Photo from twitter.com
Prodigal pilot J.R. Hildebrand – who’d been out of a full time ride for years – shot to the top of the speed charts Saturday during IndyCar’s open test at Phoenix International Raceway. Reaching speeds of over 193 miles per hour on the 1.02 mile oval in the afternoon session, J.R.’s nineteen second lap held up as the quickest of the weekend. Hildebrand then reverted to form and crashed during the evening session after contacting Mad Will Power.
Photo from indycar.com
Hildebrand’s ECR teammate and owner Ed Carpenter posted the second highest speed of the test at over 192 mph as Chevy swept the top five speeds overall. He was followed by the Penske trio of Josef Newgarden, Helio and Power. Recently featured Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin impressed as top Honda in sixth place with a lap of just over 191 mph. Clearly he wasn’t horsing around and no fake news was reported or influenced the results.
While Chevy again dominated the speed charts, Honda made its presence known during the evening sessions taking the top five slots albeit with slower speeds compared to the daytime sessions. This is significant though, as the horrendously misnamed Phoenix Grand Prix is scheduled to occur under the lights in late April. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) led the final session with a speed of nearly 190 mph. Clearly IndyCar’s Mathew Modine wasn’t joking around.
Photo from twitter.com
There were five crashes involving seven drivers overall, with Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal, and of course Takuma Sato all spinning into the wall and joining Hildebrand and Power in repairs. Gunslinger Newgarden and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais also made contact on track, though the damage was slight.
Over five thousand laps were turned in total with Helio putting in the most at three hundred and nine revolutions. Ganassi’s ace Scott Dixon turned three hundred and three laps, but the team seemed to struggle in its transition back to Honda from Chevy. In an IRR exclusive, team principle Mike Hull said the team is “fully engaged” and were “looking forward” to the test. Dixon’s best lap was 190 mph in Saturday’s afternoon session, good enough merely for 11th overall. Beside Aleshin, Dixon’s team mate Tony “the ancient” Kanaan, Bourdais and Comedic Canuck James Hinchcliffe all managed higher speeds in Hondas.
Happily for the paying public, it was announced that USAC Silver Crown cars will race in support of the big cars in April. It’s nice to be listened to by the series, if just occasionally. Now if only more large ovals like Fontana and Kentucky would be added to the schedule.