CASTRONEVES LEADS FIELD WITH TOP SPEEDS OVER 190 MPH AT INDYCAR OPEN TESTING EVENT AT PIR
Thousands of fans got a sneak preview of what to expect on April 2 for the Phoenix Grand Prix at PIR as Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Indy Car for Team Penske, turned in the fastest lap time of 190.89 mph on Saturday at inaugural ‘PrixView’ Verizon IndyCar Series open testing event.
“We had a little issue with the Hitachi car in the first session, but were able to take full advantage of the second one,” said Castroneves. “The car seemed to be very solid in qualifying trim and we were able to jump into race mode. It’s going to be fast and non-stop. The Phoenix fans are going to have a heck of a race.”
The unofficial speeds from both Friday and Saturday eclipsed the current IndyCar record of 183.599 at PIR held by Arie Luyendyk (March 23, 1996).
The excitement from the paddock was highlighted by the IndyCar legends in attendance including Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal and Sam Schmidt.
“When it was nailed down that we were coming here, I said, ‘Amen, we’re going back to Phoenix,” said Andretti, a four-time IndyCar National Champion. “We belong here. This was track was built for IndyCar. I was here from the beginning and I enjoyed it through four decades as a driver and now I’m still a driver, so I’m still enjoying. I have a third generation that will race here now, so for me, Phoenix is like coming back home because I’ve spent so much time here.”
Mario Andretti gave several media members and some local Arizona sports stars the ride of a lifetime in a two-seater Indy car. Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Tyler Clippard enjoyed the opportunity to ride with the legendary driver.
“That was the most surreal thing,” Clippard said. “It didn’t really make sense what the car was capable of doing. When I was in it, I was like we should not be going this fast and be able to turn this much. So it was incredible. Mario Andretti is the coolest thing for me and my mom. I’ve been to multiple Indianapolis 500s, my mom’s been to 30 of them. She’s a lifelong Mario Andretti fan, so I’m just so glad to get her out here and be able to do this. But for me, too, this was cool. Especially with Mario behind the wheel.”
Fans were able to enjoy free access to see the Verizon IndyCar Series on the one-mile oval for the first time since 2005. In the afternoon, the drivers were available up close at an autograph session, while former Indianapolis 500 driver Lyn St. James entertained fans at a book signing.
Along with fans, drivers like James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 IndyCar for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, were not only happy to be back behind the wheel but also at a track with a long-standing history of open-wheel racing.
“I remember being a kid watching IndyCar races around here,” said James Hinchcliffe. “To now come back and be part of the cornerback, even from the buildup to this test, never mind the race, the feedback from the fans has been incredible. I think that speaks volumes for this city and how anxious they are to have IndyCar back. Certainly everybody in the Verizon IndyCar Series is happy to be coming back and bring another iconic venue back on the calendar.”
Tickets for the Phoenix Grand Prix are on sale, with prices ranging from $35-70, and each ticket will include access to Pit Road. Tickets for children are $10; and active-duty military members and veterans will receive discounted pricing as well. Fans can purchase tickets online at PhoenixRaceway.com and by phone at 866-408-RACE (7223).