Breaking Down IndyCar’s Early Offseason Testing Calendar

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As the new year is upon us, so is a fresh season of IndyCar racing.  Monday, January 8 has finally arrived and that signals the start of a new testing period for teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with operations making the trek south to Sebring International Raceway multiple times over the next two months.

With the help of IndyCar’s newly released testing schedule, we will take a look at the teams scheduled to test over the next three months and where to find them.  With only team and open series tests listed at this time, the schedule omits manufacturer testing dates that will certainly be utilized between now and the close of the offseason testing program on March 29, 2018.

Starting with visits to Sebring and Homestead-Miami Speedway in January, lets jump into the upcoming testing dates on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.

January

January 9, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Team Test for Andretti Autosport and Dale Coyne Racing

On Tuesday, January 9, Andretti Autosport will finally get their first crack at the 2018 universal aero kit that they have been desperate to get their hands on.  Andretti rookie driver Zach Veach will take the day to work through a rookie evaluation program approved by the series, and third-year veteran Alexander Rossi will be on track for a half-day program to shake down his machine.

For Dale Coyne Racing, Sebastien Bourdais will be on track for what is expected to be a full day of testing with the new aero kit.  Returning from the past weekend’s Roar Before the 24 event in Daytona Beach, Florida, the French driver seems to be at full health following his gruesome crash at Indianapolis last May that sidelined him from competition for over two months.

January 10, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Team Test for Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Coyne Racing

After a light day of work on January 9, Andretti Autosport will unleash their full stable of drivers on the 68-year-old Sebring circuit on Wednesday, January 10.  Drivers Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay will join Rossi and Veach on-track for a full day of activities.

Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing will return to test at Sebring in January.

Chip Ganassi Racing will be on location for this testing day at Sebring, using one of their team testing days to roll out cars for both Scott Dixon and his newest teammate Ed Jones.  Unique from the other two teams testing at Sebring over these two days, CGR is the only team of the trio that has already gotten a crack at the 2018 universal aero kit.

Dale Coyne Racing will bring Mazda Road to Indy development driver Zachary Claman de Melo to the festivities, aligning with Open-Wheels’ reports over the past few weeks that the Canadian driver appears to be in the pole position for the DCR No. 19 full-season entry.

In speaking to Racer.com, Claman reports that “I’m doing the test with Coyne, and it’s also looking more like I’ll be racing with them this year, but nothing’s done.”

January 22, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Florida
Team Test for Carlin

Making a trip to south Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway on January 22, new team Carlin will debut their IndyCar operation with both Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball on the speedway’s road course layout.

Currently, both drivers are scheduled for a half day of testing to shake down their machines.  This test was in preparation for the January 24 test at Sebring, but Carlin has changed their plans to now stay at Homestead for two days and not make the trip to the rough Sebring circuit.

January 23, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Florida
Team Test for Carlin

In an audible from the first released testing schedule, Carlin will now run a full day of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway on January 23 following a shake down day on January 22.

Both Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball will put their Carlin Chevrolet machines through their paces on the facility’s road course layout for a full day of testing.

January 24, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Team Test for A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti Autosport, Dale Coyne Racing, Michael Shank Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

In perhaps the busiest offseason testing day of 2018, eight Verizon IndyCar Series teams will be on-track at Sebring on Wednesday, January 24.

A.J. Foyt Racing will have the opportunity to get its rookie, Matheus Leist, in a 2018 IndyCar for the first time while Tony Kanaan gets his second crack at the new aero kit in a half day of testing.  Returning to Sebring for another full-lineup test, Andretti Autosport will bring each of their drivers for a complete day of testing as well.

Jack Hawksworth.

Could former A.J. Foyt Racing driver Jack Hawksworth find himself at Dale Coyne Racing in 2018?

This could be the first time that Zachary Claman de Melo gets an opportunity in a Dale Coyne Racing machine, as the team has Sebastien Bourdais and “TBA” listed under their name for a full day of testing.  This could also be a test day for a driver in the works for the team, such as Jack Hawksworth (left), the former IndyCar driver that Honda is very high on.

Juncos Racing was confirmed to test at Sebring on this day in the first testing schedule release, but has now removed this test day from their schedule.  Michael Shank Racing and Jack Harvey have done the same, removing their names from the hat.

Furthermore, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will also hit the track for the first time with their new aero kits installed.  Initially a test scheduled for just Graham Rahal and his RLL No. 15 machine, teammate and 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will join him for a full day of testing in his new digs.

Finally, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will also be on-site with Team Canada bringing both James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens to test.  Schmidt Peterson, along with Chip Ganassi Racing, was one of the favored teams for Honda during 2017’s testing of the new universal aero kit.

SPM most recently appeared at Indianapolis on the oval layout in October.

January 25, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Team Test for Carlin and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

While a little late to the Sebring party, Carlin will make the trip from Homestead-Miami Speedway following a January 23 test and take to the historic Sebring circuit after most teams have left from the previous day.  Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball will both be on the track for full days of testing.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, Takuma Sato, is scheduled to only use a half day of track time following a full-day testing program on January 24.

February

February 5, Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, California
Team Test for A.J. Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Harding Racing, Michael Shank Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Team Penske

Another sizeable test day on the offseason schedule, four Chevrolet teams and six organizations in total will travel to northern California to test at Sonoma Raceway on February 5.

