FONTANA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato put in a full day of testing at Auto Club Speedway in preparation for the 250-lap season finale Sept. 15.
All three started the session with the prescribed aero spec – fundamentally, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway spec minus a rear wing wicker.
“None of drivers had been flat around the circuit in the morning,” said IndyCar Vice President of Technology Will Phillips, who attended the test. “It was a hot day and quite windy during the afternoon so it was challenging conditions. In the drivers’ eyes, harder than Texas was in the race, so the conditions were very difficult. They thought it was a perhaps too hard and a bit more downforce was needed.
“During the course of the afternoon, I asked if they wanted to add the strakes to the package. Those that did felt that it put it in a similar state to Texas. As the track gripped up or cleaned up they would potentially be able to run flat for a few laps, and then tire degradation and traffic would take away that ability, which sounds very much like what occurred at Texas.”
Phillips and the technical team will solicit feedback from a multiple-car test Sept. 6 on the oval to set the aero spec for the Sept. 15 early evening race. Seventeen cars also are scheduled to test Sept. 12.
“We’ll be able to go into the week of Fontana knowing what we’ll be able to run,” Phillips added.
Pagenaud said he expects an entertaining and highly competitive champion-crowning race.
“I feel really good this year about the package for the ovals,” he said. “The racing has been tremendous all year long. (The test day) was a little bit difficult, I’ve got to say. If it was a little bit more downforce, I’m sure we could do some good, good racing.”
The racing surface also could be a bit unsettling, according to Sato.
“It’s quite bumpy through the corners and the four corners are different, which makes it very challenging,” he said. “We learned a lot and made good progress. It was a good start and a productive day.”