The second and final day of IndyCar’s open test session was completed on Friday, and it was Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson that was able to log the fastest time around The Thermal Club in southern California.
The Swede completed a circuit in 1:38.4223 early in the morning while track was still cool, and logged the fastest time out of the entire two-day test.
Christian Lundgaard impressively logged the second fastest lap, and Kyle Kirkwood was third fastest, all during the morning session.
In the afternoon session, it was Kirkwood who set the fastest time, completing the 3.067-mile course in 1:38.8279 on just his eighth flying lap.
Just after setting that fast lap, Kirkwood slid off the track and had to have his Andretti Autosport car towed to pit lane. No damage was done apart from a few pounds of gravel getting pushing into every crevice of the chassis.
Plenty of drivers pushed too hard in the final hour of testing while trying to set final fast laps of their own, with no less than three drivers having to be rescued from the gravel in the final 45 minutes of the day.
Pato O’Ward found himself off track a couple times throughout the day, and Scott McLaughlin and Christian Lundgaard also took a trip through the gravel.
Each time a driver caused a red flag, he was given a five-minute time penalty that shortened the amount of time available during the test. The penalty was nearly meaningless, however, as all the teams were coming in and out of the pits to make adjustments, and none was planning to turn laps for the entire allotted time.
The most interesting penalty of the day was when Callum Ilott was given a 10-minute penalty for reckless driving. The cause was for an excessively exuberant burnout in pit lane that lasted through a competitor’s pit box.
Other than a bit of lost practice time, no real harm was done. Although it’s likely that future instances of the same behavior during race weekends would come with more severe reprimands.
Throughout both test days, the most impressive rookie was Marcus Armstrong. The 22-year-old is slated to run road and street courses with Chip Ganassi Racing this season, and he put his #11 well ahead of the other rookies in every one of the four sessions.
It’s hard to read too much into the overall times because not only were the teams testing various strategies and not necessarily going for overall lap time, the private Thermal Club course was not very representative of any course currently on the IndyCar calendar.
Regardless, any track time is helpful to teams and drivers alike, and they were appreciative to be able to get back in the groove ahead of the first race of the season in four weeks’ time.