The Verizon IndyCar Series makes its eagerly awaited return to racing at the Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in just over a decade with the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix taking place under the lights on Saturday night.
Last time out at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, Verizon Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya took victory ending the race just ahead of team mate Simon Pagenaud and speaking about IndyCar’s return to Phoenix where he raced during his time in NASCAR in from 2006 – 2014.
Speaking about its return, Montoya said:
I think it’s a good place for IndyCar. It’s a great race track where you have a lot of history of IndyCar. It probably has more IndyCar history than NASCAR history, so it’s nice to be back.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports James Hinchcliffe whose boss Sam Schmidt will take a road car around the oval later today commented on the circuit by saying:
From inside the cockpit, it’s probably the most physical kind of track and physical kind of race that we go to. You’re doing a low 20 -something-second lap and you’re cornering for 18 of those seconds, especially here with the dogleg, so it’s so physically draining. The speeds are incredible for a track of this size, and the racing ends up being close. You’re really having to pedal the car; you’re really having to wheel it. It’s different than racing on some of the bigger tracks, and I think it’s going to be a hell of a show.
Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz believes that the race will be extremely challenging saying:
My first impression when I came here was the enormous cactus down inside the track. It was the first time I had seen a cactus so big, so that was a nice impression that we are really in the desert here. It’s a short, really fast oval. It doesn’t feel like a short oval really. It feels really more like a speedway because it’s so fast. It’s flat. I really like it because the corners in Turn 1 and 2, and 3 and 4, are completely different. For sure it will be a challenge.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden will be racing at Phoenix International Raceway for the first time and speaking ahead of this weekend’s race he commented by saying:
Phoenix is new for me; I don’t have as much experience around this place. Open wheel has been gone from this track for ten years, so I’m kind of new from that respect; I wasn’t here ten years ago. What fans are going to see if they haven’t seen Indy Cars before – first off, the speed. There is no other race car you’re going to see go around here flat out with the amount of horsepower that we have and certainly the weight of our racecars is pretty light. There’s a lot of grip from aero and they’re flat out around this place. Compared to NASCAR, I think that’s the coolest part about it. They are like jet fighters these Indy cars, they are as fast as they are going to get and they are as light as can be and they really know how to turn a lap time. Under the lights, that will extenuate that even more. I have always loved a night race – to me it’s always felt faster, it’s more fun to be a part of and the atmosphere is normally a little more exciting. You get to see the speed aspect for sure and you get to see guys that are fully committed and if they mess up, these cars are easy to get out from under you. You know you might see guys pounding the wall here and there, as well, if they don’t get it right. I certainly hope you’re going to see a lot of racing too.
Team Penske’s Will Power heads to phoenix aiming to close the gap to team mate Juan Pablo Montoya after the Australian missed the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg and speaking ahead of the event at PIR, Power stated:
It has a lot of history and that’s what IndyCar needs is to go to places that have that history and kind of rebuild the fan base again. 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.
Power’s team mate Helio Castroneves who ended the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg in 4th place and speaking ahead of the race weekend the Brazilian who is one of only four drivers in the field who has raced an IndyCar here commented by saying:
To be honest, it’s great to be back here in Phoenix. It’s fantastic. The last time I was here was in 2006, or the last time we raced here, but it’s great to be back. Look at this weather – it’s awesome. I always like Phoenix. Phoenix actually was the first visit in America when I came to test for Tasman Motorsports in 1995, so I really enjoy it here.
Castroneves’ team mate Simon Pagenaud who ended the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg in second place behind Juan Pablo Montoya commented by saying:
I like to compare it to airplanes – it’s an airplane race. Especially here, it’s so fast. It’s a short track, so our cars cover the lap in about 20 seconds and we’re close to 200 mph. It’s incredible. These cars are just riveted to the track and we can probably run side by-side in some areas of the track, so it should be good racing.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter Reay is excited to be racing in Phoenix this weekend. The American drove a great race last time out in St Pete finishing on the podium in third place in the No.28 DHL Honda. Speaking about PIR, Hunter Reay commented by saying:
All of the drivers, the whole paddock is thrilled about coming back to Phoenix. What a great race track. I personally love shorttrack racing. We’ve won at Milwaukee, so hopefully this is going to be right up our alley. So I’m really hoping to see Phoenix on the schedule for quite some time. The fact that it’s reality is something we’re all looking forward to.