IMSA: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing to skip Long Beach, Monterey races

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Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has withdrawn from the next two rounds of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, citing a need “to focus on reliability and performance testing with its ORECA Nissan.”

The team said between receiving its car late and not having the necessary amount of time to test, it needed to go through a thorough analysis of the new car (ORECA 03 Nissan), tires (Continental P2-spec, as opposed to Michelin P1-spec) and class (the combined P2/DP Prototype class of the TUDOR Championship). Only the driver lineup of Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr carried over.

These two lines also stuck out from the team release:

With all of this in mind, the team decided that it was in their best long-term interest to spend the time testing and gathering more knowledge of its new prototype while missing two races before coming back at Detroit at the end of May.

Furthermore, Pickett Racing also wants to study how the balance of performance between the Daytona Prototypes and the P2 cars pans out over the next couple of races.

Team owner Greg Pickett expanded on the decision to sit these two out.

“It’s never an easy decision to make when deciding to miss a race, let alone two. We had an issue at Sebring with the power steering that could have been a safety concern, fortunately it didn’t get to that but we want to make sure that we don’t have such problems again.

“It was a very short off-season for us, we received our car at the end of December and we were racing at the end of January. The team worked hard so we could be at Daytona and Sebring but we feel that we need to take a step back in order to continue moving forward the way we want.

“Additionally, while we did lead some laps at Sebring, the speed differential between the DP cars and the P2s is still quite big and I want to see what the series does with that over the course of the next couple of races, as these will take place at tracks that should favor the P2 cars.

“We came here to be competitive and we know that we have the drivers and the car to do so, but a big part of that competitiveness comes from the balance of performance and you can’t be fighting for wins if you’re not on a level playing field.”

The Long Beach race was always going to be a reduced grid anyway with only the P and GTLM classes, and this drops the projected field of 23 down by 1 to 22.

Pickett’s team has won the last three Long Beach races in the American Le Mans Series.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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