AVONDALE, Ariz. – Ed Carpenter grew up spending his spring break attending Indy car races at Phoenix International Raceway and raced around the 1-mile oval in USAC midgets, sprint cars and Silver Crown cars before embarking on his Verizon IndyCar Series career.
The series’ only owner/driver was one of six Verizon IndyCar Series stars testing Feb. 8 at Phoenix International Raceway for Chevrolet, as the manufacturer fine-tuned its aerodynamic bodywork at a one-day test in the Valley of the Sun.
“I grew up coming to this racetrack on spring break. It just feels good to be back,” Carpenter said. “A lot’s changed around here in the area, but at the same time, I remember a lot of the things, too, so I’m excited to be back.”
Carpenter was joined by Ed Carpenter Racing teammate Josef Newgarden and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves (pictured above), Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power at the track. For Power, it was his first experience at PIR, whose history with Indy car racing dates back to the 1960s.
“It has a lot of history and that’s what INDYCAR needs is to go to places that have that history,” Power said. “I really think they will get a big crowd out here. I think fans are interested to see what these cars are like on the track and how fast they are compared to NASCAR. They are a lot faster, which I think fans will enjoy.
“I think if anyone has watched the races on TV, you should expect a very close race, a lot of action. It’s cool because they can walk around the pits and check out these cars that have a lot of technology. You’ve got the aero kits - Honda and Chevy are very different. I know I was intrigued when I got to walk through an Indy car paddock when I was a kid. I was just amazed at the cars and I think that’s what fans will experience here.”
Castroneves, who claimed a win at Phoenix in 2002 and had his first test in America with Tasman Motorsports in 1996, said fans will not believe the speed the current Indy cars can achieve around the short oval.
“Let me tell you, we are going around at the moment out on 20 seconds on the splits and, wow, it’s fast!” the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said. “And we’re just testing. I guarantee you when we start really putting the right things together, this is really going to be an amazing place. To go around 20 seconds in a mile here, it’s pretty fast. It feels great. The new change (to the track configuration) probably helped a little bit to go even faster, because in the past Turn 1 used to be a little bit sharper and now the outside is open. So it’s kind of cool and, man, this is great.”
Verizon IndyCar Series cars return to Phoenix for a free “Prix View” on Feb. 27 as part of the series’ Test in the West on Feb. 26-27. The Phoenix Grand Prix, the series’ racing return to PIR following an 11-year absence, is slated for on April 1-2.
Watch what Newgarden, Pagenaud and Montoya had to say about PIR: