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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.

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”