Despite 3-week race break, drain of IndyCar in-season testing rolls on

Photo: IndyCar

The good news for those who cover the Verizon IndyCar Series on a daily basis is that there’s been a lot of in-season testing this year, and so random weekdays where there may not be a ton going on, there’s a lot to keep track of with drivers and teams testing in advance of races.

The bad news for those who work in the Verizon IndyCar Series, primarily teams and crew guys, is that this year’s increased volume of in-season testing is proving particularly draining.

And so even though we come to the longest break in the 2016 schedule in-between races – the next race for IndyCar isn’t until the final day of the Rio Summer Games on August 21 at Pocono Raceway – there’s still three days of testing upcoming at Pocono (August 4), Indianapolis (Firestone tire test, August 8) and Watkins Glen (August 11) in the next nine days.

While many of the multiple car teams can pick and choose which cars to go if not all of them do so, for a single-car team like Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the in-season testing has been a brutal part of the season. But even for the bigger teams it’s hurt at points, as well – Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams have been hustling for most of the tests too.

“Our objective as a team, for sure I’d like to add a car because I can tell you this year I think it’s hurting us. This year I think we’re struggling,” Graham Rahal told NBC Sports Friday during his media availability at Mid-Ohio.

“We’ve been testing a lot. Everybody has been testing a lot. When we’re testing and we have one car, versus Penske has four cars worth of data, it’s hurting us, it’s hurting us. We’d love to get the partners on this team to go and add a second car, for sure.

“I just feel like we’re having to work extremely hard to keep up this year with the others. Like I said, a lot of that is due to the in-season testing and the development that can go on.

“Where we go, it’s just me. So it’s been hard, quite frankly, to try to get through the checklist of all the items that we want to go through, try different shock stuff and everything else.

“These guys have worked hard. The next two weeks are miserable for them with all the testing. It’s going to be bad. Hopefully we’re going to have a good one.”

Here’s the testing calendar as it stands right now for these next three test sessions, via INDYCAR:

Pocono (August 4)

  • Foyt (Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth)
  • Andretti (Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi)
  • Ganassi (Max Chilton, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball)
  • Carpenter (Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden)
  • RLL (Graham Rahal)
  • Schmidt Peterson (Mikhail Aleshin, James Hinchcliffe)

Indy (August 8, Firestone tire test)

  • Andretti (Hunter-Reay, Rossi)
  • Ganassi (Dixon)
  • Carpenter (Carpenter)
  • RLL (Rahal)
  • Penske (Juan Pablo Montoya)

Watkins Glen (August 11)

  • Andretti (Andretti/Dalton Kellett, Munoz/Shelby Blackstock, Hunter-Reay/Dean Stoneman)
  • Ganassi (Chilton, Dixon, Kanaan, Kimball)
  • Coyne (Daly, TBA*)
  • Carpenter (Newgarden*, Spencer Pigot)
  • KVSH (Sebastien Bourdais)
  • RLL (Rahal)
  • SPM (Aleshin, Hinchcliffe)
  • Penske (Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud)

*Gabby Chaves is listed but it could be RC Enerson following his debut at Mid-Ohio

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”