumper which broke Hildebrand’s front wing. No one was hurt in any of the accidents.
“Ovals present a unique challenge, especially a place like Phoenix where if you make a mistake, it’s usually pretty costly,” Larry Foyt explained. “It’s not like a road course where you can get away with it sometimes. Phoenix is such a difficult track and it does make it challenging. You have to be really careful with high downforce cars because you can see even in the test with the many accidents we had, when these things start to spin, they go so quickly that it’s hard for a driver to catch it. That’s why learning the new aero is so important. We are really just sneaking up on things trying to get the best data we can. We have some good data points so when we come back we know right where we want to be.”
Muñoz’s best speed of 188.490mph placed him sixth on the speed chart Saturday night while Daly’s speed of 187.659mph placed him seventh. When all of the speeds over the two days were combined however, Muñoz ranked 17th and logged 239 laps while Daly was 20th and ran 201 laps. Hildebrand topped the speed charts when he posted a speed of 193.234mph Saturday afternoon.
The Verizon IndyCar Series opens its season with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 12th. The Series returns to the one mile oval in Phoenix for the Phoenix Grand Prix April 29th.
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