‘Test In The West’ Marks IndyCar Return To PIR

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Ryan Hunter-Reay on track during Verizon IndyCar Series testing at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. (IndyCar Photo)
Ryan Hunter-Reay on track during Verizon IndyCar Series testing at Phoenix Int’l Raceway. (IndyCar Photo)

The ‘Test in the West,’ which continues on Saturday, marked a return to a traditional and legendary IndyCar venue that began hosting IndyCar races in 1964.

“One of the first races I remember as a kid was the 1995 Indianapolis 500 when Jacques Villeneuve won,” Hinchcliffe recalled. “I followed that season and have watched a lot of races from that season in my life as a race fan and historian. Phoenix is always one of those tracks that you wanted to race on. It’s one of the good, old-fashioned staple CART and IndyCar tracks.

“Hopefully, we can keep that tradition at Phoenix going on for a while.”

Hinchcliffe believes the return to Phoenix with its IndyCar history and tradition and a new street race in Boston are both very important to helping INDYCAR continue to reclaim its past status and popularity as a series.

The April 2 Phoenix Grand Prix will be the first Verizon IndyCar Series race at PIR since March 19, 2005 when Sam Hornish Jr. defeated Helio Castroneves in a 200-mile race.

A second three-hour test session will be held under the lights at PIR later Friday night.

“We will have a big shadow over there in turn one, which creates kind of like a very interesting vision,” Castroneves said. “You kind of don’t like see. When we tested two weeks ago that was the biggest thing for me. It changed a little bit of the way it was so bright and all of a sudden it gets in the shadow.

“But once the lights are on, once everything is the same, I feel it’s going to be great. The good news is it’s Saturday night. I think the fans are going to have a great time. They can come and, whatever, celebrate with the winner or celebrate with the guys that didn’t win and still have a good time.

“It will be cool, as well. Obviously, the heat, it tends to change a little bit of the downforce. But when it comes to night, it’s going to be a little more consistent, and you’re going to see a lot of cars becoming faster. That’s why it’s important tonight to find that out what’s going to happen with the chassis.

“That’s why I have the test. That’s a very good question actually. That’s why we have two days. Maybe something we tried today might not work. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. At least you checked the list and said, this doesn’t work, let’s not try again. Tomorrow we come back, you try something else.

“It’s extremely important for us to try and drive at night, which is the actual time of the race. Even when we come back here, maybe the weather might not be much of a difference, but still it gives you a direction.

“But mechanical it’s part of it, for sure. It’s the whole thing. Today is basically the first practice for everyone. Everybody is adapting with the aero package, kind of like getting comfortable, getting the rhythm back. Tomorrow will be a little bit of the momentum from today.”