Nearly two months after the curtains were closed on the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the sounds of 2.2L V6 engines – at least in an officially recognized capacity – are back in action today at Barber Motorsports Park.
The merged CFH Racing Chevrolet team has Josef Newgarden, JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter on site, while Andretti Autosport is also providing German Daniel Abt his first crack at an IndyCar. Newgarden and Hildebrand are driving the pair of CFH entries.
A tweet from Barber Motorsports Park said Graham Rahal was testing, but that was incorrect.
CFH, which has now come under the umbrella of Sarah Fisher’s single shop and merged its social media accounts (the former @ECRIndy and @SFHR_Indy are now folded under the previous ECR account at @CFHR_Indy on Twitter, for example), is key to watch.
This will mark Newgarden’s first time in a Chevrolet and Hildebrand’s first time back in a car since the Indianapolis 500. The team was due to test at Mid-Ohio with Newgarden and Mike Conway in September, but the test was rained out.
Hildebrand’s test is significant because Conway is at the point where he will have to decide his future between the potential of a full-time opportunity with Toyota Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship or to stay back and do his partial IndyCar season with CFH. There are three confirmed and five likely conflicts between WEC and IndyCar road and street races.
Hildebrand has been working towards a return to a full-time opportunity since Panther Racing ended his contract after the 2013 Indianapolis 500; he’s only driven three IndyCar races (2 2013 for Bryan Herta Autosport, plus this year’s Indianapolis 500) since.
Abt’s debut will be intriguing to watch. Note he’s in what was the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda previously driven by James Hinchcliffe for this test, in a car now adorned with Abt’s native German flag and some new backing on the rear wing.
Andretti Autosport has its fourth seat to fill after Hinchcliffe’s departure to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Abt’s a talented up-and-coming driver from GP2, who also races in FIA Formula E, and made his first trip to an IndyCar weekend at the Fontana season finale in August.
It will be interesting to see the road Andretti goes down with the fourth car.