Chase-eligible teams – but not drivers – allowed at Homestead tire test

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With Goodyear setting a tire test for Aug. 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, you’d figure that drivers set for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup would be all over that opportunity.

After all, Homestead is where the last four drivers standing in the Chase will duke it out in a winner-take all battle for the championship in the Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 400.

But while NASCAR will invite Chase-eligible teams to take part in the Aug. 26 test on the 1.5-mile oval in South Florida, the sanctioning body has said that Chase-eligible drivers will be barred from the session.

As the Associated Press notes, that creates a problem for Team Penske, which will have to look beyond its two Cup drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, for the Homestead test since they’ve both already qualified for the post-season.

However, Penske may not have to look very far. This test could be a job for Ryan Blaney, who has competed part-time for them this year in the Nationwide Series (three Top-5s, six Top-10s in seven starts).

He also has some experience in a Cup car, as he made his top-level debut for the team earlier this year at Kansas.

Issues could also arise for Hendrick Motorsports if its fourth driver, Kasey Kahne, finds a way to qualify. Its other three drivers – Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson – have already locked themselves in. So, if Kahne qualifies, they too will have to look for a sub.

Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing has also qualified, while his two teammates, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., have not. Unless Biffle and Stenhouse each find a way to win over the next four races – and that would appear to be an iffy prospect at best – you’d figure RFR can use one of these two for the Homestead test.

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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