It’s hard to judge results from Verizon IndyCar Series test sessions, as teams and drivers concentrate on different aspects of performance besides pure speed.
At the Phoenix open test, because all teams were limited to six sets of tires over the two days, some teams focused on programs heavy on race setups and made simulated race runs using full fuel tanks in race-like conditions, others showed outright speed by running qualification sims in warmer conditions.
It all adds up to a lot of head scratching as to who did best.
But looking at statistics, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was the top overall driver during the two days of open testing on the 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway oval.
Newgarden, the newest driver in Team Penske’s stout lineup, posted the fastest time on Day 1 of the open test. Only he and Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing ranked among the top 10 drivers in every session.
Four other drivers – JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing and Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport – ranked in the top 10 in three of the four sessions.
"We've accomplished a lot with the Verizon Chevy,” Newgarden said. “The car was good early on (Friday), so that was definitely nice. The transition is going very well, actually. (Engineer) Brian (Campe) is getting used to my terminology and my sensitivities and the other way around. This has been great. We've been able to log a lot of track time and work through a ton of things."
For Honda teams, the test showed it may have closed the gap on Chevrolet, which has claimed the last four manufacturers championship with its short oval package, which is also used on road and street courses. Though Bourdais didn’t buy into the stats.
“The team did a really good job, and we got a lot of really good information,” Bourdais said. “Picking a downforce level will be critical when we come back. It’s going to be a ton hotter than it is now. We’re just going have to think long and hard about it and see what we come up with. It’s definitely not representative now, especially in the night session, of what we’re going to be facing in April.”
Rankings were determined by adding each driver’s position on the final speed chart each session. The driver with the lowest score prevails, though it may not be the most accurate indicator of performance.
The top 10 for 2017: