Yes, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12 served as the season opener for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series. But in the three weeks that have followed before Round 2, it’s worth noting that there has been an overflow of activity in the longest in-season break of the year between races.
All this occurs before NBCSN kicks off its portion of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
It’s best to break down by team, and by series, what’s occurred:
- INDYCAR has released two rounds of renderings of the new 2018 common kit, which hasn’t been formally unveiled yet but with this version offering the closest look yet at what’s to come (Round 1 on March 29, Round 2 on March 31).
- The full-season quartet of Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Will Power have tested twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the month of May. The Chevrolet team used a Team Test on March 24 to be able to run alongside the Honda runners at a Honda Manufacturer Test; the team then tested Sunday, April 2 after a one-day weather delay for a Chevrolet Manufacturer Test. The four drivers also tested in the series’ Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 21.
- Juan Pablo Montoya also made his first test of the year at Barber Motorsports Park with the other four in the series’ Open Test on March 21, and was immediately back on the pace. And his successor in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden, explained how cool it was to work alongside him for the first time.
- Newgarden flew out to Long Beach on March 28 for the race’s media day.
CHIP GANASSI RACING
- Scott Dixon ran the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring the week after St. Petersburg in one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs.
- Dixon and all three teammates, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton, have had multiple tests. They ran at the Barber Open Test (March 21) a Honda Manufacturer Test at IMS (March 24) and a Sonoma Team Test (April 4).
- Ganassi team adviser Dario Franchitti was named to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
- Andretti Autosport has not yet tested at Indianapolis. The team instead did the Barber Open Test (March 21), a Sebring Team Test (March 28) and a Honda Manufacturer Test at Sonoma (April 4) with all four of its full-season drivers, Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. Rossi’s visor cam from Barber is linked here.
- Rossi made a cameo visit to Chicago to skate with the Blackhawks.
- Rossi also helped Honda motocross rider Cole Seely with a simulator run.
- Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Honda will see United Fiber & Data back as a primary sponsor for selected races, replacing hhgregg, which had been expected to be the full season co-primary sponsor but has since gone through major financial straits.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING
- Not a ton to report here but Graham Rahal again has done the same three tests as most: the Barber Open Test (March 21), Honda Manufacturer Test at IMS (March 24) and Sonoma Team Test (April 4).
- Rahal also made a pit stop to Texas Motor Speedway (March 30) for that track’s preseason media day and luncheon. This comes with a bobblehead… seriously. He won a thriller there last year.
- Rahal went to Las Vegas (April 2) for wife Courtney Force’s latest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race. A full schedule of where they will be on respective race weekends is linked here.
- World of Hyatt was confirmed heading into St. Petersburg as an associate sponsor; the sponsorship comes into more recognizable form at Long Beach, as the Hyatt Regency hotel in the track’s infield is prominent in the backdrop of TV and photo shots. The RLL team, including drivers, crew, owners and sponsors, will stay at Hyatt-branded hotels throughout the 2017 IndyCar Series schedule. World of Hyatt members may also gain access to VIP experiences during several race weekends during the season.
SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS
- Same story for testing: James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin tested at the Barber Open Test (March 21), Honda Manufacturer Test at IMS (March 24) and Sonoma Team Test (April 4).
- Hinchcliffe had a slightly more interesting test, going to Vallelunga, Italy for the second half of his ride swap with DTM driver and good friend Robert Wickens (March 17) and sampling a Mercedes DTM car.
- Hinchcliffe also supported CLIF Bar Indianapolis plant’s Day of Service (March 23)… and Hinchcliffe, girlfriend Becky Dalton and Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi were all Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders celebrity judges.
- Team co-owner Sam Schmidt will enter the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
ED CARPENTER RACING
- Tests: Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand at Barber for the Open Test (March 21), Sebring for a Team Test (March 28) and Ed Carpenter and Hildebrand at Indianapolis for the Chevrolet Manufacturer Test (April 2).
- Pigot raced the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, finishing fifth in the Prototype class.
- Carpenter has stated the team’s likelihood of only running two cars for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, although a third car may still come together late in the going.
- Preferred Freezer Services has been confirmed for a four-race primary sponsorship deal with Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet, Long Beach this weekend, the two races at Indianapolis and Toronto in July.
- Carpenter headed to Texas for the opening of the repaved Texas Motor Speedway the day after St. Petersburg (March 13). The reprofiled track kicks off this weekend with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race; IndyCar races there in June.
A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES
- Tests: Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz at Barber for the Open Test (March 21) and Indianapolis for the Chevrolet Manufacturer Test (April 2).
- Daly went to San Antonio for a regional qualifier for NBC’s American Ninja Warrior (March 24).
- Foyt will be honored with an exhibit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, set to open later this month.
- Foyt has acquired the former KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12 tub from KV’s auction last week (March 27), in expectation for a likely third car the team will run at the Indianapolis 500.
DALE COYNE RACING
- Tests: Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones at Barber for the Open Test (March 21) and Honda Manufacturer Test at Sonoma (April 4). The team, like Andretti Autosport, has not yet tested at IMS in 2017.
- Bourdais ran one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, coming up short of a potential endurance and Florida three-race sweep.
- The team confirmed Pippa Mann in its third car for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, again in the No. 63 Honda with the Susan G. Komen and Genetic Technologies partnerships continuing.