Teams from the Verizon IndyCar Series will take to historic Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in more than a decade for this Friday and Saturday’s first open test of the season.
PIR previously hosted Indy Cars from 1964 through 2005. The series returns to PIR for its first race since then on April 2, a Saturday night event under the lights.
Indy Cars actually inaugurated the opening of PIR on March 1, 1964. A.J. Foyt won that day, his first of four wins on the flat one-mile oval between 1964 and 1975.
Here’s the entry list for this weekend’s test. Of note, Alexander Rossi is not present as was expected and neither is Spencer Pigot from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, who will run three races but not Phoenix.
Ed Carpenter is the lone partial season driver confirmed to test, while Luca Filippi has been listed in the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
The track will be closed to fans on Friday, but will be open to fans on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. MST through 8 p.m. MST. It will be the first chance for fans to see the updated aerodynamic bodywork for both Honda and Chevrolet teams.
On-track testing for both days will run from Noon to 3 pm MST and again from 5 to 8 pm MST.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.