PORTLAND, Oregon — The Grand Prix of Portland may not be until Labor Day weekend, but six IndyCar entrants were in the Rose City Wednesday for a single-day test session at Portland International Raceway.
Andretti Autosport took advantage of an unused test day to give all four of its drivers extra preparation for the penultimate round of the 2019 season, with Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach and Marco Andretti all making laps around the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course.
Meanwhile, two Indy Lights regulars also had the opportunity to test in an Indy car for the first time, as Oliver Askew drove Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the test, while Rinus VeeKay piloted the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, which is normally shared between Carpenter and Ed Jones.
Though the private test was a very low-key affair, with only required team and track personnel as well as a few members of the media in attendance, test sessions like Wednesday’s in Portland are still incredibly important for drivers and their teams.
“The championship is so tight that you’re looking for any little advantage over your competitors,” Hunter-Reay told reporters. “Some other teams decided to test at different tracks for whatever reason and we decided to come here.
“It’s a very crucial race because it’s towards the end of the championship fight so every point is extremely valuable and that’s not lost on us. That’s why we’re here.”
Indeed, a good race at P.I.R. is very important for an IndyCar driver looking to end their season on a high-note, and no driver could benefit more from Wednesday’s test than Alexander Rossi.
The driver of the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda is currently 16 points behind series points leader Josef Newgarden in the standings with four races remaining, and Rossi said that testing gives him and his team the opportunity to experiment and try out a few high-risk setup changes they would normally not make during a race weekend.
“If you do it today and it costs you 45-minutes, it’s not the end of the world, whereas if you do that in a practice session [during a race weekend], you could write-off one of your three chances to dial in the car,” Rossi told NBC Sports. “You take big swings at things and experiment and hopefully you land on something.”
The NTT IndyCar Series returns to action on August 18, with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Live coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.