IndyCar notes: Wilson’s week of mileage; Plowman’s return

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It’s been a busy week for racing in Florida. NASCAR is cranking up its 2014 campaign at the Daytona International Speedway, while IMSA’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge are testing this week at Sebring International Raceway.

Of course earlier in the week, it was IndyCar at Sebring, for two days with a handful of teams. Some notes from those two days of running and elsewhere in the IndyCar paddock:

  • The busiest driver outside of the NASCAR world this week? That would be Justin Wilson, who got two days worth of IndyCar running in for Dale Coyne Racing on Monday and Wednesday, then has shifted into Michael Shank Racing’s Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype yesterday and into today. He’ll race it at the 12-hour next month. On day one in the Honda-powered IndyCar, Wilson tweeted, “It was a good first day of testing. The car went well and we are just trying to test a few bigger items.” On day two: “Yesterday’s @IndyCar test was good. Learned a few things. @josefnewgarden was the man though. I think that’s the quickest a DW12 has gone.”
  • Wilson’s aforementioned fellow Honda runner, Josef Newgarden, was also back in the saddle this week for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Of note, the SFHR team tested in a black primer car, not in the same livery as adorned the No. 67 car in 2013. The test was Newgarden’s first in the new calendar year.
  • A.J. Foyt’s new month of May recruit, Martin Plowman, had his first day of running in the Dallara DW12 on Wednesday, as he took over Takuma Sato’s usual No. 14 ABC Supply Honda. Plowman contested three IndyCar races in the previous chassis in 2011, but had yet to sample the new one after two years in sports cars. Tweeted Plowman after the day, “Fitness wise I held up well…but….G-forces under braking, boy… I feel like my neck is 3 inches longer! Need to change my bio to 5ft 9.”
  • Team Penske got in another day’s worth of testing Thursday at Barber Motorsports Park for all three of its drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Will Power. With IndyCar’s official preseason test set for Barber next month, the Penske team has an extra day’s worth of data to sift through in advance of that day. “The reason we can come to Barber and win it is because the cars are really quick here and seem to work pretty well,” said Montoya, via Al.com.
  • Simon Pagenaud’s new firesuit at IndyCar media day included both Charter and Valspar listed underneath the series and Honda manufacturer logos. Both companies have past histories in IndyCar with the Panther and Dreyer & Reinbold teams.
  • Bryan Herta Autosport posted a generic “great test last few days” and “happy to be back at the track again” tweet after its two days with Jack Hawksworth. But noteworthy there was the fact the car did not run in full livery, with the same dark and light blue color combination with Barracuda not flanking the sidepods or wings. Make of that what you will.
  • Panther Racing, which didn’t attend either the Sonoma test on Feb. 12 or the Sebring test this week, has announced its second public relations representative change in the last three months. Panther has not confirmed its 2014 plans as yet.

INDYCAR announces several rules and protocol changes for 2018 season

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series opener is still more than six weeks away (March 11, St. Petersburg, Florida).

But several rules and protocol changes that will impact much of the 17-race season were announced today by INDYCAR officials.

First is related to Indianapolis 500 qualifying on May 19-20, one week prior to the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

* Driver and entrant points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers for the race. The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, with awarded points decreasing by one point for each position down to one point earned by the ninth-fastest qualifier.

* Race points for the Indianapolis 500 and the 2018 season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16, will still pay double the normal points for driver and entrant.

There are several other changes on tap for the season, as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of those changes (information courtesy of INDYCAR):

  • The qualifying order for all oval track events except the Indianapolis 500 will be determined by entrant points entering the event. The qualifying order will run in reverse order of entrant points, with the highest in entrant points qualifying last. A car without entrant points will be placed at the front of the qualifying line. If more than one car has no entrant points entering an event, a blind draw among those cars will determine their qualifying order at the front of the line. The qualifying order for the Indianapolis 500 will still be determined by a blind draw.
  • Times have been set for the series-wide open test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway), scheduled for Feb. 9-10. The track will be open to all cars from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET both days. INDYCAR has also added four hours of track time on Feb. 8 (3-7 p.m. ET) for rookie drivers to complete their oval test assessments.
  • The series-wide open test at Portland International Raceway will be held Aug. 30, a day prior to the beginning of the Grand Prix of Portland race weekend. Indy car racing returns to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 11 years in 2018.
  • A schedule change for the month of May will see the INDYCAR garages closed on May 13 – the day after the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – to allow teams time off for Mother’s Day. The track will not be open to the public on this day. The garages will be open on May 14, but there will be no on-track activity.
  • Practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday, May 15 on the IMS oval, with the first two hours open for rookie orientation and veteran refreshers, then to all cars. Practice continues May 16-18, ahead of qualifications weekend May 19-20.
  • INDYCAR is granting teams that did not participate in fall manufacturer testing with the universal aero kit an additional half day of private testing. The testing is limited to one car per team and must take place in conjunction with the team’s first on-track test of 2018. Each team is permitted five hours of track time and two sets of Firestone tires.
  • Working with Firestone, INDYCAR has increased the tire allotment at five events. The race weekends at ISM Raceway (Phoenix), the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Texas Motor Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway will see teams receive an additional set of tires. In a related change, drivers outside the top 10 in the point standings will no longer have an extra set of tires available to them for the opening practice session of a race weekend.
  • The minimum car weight for 2018 has been increased by 10 pounds – to 1,620 pounds for road and street courses and short ovals, 1,590 pounds for superspeedways (both do not include fuel, drink bottle and its contents, driver and driver equivalency weight) – to accommodate for new parts and additional on-car cameras related to the universal aero kit all competitors will run in 2018.