INDIANAPOLIS – After the two-day Verizon IndyCar Series test at the Phoenix International Raceway at the end of February, we knew then that the return trip to the 1.022-mile Arizona oval in April would be fast and physical. Speeds in the test were already much faster than the track record set in 1996, as drivers were eclipsing the track is less than 20-seconds.
Those speeds were also 47 mph quicker than what NASCAR’s track record is, as the IndyCar drivers were saying they were practically flat out all the way around the track.
With that being said, being flat out on a one-mile track leads to some high g-loads in the corners as drivers were saying they were feeling between 4-6 g-forces each lap.
Also, without any lifting, drivers were saying changes may need to be made to the downforce levels when they return as no lifting may make it difficult to pass making this weekend’s race what could be a “pack race.”
Some drivers wanted even more downforce while others wanted way less to make it less as it was pretty obvious depending on who you talked to that some change was needed when they came back.
Unfortunately, no one could agree on which stance they needed to take, so the series decided to return this weekend with the same downforce levels as the test.
So yes, we’re going to see blazing quick speeds, and yes we’re going to see a lot of attrition as it’s going to be one of the most physically demanding races of the entire season.
“We tested there about a month ago and collected a lot of data, but the one thing I know for sure is that it will be a very physically demanding race,” said Sebastien Bourdais. “We are going to be pulling more G’s (G-forces) than we usually do and the racing will be close.”
Graham Rahal agreed saying this is going to be a very challenging race under the lights on Saturday night.
“Physically this will be the most demanding race of the year, I believe, so it’s important to make sure I am hydrated and ready for a lot of G-forces and laps,” said the second generation driver.
The driver to sum it up best though was rookie Conor Daly.
“I think it’s going to be quite a challenge in Phoenix, probably the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far. Especially for me as a driver. There’s a lot to learn, a different style of racing to get used to. I definitely think of this track as probably one of the biggest challenges we’ll face all year. …The cars are super on the limit in Phoenix and it’ll be tough for everyone. It’s a whole new physical set of challenges, obviously the track is very difficult physically and I think patience is quite important in Phoenix as well and just staying in the fight will be the major key for us.”
“With Turns 1 and 2 being so different from Turns 3 and 4 and having the dogleg, that creates, again, another challenge for racing there. When all the corners are different that presents another challenge, where is the best place to overtake, one place is obviously going to be a lot harder than the other and no one is going to be giving an inch.”
So, with cars flat out, no one giving any room and it only being one-mile in length, it’s safe to assume this is going to be comparable to a “pack race.”
Yes, the tires will have some kind of drop off which will limit all 22 cars running on top of each other, but the talent level is so rich in the series this year that despite some tire degradation, they will still be able to stand on some quick lap times and have some intense battles.
Buckle up, because this weekend it going to be absolutely insane.