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IndyCar tests at reconfigured Texas test minus some Hondas

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Helio Castroneves immediately noticed the differences at the fast Texas Motor Speedway oval where he has won a record four IndyCar Series races and led more than 500 laps.

Castroneves and other IndyCar drivers, minus several Honda entries, tested there Wednesday. They got their first laps on the 1 1/2-mile track since it was completely repaved and significant changes made to Turns 1 and 2.

“Very valuable anytime you can come to a play when it’s completely new, because it’s completely new right now,” Castroneves said.

“It’s a different layout for sure,” Simon Pagenaud said.

The Texas test was supposed to be a full-field open test with 22 cars. But points leader Sebastien Bourdais and several Honda cars were held out as a precaution because their engines had higher mileage on them. Other cars not testing included entries designated for four-time series champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ryan-Hunter Reay.

Instead of his usual No. 9, Dixon did laps in the No. 83 car of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Charlie Kimball. Dixon had the fastest lap of the morning session at 219.362 mph, topping last year’s pole-winning speed at Texas.

While maybe preferable to have more Honda cars on track, Dixon didn’t think it would be too much of a disadvantage in the testing to gather data on the track’s new surface and configuration. Cars also ran in groups at times to help determine downforce levels for the June 10 race.

“Always valuable to get track team as a team, I believe. Multiple cars, maybe not so much,” Dixon said.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda and IndyCar had agreed for that team’s No. 5 to use a manufacturer spec engine, with James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin sharing time in the car. But the car was parked after an install lap when Chevrolet made an official complaint based on a series rule that doesn’t allow for spec engines in open tests.

Since IndyCar rules allow spec engines only for safety, engine or tire tests, Hinchcliffe will be able to run the car for a tire test Thursday.

The Firestone 600 at Texas last summer was delayed 2 1/2 months, starting June 12 and ending August 27.

The race was red-flagged because of rain after 71 of 248 scheduled laps June 12, after having been postponed a day by wet weather. The race was still under caution when it started to rain again as track officials worked to repair the safety barrier after a scary crash involving Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden.

Daly and Newgarden didn’t participate in the resumption of the race, which Graham Rahal won on a last-lap pass to beat Hinchcliffe by eight-thousandths (0.008) of a second, the closest IndyCar finish ever there.

Newgarden on Wednesday ran his first laps at Texas since breaking his collarbone and sustaining a small fracture in his right hand during that crash.

“I haven’t really thought about it much to be honest with you,” Newgarden said. “I missed the race, which sucked, but it’s great to be back. I love this track.”

Texas decided to repave the track and do extensive drainage improvements after both NASCAR weekends last year also were hampered by rain. The old asphalt had become porous, almost like sponge, making it difficult to dry in a timely matter.

As part of the project, the banking in Turns 1 and 2 was reduced from 24 degrees to 20 degrees and the racing surface widened from 60 to 80 feet in that area.

“It is actually quite different,” Will Power said. “It’s a tighter radius, less banking. But once the grip comes, once you’re wide open, it’s very similar.”

The IndyCar test came three days after Jimmie Johnson won his record seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series there. Johnson started from the back of the field when NASCAR raced on the redone surface without any previous testing.

More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org

BREAKING NEWS: Phoenix will not be on IndyCar schedule in 2019

The sun has set on IndyCar racing at Phoenix, at least for the foreseeable future. Photo: Getty Images
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The sun has set on INDYCAR continuing to race at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway).

ISM Raceway president Bryan R. Sperber announced late Friday afternoon that the Avondale, Arizona track (in suburban Phoenix) will not host a Verizon IndyCar Series race in 2019.

Michael Knight of the Arizona Republic first reported the story, followed by an official statement from Sperber:

“We have enjoyed having INDYCAR at our venue for the full three years of our agreement. The series officials and teams have been tremendous partners.

“INDYCAR will not be on our schedule in 2019, we’re currently taking a pause to review schedule options for the future. INDYCAR is currently discussing with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) other potential venues and opportunities.

“We’d like INDYCAR to be on our calendar in the coming years, and we will work with INDYCAR to find a date that will help deliver a successful event.”

INDYCAR and previous open-wheel series have raced at the 1.022-mile short track since 1964:

* 1964-1978 as part of the AAA/USAC Champ Car Series

* 1979-1995 as part of the CART/Champ Car World Series

* 1996-2005 as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series

* 2016-2018 – The IndyCar series returned to ISM Raceway after a 10-year absence, However, poor attendance for each of the three years prompted both sides to not extend the three-year agreement that expired after this year’s April race.

Here’s the official INDYCAR statement:

“INDYCAR has enjoyed its time racing at ISM Raceway, but attendance in the past three years has been disappointing despite considerable investment from both sides.

“Track president Bryan Sperber and his team have been terrific partners and are developing a beautiful facility, and IndyCar will reconnect with them when conditions are right for both parties.

“Meanwhile, INDYCAR is moving forward with building a terrific schedule for the 2019 season.”

Because ISM Raceway is owned by International Speedway Corporation, speculation has already begun as to what other ISC tracks INDYCAR may seek to hold races at.

Among potential ISC properties that could host ISC events – and some already have in the past – include Chicagoland Speedway, Watkins Glen Intentional, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway and Richmond Raceway.

Other ISC facilities include Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway and Darlington Raceway.

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