IndyCar test underway at PIR; speeds 186-plus, plus other notes

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Times aren’t official during a test session, but this weekend’s two-day Test in the West session – a.k.a. “PrixView,” a.k.a. the Verizon IndyCar Series unofficial “spring training,” but I can say this after the first half hour of testing:

It’s gonna be ridiculously fast.

2:30 p.m. ET: Simon Pagenaud has already set what is a new unofficial speed record of 184.583 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, adorned with new sponsorship.

That lap time on the slightly reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway was 19.9325 seconds, so sub-20 seconds.

The official track record is held by Arie Luyendyk, set on the old layout, of 19.608 seconds at a speed of 183.599 mph.

There was some consternation about the old mark, although Luyendyk cleared that up on Twitter after I inadvertently typed in the wrong lap time.

Marco Andretti was first out and got a 180.647 mph best lap, with Tony Kanaan also posting a 180.967 mph lap shortly thereafter.

Pagenaud has the unofficial mark to shoot for for the rest of the test.

Temperatures began at 79 degrees Fahrenheit ambient, and 104 on track, per Firestone.

4:20 p.m. ET: Pagenaud’s 184-plus mph lap stood for maybe a minute or two before Helio Castroneves was quicker, and then Juan Pablo Montoya got into the 185-mph range and Will Power into the 186-mph range.

Now, under the fourth yellow period of the day (all for track inspections and debris), the leading driver is Josef Newgarden at 186.723 mph in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing. Newgarden’s best time is 19.7041 seconds.

So, simply put, if afternoon times go into the 19.6 bracket, that will eclipse Luyendyk’s lap time mark – even though the speed change has already been set. Times are below with just under 40 minutes to go, with the first runners in Chevrolet aero kits and the fastest two Hondas in eighth and ninth.

Temperatures started at 79 and 106, and have since risen slightly to 84 and 107, per Firestone.

Here are some other nuggets gleaned from the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock:

  • In a brief conversation with Dale Coyne, Coyne confirmed that they’re still working to finalize Luca Filippi but the deal isn’t done yet. For the Indianapolis 500, Pippa Mann’s deal remains all-but-officially-announced in what would be the team’s fourth car.
  • Gary Peterson of AFS Racing is here. The veteran team owner, who also drove many times at PIR in both Atlantic and Indy Lights from the 1990s into the early 2000s, is yet to find a landing spot in the IndyCar Series this year for he and longtime affiliated driver Sebastian Saavedra. Saavedra is among the notable absences this test, along with Sage Karam.
  • The Team Penske liveries here at this test are not final for the season. Per a Team Penske spokesperson, expect the final liveries for all cars to be unveiled next week, although Simon Pagenaud’s new colors have been revealed.
  • Per Firestone, the tire here this test is purpose-built for this track, and is based off the Milwaukee Mile tire. It should be an even more durable tire to handle the more abrasive surface. A display tire of the 100th anniversary commemorative tire is also here.
  • Gabby Chaves brought his seat to Phoenix, so he didn’t need to make a seat fit with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He just needed his belts adjusted.

We’ll have more to follow throughout the testing, which runs from 12 to 3 and 5 to 8 p.m. local time.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)