The weather was warm, sunny and windy Saturday at Infineon Raceway for the first of a two-day test for Chevrolet drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Nearly 1,500 fans showed up for the test, the most of any test session held at the track. More parking areas had to be opened up for the packed paddock. The lure of a F1 driver (RUBENS BARRICHELLO) could have accounted for some of the interest, said JOHN CARDINALE, Infineon Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Community Relations.

Ryan Briscoe/Team Penske
Ryan Briscoe/Team Penske
Ryan Briscoe/Team Penske
Ryan Briscoe/Team Penske Photo Credit: Stephen J Scharf Photography 2012

RYAN BRISCOE/Team Penske unofficially was the fastest driver overall on Saturday…1:17.05, faster than the 2011 qualifying time of 1.18.8, set by teammate WILL POWER.

Overall, Power was second fastest at 1:17.83, followed by RYAN HUNTER REAY/Andretti Autosport-1:18.43; EJ VISO/KV Technology; JR HILDEBRAND/Panther Racing-1:18.73 and F1 guest driver, RUBENS BARRICHELLO/KV Technology at 1:18.91 – the only driver to slower that Power’s pole time last year.

Power turned the most laps and the fastest time in the am, in the 1:19’s, before he blew an engine in Turn One. He told his engineer he had no warning. The team changed his engine for the afternoon session and he went back out.

Ryan Hunter Reay/Andretti Autosport & JR Hildebrand/Panther Racing
Ryan Hunter Reay/Andretti Autosport & JR Hildebrand/Panther Racing
Barrichello, RHR, JR, Will Power/Team Penske & EJ Viso/KV Technology
Barrichello, RHR, JR, Will Power/Team Penske & EJ Viso/KV Technology
Ryan Briscoe/Team Penske & Rubens Barrichello/KV Technology
Ryan Briscoe/Team Penske & Rubens Barrichello/KV Technology
Jon Bouslog/Team Penske
Jon Bouslog/Team Penske

The drivers and teams included:

Andretti Autosport – RYAN HUNTER-REAY
KV Technology – Barrichello and E.J. VISO, with TONY KANAAN on Sunday
Panther Racing – JR Hildebrand
Team Penske – RYAN BRISCOE and WILL POWER & JON BOUSLOG, Team Manager

Ryan Hunter-Reay/Andretti Autosport
Ryan Hunter-Reay/Andretti Autosport Photo Credit: Stephen J Scharf Photography 2012

RHR lived the lyrics of the Eagles song, “Take It To The Limit.” He spun out in Turn Four after coming in too hacTSLN-Ww8xjrd and braking. He also spun out in Turn Nine at least once. He sprayed the track with gravel and landed softly into the tire barrier, breaking a rear wing. Otherwise, no harm, no foul. The resultant Red Flag caused the afternoon session to run past 5pm.

“So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time”

Barrichello drove the car belonging to TONY KANAAN/KV Technology all day Saturday. Kanaan will drive it Sunday. Barrichello has a helmet with pink on either side and a blue crown on top.

E.J.VISO drove the other KV car and confused a lot of people by swapping out his two helmets, one with pink zig zags.

The teams took a lunch break during which time the drivers participated in a media session in Victory Circle, attended by media and fans.

All the interviewed drivers indicated they were working on general setups.

I asked all of them what information they as drivers/teams would share with each other and what not. Issues common to all Chevrolet teams are shared. Briscoe said “There is a lot of crossover with Chevrolet. There is shared information and transparency with all the Chevrolet teams.” All said they would not share setups with another driver, even their own teammates.


Will Power/Team Penske
Will Power/Team Penske
“The older days of IndyCar racing is the only benchmark for us, so we are evolving in what we need to go fast.”

“I’m surprised and pleased at how many fans turned out. People are interested in the car. I’m surprised at how much grip the car has. I turned a quicker lap than the Team Penske pole time last year.”

“The car is running smoothly so far, and we’re going through our changes.”

“The IndyCar is heavier than a F1 car, but has the turbo kicking in, carbon brakes (which are very good, similar to F1 brakes), and no power steering.

Barrichello's carbon brakes
Barrichello's carbon brakes

“It takes laps to get used to the new car. I will be testing again at Barber.
“I hit the limiter all morning.”

“The track is steeper and more demanding than I’d thought.

“I like Infineon, It’s a great Track. It’s like European tracks, such as Spa and Donnington. Here I know where to brake, but not where to turn in the blind corners.

“RB stands for ReBirth. I need to understand the positive on the other side of the (F1) negative. I watch IndyCar all the time, so I’m very happy.
It’s my wish and the team’s wish, I think, so we’re working on it.”

