The NTT INDYCAR SERIES welcomed back the symphony of sound as 27 drivers ended the offseason silence and throttled their machines around The Thermal Club as the two-day Open Test began Thursday.
The North and South Palm circuits combined to form a 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout amid sand and palm trees, which was elevated by a picturesque backdrop of Coachella Valley.
SEE: Thursday Test Photo Gallery
Teams are allowed eight sets of Firestone Firehawks for the two days, with rookies getting an extra set. The same tires were used last year at Barber Motorsports Park.
Notes from Day 1 of the The Thermal Club Open Test:
Daly Stoked for Seat Time
Conor Daly, driver of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, wasn’t quite ready for the day to end.
“Honestly, I think the track was great,” Daly said. “It's fun to drive. It's interesting to see how it plays out throughout the day.
“I think it was actually more consistent throughout the day than we all expected. Sometimes you go to tracks, and it changes from the morning to the evening so aggressively and during the day it slows down a lot, but it actually didn't do much of that.
“So, just good for us to knock off the rust. We need to do a lot in these two days and again, by the end of day one, it's like, 'Man, I wish I could have done 10 more runs.' I never got out of the car, so as soon as we get in, we never get out, and that's going to be the same tomorrow, and we just got to try to take advantage of every lap possible.”
Indy 500 Returning to Single Points
Single points will be awarded to drivers in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge starting with the 107th Running on Sunday, May 28, ending the double-points format used from 2014-2022.
The change, announced Thursday evening at The Thermal Club during the annual INDYCAR SERIES owners’ meeting, comes after a review of the double-points system. INDYCAR officials determined the rule has proven to overly penalize full-time championship teams that have performed poorly in the “500.”
“For 17 consecutive seasons, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship has been decided in the final race of the season,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “While double points at the Indianapolis 500 have not altered who won the season-long championship, occasionally it has had a negative effect on the final position of the full-time teams. As our entry list grows, this move will provide consistency for teams competing for championship positions while not diminishing the importance of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”
Said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles: “For over 100 years, the Indianapolis 500 has been the pinnacle of motorsports. From the pre-race festivities, to drinking milk in Victory Lane to adding the champion’s likeness to the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, its rich traditions have made it a prestigious annual event. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway supports the change by INDYCAR to enhance the integrity of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.”
The expanded qualifying points format will remain in effect for the Indianapolis 500.
Celebrities Check Out Testing
There was a blend of different personalities checking out the scene, which spanned from NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin to TikTok influencer Zack Lugo, who was also at the NTT INDYCAR SERIES event last year in Nashville.
There were also a few recognizable faces from The CW Network, with actor Michael Evans Behling and actress Samantha Logan from the show “All American,” along with Kat McNamara from “Walker: Independence.”
Penske Entertainment and The CW Network announced Dec. 8 they are joining forces with VICE Media Group for “100 Days to Indy,” a first-of-its-kind broadcast series about the road to the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, the world’s premier motorsports competition.
Produced by Penske Entertainment and VICE Media Group, the six-part series will take fans behind the scenes to chronicle the bold and brash personalities of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as they begin the 2023 season and start their epic quest for racing’s greatest prize. “100 Days to Indy” will air on The CW Network in spring 2023.
Film crews have been in the Palm Springs area all week to capture footage and interviews for the show from NTT INDYCAR SERIES Content Days and The Thermal Club Open Test.
Friday Test Coverage
INDYCAR’s digital channels are the go-to source for Thermal Open Test coverage. Tune in Friday for compilation of content of testing that includes:
- Live timing and scoring on INDYCAR Mobile Powered by NTT DATA and at http://RaceControl.INDYCAR.com
- Preview video featuring the driver Track Walk and breakdowns of The Thermal Club’s 3.067-mile layout.
- Numerous driver interviews and reports from the pit lane and NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock.
- Video recaps and highlights following every on-track session.
- Onboard footage from every session.
The second and final day of this test will take place from noon-2:30 p.m. ET and 4-7:30 p.m. ET Friday.
Odds and Ends
- Today marked the first on-track running for Shell’s 100% Renewable Race Fuel, which will be used in every NTT INDYCAR SERIES race this season.
- Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong already made a positive impression with veteran team Managing Director Mike Hull. After the morning session, which saw Armstrong finish eighth on the timesheets and complete the most laps on the team – second overall – at 25, Hull said, “He’s good, but we knew that already. He’s doing really good.”
- Marcus Ericsson’s No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was limited to 11 laps in the morning session, with steering repairs sidelining the group briefly.
- The afternoon’s running was without Kyle Kirkwood, as the team changed out the clutch on his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda.
- Felix Rosenqvist was frequently testing the limits, bringing out the red flag twice (one in each session), with the second time cropping the frontstretch with a thick sandy cloud that hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. Once the Swede excited his No. 6 Arrow McLaren Racing Chevrolet, he joked and said, “Felt like I swallowed a sand castle.”
- The offseason simulation work was in full swing for Meyer Shank Racing, with the Open Test serving as an important step in validating the efforts. At the conclusion of the day, Helio Castroneves mentioned feeling those improvements and is feeling more confidence with the rear of his No. 06 Honda.
- Several drivers made brief mention of the track surface, including overall leader Colton Herta, who led both sessions on the day in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. He said: “The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I've really felt in INDYCAR. I don't know, what, it's seven first-gear corners. We don't really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. (But) It's a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn't really replicate anything else that we go to.”