Will Power testing at Indianapolis. Photo: IndyCar

It’s been a hectic three weeks of activity for IndyCar since St. Pete

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Yes, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12 served as the season opener for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series. But in the three weeks that have followed before Round 2, it’s worth noting that there has been an overflow of activity in the longest in-season break of the year between races.

All this occurs before NBCSN kicks off its portion of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

It’s best to break down by team, and by series, what’s occurred:

SERIES

  • INDYCAR has released two rounds of renderings of the new 2018 common kit, which hasn’t been formally unveiled yet but with this version offering the closest look yet at what’s to come (Round 1 on March 29, Round 2 on March 31).

TEAM PENSKE

  • The full-season quartet of Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Will Power have tested twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the month of May. The Chevrolet team used a Team Test on March 24 to be able to run alongside the Honda runners at a Honda Manufacturer Test; the team then tested Sunday, April 2 after a one-day weather delay for a Chevrolet Manufacturer Test. The four drivers also tested in the series’ Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 21.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya also made his first test of the year at Barber Motorsports Park with the other four in the series’ Open Test on March 21, and was immediately back on the pace. And his successor in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden, explained how cool it was to work alongside him for the first time.
  • Newgarden flew out to Long Beach on March 28 for the race’s media day.

CHIP GANASSI RACING

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING

  • Not a ton to report here but Graham Rahal again has done the same three tests as most: the Barber Open Test (March 21), Honda Manufacturer Test at IMS (March 24) and Sonoma Team Test (April 4).
  • Rahal also made a pit stop to Texas Motor Speedway (March 30) for that track’s preseason media day and luncheon. This comes with a bobblehead… seriously. He won a thriller there last year.
  • Rahal went to Las Vegas (April 2) for wife Courtney Force’s latest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race. A full schedule of where they will be on respective race weekends is linked here.
  • World of Hyatt was confirmed heading into St. Petersburg as an associate sponsor; the sponsorship comes into more recognizable form at Long Beach, as the Hyatt Regency hotel in the track’s infield is prominent in the backdrop of TV and photo shots. The RLL team, including drivers, crew, owners and sponsors, will stay at Hyatt-branded hotels throughout the 2017 IndyCar Series schedule. World of Hyatt members may also gain access to VIP experiences during several race weekends during the season.

SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS

ED CARPENTER RACING

Carpenter at IMS. Photo: IndyCar
  • Tests: Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand at Barber for the Open Test (March 21), Sebring for a Team Test (March 28) and Ed Carpenter and Hildebrand at Indianapolis for the Chevrolet Manufacturer Test (April 2).
  • Pigot raced the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, finishing fifth in the Prototype class.
  • Carpenter has stated the team’s likelihood of only running two cars for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, although a third car may still come together late in the going.
  • Preferred Freezer Services has been confirmed for a four-race primary sponsorship deal with Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet, Long Beach this weekend, the two races at Indianapolis and Toronto in July.
  • Carpenter headed to Texas for the opening of the repaved Texas Motor Speedway the day after St. Petersburg (March 13). The reprofiled track kicks off this weekend with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race; IndyCar races there in June.

A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES

DALE COYNE RACING

  • Tests: Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones at Barber for the Open Test (March 21) and Honda Manufacturer Test at Sonoma (April 4). The team, like Andretti Autosport, has not yet tested at IMS in 2017.
  • Bourdais ran one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, coming up short of a potential endurance and Florida three-race sweep.
  • The team confirmed Pippa Mann in its third car for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, again in the No. 63 Honda with the Susan G. Komen and Genetic Technologies partnerships continuing.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.