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IndyCar teams to test over next month, mainly at Sebring (UPDATED)

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The long, five-month offseason is underway for IndyCar, but there is still some testing to look forward to over the next month before the end of the calendar year.

Seven teams: KV Racing Technology, Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, Andretti Autosport, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing, began testing on Wednesday and will continue through December 19. INDYCAR also outlined updated testing rules for 2014 on Wednesday.

Most will be at Sebring, while Penske will make trips to Barber Motorsports Park (Nov. 25-26), Auto Club Speedway (Dec. 9) and intriguingly, Phoenix International Raceway (Dec. 11).

Phoenix won’t be on the IndyCar schedule anytime soon but Penske will utilize a one-day test to enhance its short oval setup. Only two teams – Panther Racing (former driver JR Hildebrand) and Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti) – have conducted tests at PIR with the Dallara DW12 chassis since it was introduced in 2012.

Penske’s new IndyCar recruit, Juan Pablo Montoya, is not scheduled for any of those tests at the moment. Per the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer, Montoya is under contract with Chip Ganassi Racing through end of day Monday, November 18, after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Ganassi will run its new Chevrolets for the first time on Dec. 4, and Tony Kanaan will have his first outing for the team. Additionally, Alex Tagliani is still listed at CGR while Dario Franchitti continues his recovery from his Houston injuries.

Also of note, Simon Pagenaud is listed as testing for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, rather than the Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports nomenclature he has run under the last two years. Carlos Munoz will test for Andretti Autosport when the team runs its new Hondas for the first time.

UPDATE: 10:00 a.m. ET: A.J. Foyt Racing and Team Penske have been removed from testing at Sebring on Nov. 18. Dale Coyne Racing has been added with Arie Luyendyk Jr. Luyendyk Jr. has raced in Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series this year. The all-time Indy Lights starts leader has one career IndyCar start, the 2006 Indianapolis 500 with a family-run team.

Here’s the breakdown of scheduled tests, per INDYCAR:

  • Nov. 13-14: KV Racing Technology (Sebastien Bourdais, Mikael Grenier), Sebring
  • Nov. 18: Honda manufacturer test for Andretti Autosport (James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Simon Pagenaud), Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal), Dale Coyne Racing (Arie Luyendyk Jr.), Sebring
  • Nov. 19: SPM (Pagenaud), Sebring
  • Nov. 25-26: Penske (Castroneves, Power), Barber
  • Dec. 4: Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball), Sebring
  • Dec. 9: Penske (Castroneves, Power), Fontana
  • Dec. 11: Penske (Castroneves, Power), Phoenix
  • Dec. 18-19: SPM (Pagenaud), Sebring

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden
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MotorSportsTalk continues to run through the driver-by-driver breakdown in the Verizon IndyCar Series field for 2015. Next up on the heels of another breakout year, Josef Newgarden, who has recently re-signed with CFH Racing for 2016.

Josef Newgarden, No. 67 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 13th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 20 Laps Led, 10.7 Avg. Start, 13.7 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 7th Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 4 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 345 Laps Led, 8.4 Avg Start, 10.8 Avg. Finish

Josef Newgarden’s fourth year in the Verizon IndyCar Series was firmly, and without question, the year he arrived as the series’ biggest rising star. It followed on nicely after three prior years where he seemed to hit almost all the high points at various stages, but didn’t put together a fully complete season.

Perhaps some of that was due to having a teammate for the first time in his career, although it was not the same driver throughout the year – it was split between Luca Filippi and Ed Carpenter depending on the circuit. Still, there was always a second set of data to study and analyze. Even better, there was a Chevrolet in the back of his car for the first time, and that likely helped matters a bit. And retaining Jeremy Milless as his engineer continued to pay dividends; you can’t teach chemistry and it’s apparent these two have it.

It spoke volumes that in qualifying, Newgarden was the single fastest driver outside of the Penske and Ganassi camps all season. An average starting position of 8.4 was not only a career best, but best in the field behind six combined drivers from the two established “super teams.” Only at Detroit, where he had a nightmare weekend and at Texas, where Carpenter admitted the team missed the setup, did he start outside the top 12.

Yet it was in the races where again, he shone brightest. The Barber win was as dominant as it was overdue and deserved. The Toronto win – if a bit lucky due to when the cautions and pit stop cycle fell – was also well executed. Then the drives on the ovals at Milwaukee, Iowa and Pocono were excellent.

Far too often though, still, pit stops proved Newgarden’s undoing. Mid-Ohio was a sore spot again, and Sonoma in particular was the nadir. The other tough results races, notably at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and at Fontana, came through mistakes not of his own doing. Really only Detroit was a weekend he’d like to have back.

But he led the most laps in the field, he finally broke through to win, and firmly lived up to the hype and potential that’s been building for years. If you’ve been paying attention more than just this year though, Newgarden’s 2015 season will have come as no surprise.