Eight drivers, including IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power, tested the new chassis-engine package Thursday on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in advance of the MAVTV 500 at the track in Fontana, Calif.
Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, takes a 17-point advantage over Hunter-Reay into the 250-lap season finale. Both will return – along with 20 others – to put in another test day on the racetrack Sept. 12. That test will be open to the public.
"This track will be great to race on; it is so wide and we'll have room to drive," Power said. "We all have a long way to go, but I think I have already run three completely different setups and we still have lots to learn before we come back and test next week and then qualify and race.
"During a 500-mile race anything can happen and it will be very exciting for sure. We want the championship and will work with a 100 percent focus to get it. Now till the checkered flag falls, no slowing down."
Penske Racing president Tim Cindric, who is Power's race strategist, reckoned the test showed the modified aero package chosen for this race looks promising.
"I think the initial indications are it's definitely going to be a handling race, so I think it's no different than Texas," said Cindric. "It's early because we've only run here for a couple hours, so I think this is the worst case. The new tires and the cars are pretty good and pretty stable. We're not running fuel in them, so as you get throughout the run it becomes a bit more difficult. So I think you're definitely seeing a handling race at this point."
IndyCar president of competition Beaux Barfield attended Thursday's test as he sought driver feedback to help confirm the aero spec for the race. Lap speeds were in the 215mph range in the morning session.
Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti – all of whom competed in the last IndyCar Series race at the speedway in 2005 – joined Katherine Legge, James Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay and Power in the test session. Franchitti won the '05 race by 0.1117 of a second over teammate Kanaan.
"I haven't driven around the track since 2003 in a Reynard and I can tell you the track has picked up some 'character' since then," said Hunter-Reay. "But the race will be the same for all of us and I fully expect that the fans will see a fantastic race. We are chasing Will and want to keep hunting him to win the championship.
"We've already put a number of setups on the car and I think when we get to the race the fans will like what they see and I think that Chevy engine is up to the task. We are going to put on a great show – very similar to Texas – and I hope that we come out on top with a win and the championship."