Phoenix test offers chance for Indy car homecoming

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When Verizon IndyCar Series teams gather Feb. 26-27 for a promoter test at Phoenix International Raceway, it’ll be the first time for many drivers on the 1-mile oval.

It will also be a homecoming of sorts, as PIR hosted 61 Indy car races from 1964 through 2005. The test serves as a prelude to Verizon IndyCar Series competition returning to the track for the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 1-2.

For a list of drivers and teams participating in the test, click here.

Among the most notable figures looking forward to getting back to PIR is four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and team owner A.J. Foyt. As a driver, Foyt won more races than anyone in Indy car history (67), including four times at Phoenix. The 81-year-old christened the Avondale, Ariz., facility by winning its inaugural race in 1964.

Foyt used Phoenix as a springboard that year, going on to win every race he finished (10 of 13) – including his second of four Indianapolis 500 triumphs – en route to his fourth Indy car championship in five years.

“I always liked Phoenix. It’s a great race town so I’m glad it’s back on the schedule,” Foyt said. “They’ve made a lot of improvements to the track since I first ran there, but one thing hasn’t changed: You have to handle real good. It’s a very touchy track, you can be on real good or off real good, there’s hardly any in-between. I know, I’ve been both ways – very good and very bad.”

Foyt has an eager student in one of his drivers, Jack Hawksworth, who will be leaning on his boss for tips on navigating PIR. Hawksworth is in his second season driving the No. 41 ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing Honda.

"We had a positive test at Sebring and it was very encouraging to see the steps the team has taken over the winter,” Hawksworth said. “From an organizational point of view, it was much better and we were also very encouraged by the general handling/pace of the ABC Supply car and amount of work we were able to accomplish.

"Phoenix is the next stop and, although it is a very different circuit from Sebring, we will look to pick up where we left off. We have a lot of general things to test and it will also be important to get a handle on some qualifying and race setup specific information for this circuit, seeing as it is the second race of the season.

"I am absolutely focused completely on maximizing the next few days and have no doubts that by doing so we will be a threat straight out of the gates this season."

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has fond memories of racing at Phoenix in the past. He made three starts from 2003-2005, with a best finish of runner-up in 2004.

“I’m excited for the return to Phoenix,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “It’s a really tough track and I know it’s changed a bit over the years with some resurfacing, so it will be interesting to see how it handles now.

“I love the area and Arizona is a great part of the world. There are a lot of fans in the area and I hope they are as excited as we are to return and go racing there again.”

Two previous Indy car race winners – Helio Castroneves (2002) and Tony Kanaan (2003) – are among the 21 drivers slated to test this weekend. Sessions run from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. ET both days. Live timing and scoring is available for all sessions at racecontrol.indycar.com. Feb. 27 is Prix View Day and open to the public for free. It includes a driver autograph session from 5:45-6:30 p.m. ET.

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