NASCAR focuses on potential aero changes in Charlotte test

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With an eye toward improving the racing on their intermediate tracks, NASCAR ran through a series of aerodynamic changes during a test session today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Six teams took part in the session, which was delayed by rain and continued past sundown.

Drivers included Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, Wood Brothers Racing’s Trevor Bayne, Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray and Michael Waltrip Racing tester Brett Moffitt, who filled in for MWR regular Brian Vickers after the latter’s announcement of him sitting out the rest of the year due to the discovery of a blood clot in his right leg.

“Our objective is to shake down some potential changes for the 2014 season,” NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development Gene Stefanyshyn said in a statement from the sanctioning body. “We will be doing this on an ongoing basis, with an eye to continue to improve our product on the track. It is really an exercise in continuous improvement.

Three different aero configurations were run during the session. Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service reports that the list of variables tested included changes to the front splitter, rear spoiler, back bumper and ride height, as well as the addition of a wicker bill across the roof of the cars.

Echoing Stefanyshyn’s thoughts on “continuous improvement,” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton indicated that the Charlotte test was focused on raising the competition aspect following the teams’ transition phase over to the new Generation 6 cars this year.

“As everyone knows, we did an unbelievable amount of miles last year testing many different configurations,” Pemberton said. “Our goal was to hand the car off to the teams better than the one that they ended the 2012 season with. We feel like we achieved that goal; we feel like the cars performed well, the drivers like the way the car drives.

“From that standpoint, it was a successful year…We will always continue to evaluate our competition and this is one of those programs that’s coming together.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.