Josef Newgarden, who scored his first IndyCar victory at Barber Motorsports Park last year, said the Bowtie's gains in downforce and power delivery were very apparent in the test there today.
The Ed Carpenter Racing star told Motorsport.com, “The thing I’ve noticed about the 2016 aero kit compared with last year’s is, yeah, there’s more lateral grip so more speed mid-corner. But actually I’d say it was the braking that was the most improved area. It’s quite a bit better.
“Some of the updates have really helped the brake zone so you can brake pretty damn late now. I noticed it in St. Pete and really noticed it here, especially in the one big brake zone.”
Newgarden said as a result the physical effort felt “a tick more than last year, but once you’re at race pace, it’s going to be very similar. You’re not going to be pushing to that last percent on a race lap and obviously as the tires lose grip, you slow down anyway over the course of 22 laps, which is a typical length of stint at Barber.
“But we got a pretty solid workout today because I did about 95-100 laps and none of the runs were longer than six laps. We were pretty focused on qualifying laps because obviously it’s tough to pass around here, so you need to start up front. We had plenty of tires available and we ran each set out.”
Although overshadowed by the discussions regarding aero kits, Newgarden said there were tangible improvements to Chevrolet’s 2.2-liter V6 engine for 2016.
“Chevy have made small but very effective gains with the engine,” he observed. “I mean, we know it was strong anyway, but it seems a little more refined from the powerband standpoint, so I think we’ve made gains in our engine mapping, and our ability to put down power.
“It’s those small gains across the board that add up to one big gain from our perspective. So I think Chevy have done a good job over the winter, and it’s definitely noticeable.”
Satisfied with today’s test
Newgarden, who led half the Barber round last year on the way to his first IndyCar win, said the 2015 setup had been a strong foundation for this one-day test on the 2.38-mile, high-grip road course.
“It was definitely a good day because we had that solid baseline for here, and so we rolled off the truck strong. That meant we were able to get through a lot of work.
“I also think the temperature was fairly representative of what we’ll get on race weekend – not too cold. And in the heat of the day, when I wanted us to be strongest, we were right up there at the sharp end. Most others seemed like they weren’t happy with the track or with their car in the heat at 2-4pm, and I felt like we were very strong in that time period, which is most representative of how it’s going to be when we race here [on April 24].”
St. Pete issues resolved
The electrical gremlin that ruined the Carpenter #21 car’s race in the opening round at St. Petersburg last weekend has been resolved, according to Newgarden. However, he said the street/airport track still holds some areas of mystery for the team.
“The electrical bug we got figured out in the race,” he commented, “but the problem was it took us 40 or 50 laps to nail it down. Once we got it fixed there was nothing really to gain at the end so we just stopped a little short of the checkered flag.
“But that track’s always been a bit of a thorn for us. Normally I take a lot of pride in working well with our engineers and knowing why we’re fast when we’re fast, why we’re slow when we’re slow. But St. Pete is tough to figure out.
“We tried a lot of stuff over the weekend – we’re definitely a group that isn’t scared to experiment, to try and find a setup that’s better. Maybe some of that contributed to why we were up and down in the practice sessions. But in qualifying we were great in the first part and then got to round 2, and tore it all down. We have a little bit better understanding of what went wrong, but there’s still a bit of mystery there.
“But we had a solid warm up and should have been good for the race. Not Penske-good, but we would have been able to race with [Scott] Dixon and [Ryan] Hunter-Reay.”