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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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