By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
This weekend is the unofficial start of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series as it’s the first open test of the year at Phoenix International Raceway. All 21 confirmed full-time entries will be at the test on February 10th and 11th. The Open Wheel will be on-site covering the action on Saturday so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Parker Hall/The Open Wheel
Schedule: Test Sessions from 3-6PM & 8-11PM (ET) on each 2/10/17 & 2/11/17
WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEKEND:
INDYCAR to stream all four sessions: From INDYCAR: “The Verizon IndyCar Series test at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend will feature all 21 confirmed full-time entries and will be streamed online by INDYCAR. “Test sessions both days run from 3-6 and 8-11 p.m. ET. Saturday is free to the public, with gates opening at 2 p.m. ET and with an all-driver autograph session taking place between practices. Live video streaming (without commentary) of all practice sessions will be available at racecontrol.indycar.com.”
Free Fan Entry on Saturday: From PIR: “Phoenix Raceway invites fans and media to the second annual “Prix View” Testing event for the Verizon IndyCar Series on Saturday, Feb. 11, Phoenix Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber announced today. The event will feature virtually the entire field of drivers and teams as they prepare to race under the lights in the Phoenix Grand Prix on Saturday night, April 29, 2017…Gates will be open from noon until 7 p.m., and fans can take advantage of free admission to watch drivers on track for testing sessions beginning at 1 – 4 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. Over 20 drivers will also be available up close at an autograph session on the Fan Midway from 4:45 – 5:30 p.m. Fans can obtain an autograph wristband from the Phoenix Raceway Booth beginning at noon at the Phoenix Raceway display on the Fan Midway, while supplies last. Parking for the Prix View Verizon IndyCar Series Test Session is free and can be found by following directional signage once they arrive at Phoenix Raceway. Concessions will be open on the Fan Midway at the Allison Grandstands and tickets for future Phoenix Raceway events can be purchased in the Octane Elevator Lobby.”
CGRT makes public debut with Honda: Chip Ganassi Racing Teams will make their first public on-track appearance since switching to Honda engines and aero kits for 2017 and they will do so at a track they dominated with Chevy equipment in 2016. There may be more important facilities to gauge their strength but their team’s dominance at PIR last year makes this an extremely interesting venue for an open test. A quick glance at 2016 practice times shows Chevy’s overall strength at Phoenix last year so it will be interesting to see how fast both CGRT and the rest of the Honda teams are in comparison to their Chevy counterparts this weekend.
New faces and different places: Ed Jones may be the only rookie signed on for the full season but that’s not to say there aren’t many drivers to watch this weekend. He’s joined at Dale Coyne Racing this year by veteran Sebastien Bourdais after the Frenchman’s long run with KV/KVSH Racing. Josef Newgarden’s switch to Juan Pablo Montoya’s former seat at Team Penske will make him a popular driver to watch this weekend but more exciting to me will be how JR Hildebrand performs in the Ed Carpenter Racing No. 21. ECR was fast at Phoenix last year and Newgarden dominated the short oval at Iowa for ECR so this should be a location where Hildebrand can be near the top of the charts. AJ Foyt Racing will be boosted by both a switch to Chevy and a new driver lineup in young guns Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly so they’ll be a fun team to track this weekend. Takuma Sato has moved to Munoz’s former seat in the No. 26 at Andretti Autosport and his veteran presence could be a lift to the team.
NEW LIVERIES!!!: You know we love liveries here and beyond simply the sights and sounds of cars on track again I’m most excited to see some of the new looks for 2017. Our 2017 livery pages are well underway and will be constantly updated all weekend. It does NOT look like we’ll get to see the most anticipated livery of the season as it appears Scott Dixon’s car will be blank this weekend as CGRT works on a replacement for Target based on a report from RACER and a picture of Dixon’s uniform for this weekend from Simon Pagenaud. It appears Takuma Sato will once again have Panasonic colors based on this picture of his uniform.