IndyCar announces changes to testing rules for 2015

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On the heels of a 2014 schedule that has pretty much sent the Verizon IndyCar Series teams and crewmembers on a non-stop thrash since the season opener in March, today INDYCAR confirmed that the testing schedule for in-season 2015 will be altered.

Pre-race open tests on the event weekend will be reintroduced, but the flurry of in-season testing will be reduced. There’s been a number of in-season tests this year, heading into “off weekends” on the schedule, that really didn’t make for any time off.

Note also a couple dates here in this release, as it relates to the 2015 schedule and introduction of manufacturer aero kits.

Here’s the full release from INDYCAR:

INDYCAR’s 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series testing regulations released today include no in-season on-track team activity but the re-introduction of Open Tests before selected races.

Provisions have been made in the rulebook for potential Firestone tire tests, new Verizon IndyCar Series teams and first-year drivers.

The regulations apply from Aug. 31 through Sept. 20, 2015. A team is permitted a total of 14 test days, comprised of engine manufacturer tests, team tests, Open Tests and full-size wind tunnel tests. Full-season entrants are allocated a maximum of 10,000 total miles for use in all on-track activity from the first race or Open Test of 2015 to the end of the race season.

“The reason for changing the testing regulations is about trying to contain the costs and fit into our new schedule,” INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker said. “Competition drives teams to test as much as they can because they’re trying to win races, but combined with the schedule it’s hard on the team members.

“Now we’re making provisions for race events to have promoter day tests, where the cars will be on the track and hopefully the promoter sees that as an opportunity to open up the stands for fans and sell race tickets.”

The first Open Test is scheduled for March 16-17, 2015, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. It will be the initial opportunity for teams to test manufacturer road and street course aero kits to debut at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27-29.

Other Open Test venues include the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway. Open Test days were incorporated in the 2013 testing regulations.

“Barber has a lot of fast, sweeping corners – areas where you’ll really see the aero kits perform,” Walker said. “The teams already have data and familiarity with Barber and Firestone has great tires for that circuit. The teams can compare and relate to what they’ve done in the past while getting a handle on the aero kit.”

The 2014-15 offseason on-track testing period opens Sept. 16. Six days of manufacturer aero kit testing with selected teams will be conducted from Oct. 6 to Jan. 18, 2015. Teams take delivery of the road and street course aero kit March 1.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.