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Team Penske drivers give Circuit of the Americas high marks

by Mike Haag | Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Will Power sails through Turns 16-17 during the Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

 

AUSTIN, Texas – If Team Penske drivers were giving out grades the Circuit of the Americas would definitely get an A.

Helio Castroneves on course during the Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

On Tuesday Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power held their first-ever open test session on the 3.4 mile track. They joined some 21 other drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series to prepare for the inaugural visit at COTA for the INDYCAR classic on March 24.

“It was great,” Castroneves said. “I have to be honest, a bit of a quick reaction first time out there, especially in the place I have no idea. The first time I’m driving. Kind of like it was very rush.

“But towards the end of the day, it was a little bit better. Still getting the timing right. Great to be back in the NTT IndyCar Series. Great to feel the horsepower, the quickness of the car, as well. It’s just like you feel the wind on the visor because normally you have the windshield, a year running with the sports car. Quite a lot of fun.”

Will Power navigates the Esses complex during the Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

After two test sessions, Power and Castroneves were the fastest of the Penske quartet, finishing 2-3.

Power, who is the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, ran a lap of 1:47.1044 (114.617 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Castroneves, who will try for a record-tying fourth Indy 500 title in May, was clocked at 1:47.6949 (113.989 mph) in the No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet.

“We worked on a lot of setups,” Power said.  “It’s very difficult to get a good balance. I really enjoy the track. It’s really technical and a lot of fun. We’re going to think about it overnight and see what we can do. We were trying to get it into a good window where you can make small adjustments on the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.”

Power added, we took some big swings at it today, trying to understand when the tire comes in and how long it lasts and what package we want to run. We wound up with a lot of big changes. I think the track is phenomenal. It’s got every sort of corner you can dream of. I think all the drivers are going to love to keep coming here.”

Simon Pagenaud races through the Esses complex during the Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: Chris Owens

Pagenaud was Team Penske’s third fastest driver in his No. 22 Chevrolet after he was clocked at 1:48.0582, 113.605 mph.

“It’s been, so far, a fun day at the track,” Pagenaud said.  “You have to work hard here with 20 corners. If you can find a tenth (of a second) in 20 corners, that is huge. That is going to be the name of the game.”

Penske teammate Newgarden was 13th fastest overall after recording a time of 1:48.4210, 113.225 mph.

 “It’s really interesting to try and get a hold of this place in the No. 2 Hitachi Chevy. It’s very different than where we’ve been. It’s a long track, kind of like Road America. It’s very smooth. The facility is really beautiful. It’s kind of like running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to be honest with you, because the facility is so immaculate.”

Josef Newgarden waits along pit lane during the Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Newgarden added, “But it’s been tough. I think we need to find our footing a bit better. Our teammates were pretty quick at the end. We lost some ground compared to the morning. We weren’t as quick in the afternoon, but that’s testing. That’s what it’s all about. We got to try things and figure out what’s good and what’s not. This is a racetrack for us. We test sometimes at places we don’t race at, but here, we’re working on race setups and we’re trying to see what works.”

Team Penske had a very successful season in 2018. The team collectively produced six wins, eight pole positions, 18 top-five and 39 top-10 finishes.  The highlight of 2018 was when Power won the Indianapolis 500.

The 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season kicks off March 10 at St. Petersburg, Florida.  The race at COTA marks the first of two races in Texas.  The NTT IndyCar Series Will also compete at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8.

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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