A.J. Foyt Racing (Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens) will bring identical driver line-ups to Sonoma as they had at Sebring in January.

Dale Coyne Racing is on the schedule again with Sebastien Bourdais and a driver to be announced listed for full days of on-track participation.

Ed Carpenter Racing will attend this team test day at Sonoma with their road course drivers Spencer Pigot and rookie Jordan King, as team boss Ed Carpenter waits for his opportunity to run at the Phoenix open test the following week.

Harding Racing and its established staff of driver Gabby Chaves, driving coach Al Unser Jr. and team president Brian Barnhart will record their first laps in a 2018 universal aero kit IndyCar on this day.  The team is scheduled for a full day of testing as they prepare for their first full season of IndyCar competition.

Michael Shank Racing will also get their first crack at the new universal aero kit at Sonoma on February 5 when the team brings Jack Harvey to test out their No. 60 Honda entry.

Last but not least, Team Penske returns to the track with its three-car lineup of IndyCar champions.  Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are all slated for a complete day of testing at Sonoma – their first appearance in the new aero kit since early fall.

February 8-10, ISM Raceway, Avondale, Arizona
Open Test for all IndyCar Teams

In the first open test of the 2018 calendar year, teams will descend on the newly renamed ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway) in Avondale, Arizona.

Alexander Rossi at Prix View in 2017.

At last year’s Phoenix “Prix View,” fans saw Alexander Rossi crash his Andretti Autosport Honda in turn one.

By February’s open test in the desert, all teams will have had an opportunity to sample the universal aero kit to debut next season.  For most teams, it will be their first time testing the new car on an oval.

Last February, Alexander Rossi sustained his first substantial accident on an oval while driving his Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda during Phoenix’s February test session.

As teams attempt to sort out their oval set-up challenges, reduced downforce could prove to be a tricky obstacle in learning how to tackle the dogleg oval.

Expect the facility to be open to the public on Saturday, February 10 for a series of events similar to the “Prix View” fans could experience the last two years.  Festivities in the past included an autograph session for all drivers in attendance, free parking and free admission to watch two multi-hour practice sessions on the 1-mile oval.

February 20, Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Team Test for Ed Carpenter Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

The Indianapolis-based Ed Carpenter Racing was scheduled to be the lone team on location in central Alabama on February 20 for a full day of testing at Barber Motorsports Park.  The team will put road course drivers Spencer Pigot and Jordan King on-track.

In a quick change from the last testing schedule released, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will crash the party and bring both of its drivers (Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato) for a full day of testing activities.

February 27, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Team Test for A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti Autosport, Carlin, Chip Ganassi Racing, Juncos Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Team Penske

Utilizing the rough and tough surface of Sebring once again, Andretti Autosport will make their third trip of 2018 to the storied circuit on February 27.  The team will roll out each of its full-time drivers for an entire day of testing, with Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Zach Veach all taking laps.

Also returning to Sebring to work on road and street course tuning, Chip Ganassi Racing will bring both Scott Dixon and Ed Jones to burn a full day of testing.

Those two teams were initially scheduled for the February 27 test at Sebring, but since the testing schedule’s first release there have been a slew of teams lining up to join the party before another big test gathering on February 28.

A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin, Juncos Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Team Penske have all added test days to the February 27 docket.  Team Penske moved its test day up from February 28 and will not run on that day now.  They are bringing each of their full-time drivers for a full day of testing (Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power).

A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will additionally line the track with their full-time entries, while Juncos Racing will put either Rene Binder or Kyle Kaiser on the circuit for a rookie testing day.

February 28, Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Team Test for A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin, Ed Carpenter Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

On the second day of a Sebring testing doubleheader, four teams will bring their full driver line-ups to Florida for a full day of testing.

A.J. Foyt Racing will hit the track with Tony Kanaan and rookie Matheus Leist, while Ed Carpenter Racing once again brings Spencer Pigot and Jordan King to work on their road and street course program.

Carlin will utilize the circuit for a second straight day by putting Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball through their paces in Chevrolet entries.

The lone Honda team at the track on February 28, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will have both Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato turning laps as they gear up for the season-opener.

March

March 20, Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Open Test for all IndyCar Teams

In the second open IndyCar test of the 2018 season, teams will have the opportunity to turn laps at Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday, March 20 without using a team test day.

This test will come on the heels of the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, held on March 11.

March 27, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Indiana
Open Test for all IndyCar Teams

While it is possible that a manufacturer test could have brought action to the Speedway prior to this open team test, March 27 will mark the first day of testing for all teams at IMS.

Ed Carpenter at Indianapolis, April 2017.

Ed Carpenter will get his second opportunity to drive the 2018 IndyCar at Indianapolis in March.

Naturally, this is one of the more anticipated tests of the offseason as fans love to soak up any on-track action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that they can.  Spectators can view the testing session from the IMS Museum parking lot as well as the spectator mounds directly to the east of the museum lot.

This is a comprehensive list of all dates scheduled for testing as of January 8, 2018.

As noted before, there will certainly be additional dates added to the schedule as Firestone and the two engine manufacturers (Chevrolet and Honda) arrange for their own testing dates.

Teams participating in those testing days will not be penalized with any team testing days for those sessions.

Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for continued coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series throughout the offseason.

Images and testing schedule courtesy of IndyCar.

Tanner Watkins

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