AVONDALE, AZ – Friday’s six-hour Verizon IndyCar Series test session went fairly clean. The only major issue was Conor Daly leaking oil on the track very early on in the first of the two three-hour long sessions yesterday at the Phoenix International Raceway. Other than that though, it was a pretty clean day at the 1.022-mile track.
Saturday though, that was a different story.
Alexander Rossi crashed just under five minutes into the opening session on Saturday afternoon as he backed into the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2. That was the first and only incident of the first session today.
The second and final session not just of the day but the final time of the track this weekend as well saw three more crashes. Graham Rahal lost control of his No. 15 Honda exiting Turn 1 as he was running last in a group of cars testing race trim together. Rahal, said his car didn’t have the right balance at the time of the accident, but luckily he didn’t hit the SAFER barrier very hard.
Then, with just a little over an hour left in the session, another Andretti Autosport car got into the Turn 2 wall as Takuma Sato lost control of his No. 26 Honda in Turn 2 crashing very similarly to his teammate Rossi.
After that, JR Hildebrand got too high in Turn 4 and got into the outside SAFER barrier exiting the corner. That shot him down into the inside wall on the front stretch as well causing heavy left side and front end damage.
Overall, there were four crashes in the two-day test, but unfortunately, three of which were Honda cars. Plus, two of the three were Andretti Autosport entries damaging half of their cars that they showed up with this weekend.
That puts a huge damper on not just Andretti, but Honda as a whole, as wrecking three cars this early puts them behind as far as spare parts go. The teams will have to work harder than they expected to when they get back to the shop in Indianapolis assembling the three cars fully back together.
Last year, Honda only won two of the 14 races and just had three of the 16 poles. Coincidentally enough, all of those feats came on superspeedways. Honda teams struggled on short ovals as well as road/street courses leading less than 10-percent of the overall laps. That’s why this test was so crucial for them this weekend, and to wreck three cars in the same part of the track doesn’t bode well for the return in April.
This exact same thing happened last year when Sato, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe crashed this very same way too in Phoenix.