Meira will return to action at Indy. (LAT photo)
Testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway next week will occupy some of the free time IndyCar Series drivers have until they report to Florida for the season-closing Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10.
Three-time defending Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves and IndyCar Series championship contender Dario Franchitti will join Vitor Meira, Marco Andretti, Tomas Scheckter and E.J. Viso at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 29-30. Seven drivers will test Sept. 30 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Meira's track action will be his first since being injured in a multi-car crash during the Indianapolis 500 in May.
"We're not going for any track records. I just want to give him some seat time so he can adjust to being back in a race car after being out for so long," team owner A.J. Foyt said.
Foyt, though, didn't give the go-ahead for Meira to compete in the season-ender at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I don't have the people to put together the proper effort for both Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Vitor," he said. "When I made the deal with Ryan, I had told him he'd have a ride for the rest of the season because I didn't really know if Vitor would be ready. And even though Vitor has been cleared to drive, the more I thought about it I don't think having his first race back being at Miami is the best thing for Vitor. There's a lot of risk and not that much to be gained. We want to get a good start on 2010 with Vitor and do more testing over the winter so I think it's in all of our interests to have him focus on next year."
Looking to 2010 is the objective of Firestone Racing and IndyCar Series testing at the Brickyard. Castroneves and Franchitti, the 2007 Indy 500 winner, will participate in testing various Firestone Firehawk compounds on the 2.5-mile oval.
Meira, Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) and Viso (HVM Racing) are scheduled to test the effects of the removal of the rear wing end fences and the caution light between the rear wing posts on trailing cars. The yellow caution light adds about 20 pounds of drag to the car, according to Indy Racing League senior technical director Les Mactaggart. He's seeking to improve the wake of the car so a trailing car can run closer at the Speedway.
Testing (9 a.m.-5 p.m. EDT, Sept. 29 and 30) is free for spectators to watch from the stands south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
"With more Indy 500 victories than all other tire manufacturers combined, the Firestone brand has become synonymous with the Indianapolis 500," Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said. "I believe the key to that success is that Firestone Racing has never become complacent. That's why we test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a yearly basis. The environment is always changing – even if it is a lot of small things, the changes add up. The cars change a little bit, and the track surface changes.
"So it's imperative that we go and track test to make sure we've got the best product possible since during the month of May, all eyes are on the IndyCar Series and its drivers, teams, partners and suppliers. And in 2010, the winner of the Indy 500 will cross the finish line on Firestone brand tires for the 61st time in the race's 94-year history."
Fans also can watch testing Sept. 30 (11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.) free at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the fourth floor of the Speedway Club. It'd be an opportune time to purchase tickets to the Firestone Indy 300, which will decide the IndyCar Series champion, and the Firestone Indy Lights race Oct. 9. Scott Dixon, who won from the pole at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval in 2008, holds a five-point lead over Franchitti, his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe is eight points off the lead.
Scheduled to be on the track are Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan (Andretti Green Racing), Sarah Fisher (Sarah Fisher Racing), Alex Lloyd (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing), Raphael Matos (Luczo Dragon Racing), Mario Moraes (KV Racing Technology) and Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing).
"Our first year of hosting the IndyCar Series championship and we get the second-tightest points race in series history," Homsetead-Miami Speedway president Curtis Gray gushed. "Three drivers, eight points, one trophy – and tickets for just $30 while kids under 12 are free.
"And rest assured Miami knows how to throw a championship party – here at Homestead-Miami Speedway, up on South Beach, down in the Keys. C'mon down and see IndyCar Series history, but plan on staying a while to soak in all the racing, the tailgating, the music and the parties."