Ranking The Teams In The INDYCAR Test at Phoenix

A lot of data was collected this weekend at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix, as 12 hours of on track testing occurred over the course of two days on the 1.022-mile track. When the dust settled, there were a few teams that stood out above others.

But, I want to warn everyone that this weekend was just a test, so you really can’t hang your hat on the speed charts and use that to think this is going to shape the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. While four separate test sessions is a much bigger indicator than most other tests at other tracks, this isn’t the end all be all for what to expect for the entire duration of the year.

So, if I were to rank the teams based off this test alone, this is how I’d have it. 

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing

How do I put anyone else up top? Between Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal, they combined to lead all four of the test sessions. Sato, was fastest in three of the four, while Rahal led the way in Friday night’s test session. In fact, the worst Sato was all weekend was second.

The organization brought brought back a second car for a full season for the first time since 2013, and also brought back Sato who raced for them in 2012, and it’s showing to be a huge addition, as RLL was by far the class of the field.

Sato – 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st

Rahal – 6th, 1st, 11th, 11th

Team Penske

They led all 250 laps at Phoenix a year ago and 95 of the 250 the year prior. On top of that, they have three of the last four INDYCAR champions as their trio of drivers for the 2018 season. They backed all that up with a quietly good test this weekend.

To me, Simon Pagenaud was likely the best among the three, as he was in the top five in three of the four sessions.

Will Power turned the speed up on Saturday being second in both sessions himself.

Josef Newgarden struggled a bit, but was in the top 10 in three of the four too.

Pagenaud – 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th

Power – 10th, 11th, 2nd, 2nd

Newgarden – 20th, 4th, 8th, 4th

Matheus Leist during his rookie oval test at ISM Raceway — Photo by: Chris Jones

AJ Foyt Racing

This weekend was a win for the group, as they’ve been down compared to the others teams across the board the last four years. But, both drivers were strong all weekend, with rookie Matheus Leist leading the rookie day on Thursday and being fourth, 10th, ninth and 12th respectively the rest of the way. While Leist did have four incidents this weekend, neither caused any damage to his car. He just needs to learn the touch now or he will have a season similar to what Sato had a few years ago – a ton of speed overshadowed by a lot of crashes.

Tony Kanaan was stellar too. He was found up front all weekend too.

This was a huge step in the right direction for the team and gives them a ton of momentum for the upcoming year.

Kanaan – 3rd, 5th, 15th, 3rd

Leist – 4th, 10th, 9th, 12th

Andretti Autosport

While they weren’t found inside the top five much, it was a very solid weekend still for the Andretti Autosport organization. As we sit here today, I wouldn’t pick any of the four drivers to necessarily win in the return trip to Phoenix in April, but I would pick all four to get top 10 finishes.

The best driver among the four would have to be Ryan Hunter-Reay, the one leaving with the most momentum though has to be Marco Andretti. After the last few years of disappointing seasons, Andretti had a very strong test this weekend.

Across the board, it was a much improved Phoenix open test for them in 2018 compared to 2017.

Hunter-Reay – 9th, 6th, 4th, 19th

Andretti – 7th, 7th, 12th, 5th

Rossi – 11th, 9th, 10th, 6th

Veach – 14th, 19th, 16th, 13th

Chip Ganassi Racing

In 2016, Scott Dixon led 155 laps en route to a dominating win at Phoenix. They had a solid year in 2017 too. Now, they’ve downsized back to two cars and have secured funding for both as well. It is supposed to be a banner year for them right?

Well, they weren’t as strong as I would have liked to see them this weekend. Scott Dixon was in the top 10 in all four sessions, but he never was seriously contending for the top speed. The four time series champion was fighting the balance of his car all weekend and it just never seemed to come to his liking. In fact, he was a victim of the first crash with just 30 minutes left in the test.

Ed Jones who’s making his debut with the team was in the top 10 in just one of the four sessions. Not what I would have expected either.

Dixon – 8th, 8th, 3rd, 7th

Jones – 12th, 20th, 7th, 15th

Pietro Fittipaldi during his rookie oval test at ISM Raceway — Photo by: Chris Jones

Dale Coyne Racing

Sebastien Bourdais is showing that if he can avoid being taken out in the first corner of the first lap like he was at Phoenix last April, then he can be in contention to win. The Frenchman was strong in all four sessions and showed that he’s going to have a car to win this spring.

Bourdais, was in the top 10 in 75-percent of the sessions and showed he can be a strong challenger for the win.

Rookie Pietro Fittipaldi showed to be the real deal too. He just got more and more comfortable as the weekend went along.

I look for this duo to be strong in April.

Bourdais – 5th, 12th, 6th, 20th

Fittipaldi – 18th, 21st, 14th, 10th

Ed Carpenter Racing

The last two years, Ed Carpenter Racing was among the top teams to beat at Phoenix. Last year, JR Hildebrand broke up the Penske party and finished on the podium. This year, it was entirely different. Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot just struggled to find the handling and speed in their Chevrolet’s and it showed.

The new car is definitely throwing ECR for a loop so far.

Pigot – 17th13th, 18th, 9th

Carpenter – 19th, 16th, 20th, 18th

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

It was an absolute struggle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this weekend. This is the biggest shocker to me. I expected a little bit more out of them, as they struggled too much for my liking. But, this is just a test though, as both drivers and this team have the talent to rebound. They also could have been working on different things and not for speed per say, but they weren’t anywhere near the top all weekend.

Wickens – 13th, 14th, 13th, 22nd

Hinchcliffe – 15th, 17th, 21st, 21st

Carlin 

It’s not surprising to see them down on this list, as they’re a new team to the series in 2018. But, they’re the top new team from what I’ve seen. They had some electrical gremlins at times this weekend and really struggled at first to adapt to the lack of downforce on this year’s car, but they did show some fight by Saturday.

Kimball – 22nd, 15th, 17th, 14th

Chilton – 23rd, 18th, 19th, 16th

Harding Racing

In their second test of the offseason, Harding proved to show that they’re still learning. But, it wasn’t necessarily a bad test for them, as they’re still figuring each other out. This group is talented and they did what they had to do to get all the information as a single car team without any experience away from superspeedways could get.

Chaves – 21st, 23rd, 22nd, 17th

Kyle Kaiser during his rookie oval test at ISM Raceway — Photo by: Chris Jones

Juncos Racing

They’re still learning too. After turning a lot of laps on Thursday, they decided to skip Saturday’s session. Still, Kyle Kaiser got some info to get his feet wet and one that went off without a hitch for them.

Kaiser – 16th, 22nd

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