Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thoughts On The Barber Test

With the open test at Barber Motorsports Park wrapped up, here are a few thoughts on some of the proceedings and on-track happenings.

-Newman/Haas Charges Ahead: The press, blogosphere, and social media networks all seemed quite impressed with James Hinchcliffe, who regularly posted impressive times near the top of the speed charts. Both Hinchcliffe and projected teammate Oriol Servia performed well for Newman/Haas Racing. Servia's going to be full-time; now, we wait to see how many races Hinchcliffe will get this year.

-Red Cars, Red Cars: As expected, the Ganassi and Penske drivers dominated much of the proceedings, with Castroneves taking the fastest overall lap of the test and Will Power being close behind. Scott Dixon had the third-fastest lap. The new Ganassi lads, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal, both ran respectable times, but they aren't topping the charts just yet.
Hinch had plenty to smile about.

-Sweet Parity?: Six different teams posted Top 10 times. Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay looked sharp for Andretti Autosport, and multiple drivers posted very similar times just outside the Top 10. Excluding Hildebrand's somewhat abortive test, there was a mere 2-second difference between the fastest individual driver fast lap and the slowest. Will Power will defend his road championship fiercely, but the competition on the twisties should be especially intense.

-Sweet Home Alabama: Slightly lost in the scream of the on-track engines was the announcement the Grand Prix of Alabama should be a sellout this year. That's a pretty healthy sign for a region some of us weren't sure would embrace IndyCar. Let's wait until after this year's event, but I'd say things are looking positive in that regard.

-Accidents Happen: J.R. Hildebrand can't be feeling all that hot after an incident on Day 1 of testing killed any hopes of testing on Day 2.  Mike Conway also had an incident that stopped his test, but at least it was on Day 2 and not the first day. Conway showed some good stuff before the incident; Hildebrand and Panther didn't get a chance to show any faster times.  They'll have to save it for St. Pete now.

-Jakes Not Flakey: (Man, I miss that restaurant). James Jakes is still a relative unknown, but he did a respectable (if unspectacular) job improving his time over the course of the two-day event. No one is sure what the driver situation will be at Dale Coyne Racing, but Jakes appears to be in that mix. I think a lot of fans would like to see Alex Lloyd back in the #19, but that front's been pretty quiet. Take heart; nothing may be finalized at Coyne until the very last minute.

RHR showed speed for Andretti. Nice paint, too.
-Bourdais Back: Keeping it with Dale Coyne, it seemed a bit odd (but very neat) to see Sebastien Bourdais in an IndyCar once more. Sebas' times weren't exactly gangbusters, but I still think you cannot afford to underestimate this multi-time ChampCar champion. If there's speed to be had on a road course, Bourdais will find it. Now we just need to wait for Coyne and Sebas to make the deal official.

-This Is Only A Test: As I've stated before, these lap times are no reason to panic, especially if your favorite team wasn't quite where you'd hoped to see them.  Teams have a number of progressions and strategies in this test; what's going to be really interesting is seeing who's on pace when it comes to qualifying at St. Pete in just over a week.

(Images courtesy of IndyCar Media)


  1. Power was really impressive; he had a bigger lead on the field (minus Briscoe) than Casey Stoner had on the field in MotoGP, where the bikes are completely different. Hinch and Servia would good, and from what I could tell they weren't just doing qualifying practice. I was expecting a little more speed out of Simona, Rahal and Kimball. Hopefully that part of the test isn't reflective on actual preformance

  2. I think they'll be ok. Graham made some comments that he was getting ready to do a qual run at the end before the yellows. It does sort of add to the mystery of what we'll see at St. Pete, aside from Power will kick butt.