Barrichello hopes to make a sponsorship announcement next week. The season starts soon.

E.J. Viso/KV Technology
Rubens Barrichello/KV Technology Photo Credit: Stephen J Scharf Photography 2012
Welcomed Rubens Barrichello. “He is going to be an asset for all of us, with all of his F1 experience”

We’ve been most working through general setup issues. Glad to be here.
The new car handles well, is more nimble, more grip, more power in the plant.
There’s a lot of learning going on.

Surprised at the good fan turnout. We’ve been generally sorting up new things.
It was cooler this morning, and we ran close to our 2011 qualifying time. The car has lots of downforce and is surprisingly fast.
We came here with an open slate.
I want to be on the track more, and make bigger changes.
Carbon brakes are new on the road course, so we’re all trying to figure them out.
The turbo is different at Infineon. I’m slower in the corners.

Panther Racing has a female gear box specialist, Anna CHATTES. This is her second year with Panther, and her thirteenth in the business.

Jimmy Vasser, co-owner of KV Technology showing off his new car
Jimmy Vasser, co-owner of KV Technology showing off his new car

There will be no Power To Push this year, so far.

There’s the Power to Weight concept.

We don’t need 900 hp. We don’t need to go faster. Pack racing is a driVer safety issue and there’s always the budget and cost issues.

After testing last week at Texas Motor Speedway with Briscoe and ALEX TAGLIANI, TK told SPEED TV’s Robin Miller that he didn’t like pack racing at Texas Motor Speedway. “After Dan’s (Wheldon) tragedy, IndyCar told us there would be no more pack racing. “I can tell you after the test that there’s going to be pack racing with this aero package unless the downforce is reduced. But we’re hoping that IndyCar can make some changes before we go back as a group and test again at Texas.”

TK still feels that way. He, along with JUSTIN WILSON and DARIO FRANCHITTI comprise the IndyCar Drivers’ Group, representing the IndyCar drivers, and Kanaan has been the spokesman. Kanaan told me later that the Group has been in discussions with IndyCar’s new Vice President of Technology, WILL PHILLIPS about their concerns.

Kanaan has already gone on record saying “We don’t think boycotting is the right thing to do at this time.” Wilson told Miller he “felt the subject should come up again if no further changes are made. I wouldn’t rule it out if no one is going to pay attention.”

The Drivers Group has had a lot of discussions with IndyCar about Timing & Scoring.
Kanaan commented that “in 2011, there was much discretion in the rules … discretion is not a rule. This year will be better. We want to respect BEAUX BARFIELD, IndyCar’s new Race Director, and we want consistency. We don’t want to write the rules – just tell us what is the rule.”

JON ‘MYRON’ BOUSLOG/Team Penske Team Manager
“Work is our one job description.”

He showed the Penske steering wheel – and demonstrated how 100 wires, a loom, goes from the car into the steering wheel, contacting 23 pins. It was too complicated for the drivers to understand.

Kanaan said “The gap has closed.”

JR Hildebrand/Panther Racing
JR Hildebrand/Panther Racing Photo Credit: Stephen J Scharf Photography 2012
Hildebrand said “One car can’t do all the testings that is done by the multi-car teams. One of the larger IndyCar teams had all of its drivers in different cars at different tracks testing different things. Hildebrand “can only test one car at a time at any given venue, and suffers from lack of sharing of team setups.”
Put in a new engine for the afternoon session.

Barrichello, Briscoe, RHR, Hildebrand, and Power all said “Winning.” Hildebrand added “or beating everyone else.”
VISO said “What comes afterward.”

HILDEBRAND said “They were exciting in some places. Single or double file restarts are OK. I don’t like processional races and neither do the fans.”

Barrichello said “My wife loves it.”
Hunter-Reay said “A mix is important, but they have to be the right venues.”

RANDY BERNARD had said at the IndyCar Summit that he wanted 20 races on the 2013 schedule. I asked all the drivers what venues they’d like to add.

The first immediate answer from several was Surfer’s Paradise, followed by Fort Lauderdale for RHR. It is his home town and it has been working on holding an event.
Road America was another popular choice, but RHR said “We need to get the people there.

Briscoe said while the drivers and teams want to go back to Surfer’s Paradise as a race venue, there are problems – the date in October is set by the Queensland Government, and the IndyCar season ends in September. IndyCar wants the last race to be in the US.

Briscoe will again be racing as a Guest Driver with the HRT (Holden Racing Team) in the 2012 Surfers Paradise V8 race. He’s raced with HRT since 2006. Power hopes to race in Surfers also.