On Monday thirteen IndyCar drivers convened at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama for a mid-season test ahead of this weekend’s Long Beach Grand Prix in California. The test was pre-scheduled for the Andretti Autosport and Ed Carpenter Racing teams, but at the last minute it was added to the itineraries of Chip Ganassi Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, and Juncos Hollinger Racing. The latter three were involved in a three-day test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week which was ultimately scuppered thanks to horrifically cold weather.
Proving just how much time the teams have found in the last year, Colton Herta set a time on Firestone black sidewall tires within a tenth of a second of Pato O’Ward’s 2021 pole winning time in qualifying last year, which was set on scuffed Firestone reds. To set that kind of time in a test session is pretty impressive, though there’s no telling exactly what specification the car was built to. It’s possible the team was running a non-race-legal configuration to grab a headline or two.
In the afternoon session it was The Phoenix himself, Romain Grosjean, who lit up the top of the timesheets. RoGro set a time one tenth clear of teammate Herta, though it wasn’t quite as quick as Herta’s morning session time.
Defending IndyCar Champ Alex Palou, running once again for Chip Ganassi, put himself up into contention, running the fastest non-Andretti lap in the morning session, just behind Alex Rossi. The fastest of the Chevrolet times was a respectable time set by Rinus Veekay in his Ed Carpenter-entered car, running fourth fastest in the morning.
As with every IndyCar outing, Jimmie Johnson took this test as an opportunity to learn as much as he could about the car, the track, and perhaps himself. The seven-time NASCAR champ turned more laps than anyone else at the test, running 115 laps of the track’s 2.366 mile length. That’s just shy of 300 miles of testing for Johnson, and you can learn a lot about yourself in 300 miles. Johnson did reasonably well to finish in the top ten at the Texas round last month, and it would be awesome to see him continue to improve in his time in IndyCar.
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Teams will again return to Leeds, Alabama’s own Barber Motorsports Park at the end of this month for the fourth round of the IndyCar championship.