More testing for eight IndyCar teams at Pocono

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The final stretch in the “no rest for the weary” portion of this 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule came Tuesday at Pocono Raceway for the second round of testing at “the tricky triangle.” Four drivers participated in a Firestone test at Pocono in April, eight teams tested today, and a full field open test is scheduled for the 4th of July.

In April, unofficial times from Firestone were estimated in the high-41 to low-42 second range (average speeds roughly from 211 to 214 mph). Unofficial times issued from this test on Tuesday are listed below by IndyCar PR. Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s fastest laps are unofficially 217.3 and 217.1 mph.

For most drivers testing, it marked their first opportunity to tackle the 2.5-mile oval. The IndyCar series has its first Pocono race since 1989 on July 7, with the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco.

“Pocono is pretty incredible,” said Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden, who wasn’t even born the last time IndyCar raced at Pocono. “I’ve never been to an oval like this. It’s a challenge and unlike anywhere we’ve been. It almost combines a bunch of ovals. You have one corner that’s like Milwaukee. Another corner that’s like Kentucky and one like Road America with a kink-like corner. It’s very unique and very difficult to get right.”

From Ed Carpenter, whose sponsor Fuzzy’s is the presenting sponsor of the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown, of which Pocono is the second leg: “Turn 1 (at Pocono) is a beast in the IndyCar. It’s going to be a fun corner to drive in the race and I think the fans will enjoy watching it. It’s definitely different than any place I’ve ever been to. We were trying to compare it to places we’ve been in the past and it reminds me of Phoenix a little bit. It’s its own animal.”

The only other Hondas testing besides Newgarden were Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s pair of entries (Graham Rahal, James Jakes).

Meanwhile the Chevrolet contingent included Carpenter, all four Andretti Autosport entries (Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, with Mario Andretti also on hand), Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power, Dragon Racing’s pair of Sebs (Saavedra and Bourdais, the latter of whom didn’t run), KV Racing Technology’s Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro and Panther Racing’s Ryan Briscoe.

Matty Brabham working towards IndyCar comeback

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Australian American young gun Matty Brabham is hoping to work towards a comeback in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Brabham, 23, was along with RC Enerson the two top young guns who raced a handful of 2016 races but didn’t get a proper encore in 2017. Brabham has instead specialized in racing in Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks series, where he leads that championship and hopes to win it this weekend in Lake Elsinore, Calif.

While his PIRTEK Team Murray deal was announced two years ago in December in a technical partnership with KV Racing Technology for 2016, Brabham didn’t get the chance to build on that beyond the two races he did at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Indianapolis 500 itself. An impressive qualifying run at the road course saw him nearly make Q2, while he fought an ill-handling race car in the ‘500 all month to finish his debut.

Being out of the cockpit hasn’t meant a lack of work, with Brabham having kept his face present at a number of IndyCar races working to put together meetings, occasionally driving two-seaters and then staying active in the trucks.

“All the racing stuff comes naturally as I’ve grown up in it around my dad (Geoff), and from my grandfather (the late Sir Jack) as well, that’s been the easy part,” Brabham told NBC Sports. “It’s the off-track stuff, finding sponsorship and the money to continue racing, that’s been the hardest battle to get into IndyCar or any motorsport.

“It’s been challenging but I’ve learned a lot on the business end. What a lot of people forget is that I went straight from high school straight into racing, so I don’t have a ton of business experience to learn about how to find sponsorship. It’s been a lot of learning as you go.

“Obviously you have to work on business deals and try to find companies. I’m involved with a lot of traveling, and I’ve been at a lot of the shows, PRI and SEMA and the main ones. The biggest thing is networking and talking to people, and learning from them, and go about doing it.”

As the Verizon IndyCar Series is riding a tidal wave of young talent gathering either part-time or full-time rides, Brabham is one of a handful that sticks out as being absent.

The 2018 field includes recent Indy Lights graduates Kyle Kaiser, Ed Jones, Spencer Pigot and Gabby Chaves – each of the last four champions – along with other drivers Max Chilton, Zach Veach, Matheus Leist and Jack Harvey who’ve all graduated within the last three years. That number could grow if either or both of Zachary Claman DeMelo and/or Santiago Urrutia find seats.

Brabham, Enerson and Sage Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion, are probably the three drivers most deserving of a full-time IndyCar shot for 2018 with recent MRTI experience that hasn’t got it yet. None has driven more than 15 races in the series, Karam only having had a partial 2015 campaign with three other one-offs at the Indianapolis 500.

Seeing the success his counterparts from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires have had hasn’t angered or frustrated Brabham, as it’s shown how capable the ladder is of preparing drivers for IndyCar. A switch to the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit next year is also key to note.

“When there’s a big change, you’re seeing guys with the guys I’m racing with in MRTI,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to show what they could do next year. I’d love to be a part of it. Envious of the guys testing so far. Everyone’s said it’s like a real race car that’s a bit more challenging to drive.

“But it’s really cool to have that going along, and be a part of. For the young guys, it’s quite difficult for them to jump in for one race, and compete against veterans for some time. It takes them a couple years to show results and win races. There’s plenty of young guys who could do so with the right environment, step into the series.

“It’s great seeing Jack, Spencer, and all these guys I competed with on MRTI do well – and I won championships – so it’s a little frustrating, but it’s great to see them get in and do well because I feel I could do just as well.”

Brabham was close to stepping into the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda last year when Sebastien Bourdais was injured, but didn’t quite have the funding to make it happen. Such an opportunity would have seen him filling in for his 2016 teammate, who he had nothing but high praise for.

“I think there were a couple of us in conversation – but it’s a sad thing when it happens and you never want to see it; plus, Bourdais was my first teammate,” he said. “He was great and very helpful. You hate to see it. Lots of conversations went on in the background, certain people put my name forward and my name was in the mix.”

Alas, his talent is still there, and it’s worth remembering past Team USA Scholarship recipient Brabham beat Pigot to the 2012 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title when the two were teammates at Cape Motorsports and then he followed up with a crushing performance en route to the 2013 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title.

It’s a common story for young drivers that talent isn’t the lone qualifier for an opportunity, but Brabham is hopeful he hasn’t faded from the radar.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations and in constant talks with the team owners and with sponsors as well. There’s nothing set in stone but I am working towards things,” he said.

“I’m kind of right on the edge of getting in there, will just take that last little bit of funding – which is the same for everyone else. I just need the lucky break to get in there for a couple races, show what I can do. I’m hungry and will work extremely hard. I know I can do it – it’s just a matter of getting that chance.”