Helio Castroneves Simon Pagenaud

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES Open Test at The Thermal Club is crucial for Meyer Shank Racing.

The team expanded to two full-time entries last year, which proved challenging as Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves finished 15th and 18th, respectively. The duo combined to score one top-five finish, courtesy of Pagenaud’s runner-up result in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Now, a full offseason of work will get put to use Feb. 2-3 at the 17-turn, 2.9-mile road course near Palm Springs, California.

“We've done a lot of work on simulators with the designs, several packages we think might be better for the problems that we had last year,” said Pagenaud, 38. “One of the main issues was tire wear, which was my main problem in races.

“We are going to evaluate what we found on the simulator and make sure it translates in real life. I'm hoping it really does because with two days of testing, if it doesn't work, then I'm going to have the same problem I had last year. I've got a lot of hope on this test and a lot of expectation.

“The track itself, the corners are quite different, the radius and the way the track is, than what we see on our street course and road course. But it's OK. We can do long runs and check the tire energy and see that. That's going to be the job.”

Castroneves echoed the thoughts of his teammate, with a tire compound change adding to the challenge last year. Additionally, it has taken four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves a bit of time to adjust to the technical alliance with Andretti Autosport as they try to devise strategies and setups to help the MSR drivers climb through the field on race day.

“The engineers are not from MSR, it's from alliance with Andretti, it takes a little time to readjust and change their mind and the philosophy,” Castroneves said. “However, Simon and I have been working very hard to look for the other side, to look in some areas that maybe wasn't visited. But I do believe the system works well, and yes, we hopefully can move those areas.

“Now the qualifying is so close to each other, but we see even bigger cars or teams are able to start like back there, but in the race combination they were able to race themselves to the top. That's why you take notes. Now we're back to the drawing board and are fixing it for this year.

“That's the goal for this year, to have those priorities to make sure that we have a better result on the race instead of so much in qualifying.”