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Rains puts NHLR behind the eight ball
McDonald’s driver Justin Wilson and Hole in the Wall Camps driver Graham Rahal were ready for three hours of testing an IndyCar Series car on a road course for the first time today at the 1.669-mile Sebring International Raceway but rain brought the test to a close after 10 laps for each.  It was the first time for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) to run an Indy car on a road or street course prior to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“It was good to get to run the cars on the road course at Sebring,” said Brian Lisles, general manager of Newman/ Haas/Lanigan Racing.  “Of course we would have liked to have been able to run much longer but unfortunately the weather didn’t allow us to take advantage of the fact that the IndyCar Series officials kindly arranged this track time for us.”

After missing the two day test at Sebring for teams transitioning from the Champ Car World Series on March 19-20, the IndyCar Series offered the team the opportunity to run from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Sebring during a Firestone Indy Lights test.  NHLR was able to shake down their cars from 12:30 – 1:00 p.m. during the lunch break and test from 4 to 7 p.m.  Wilson ran 10 installation laps at lunch while Rahal ran six.  Once they were given the go-ahead by IndyCar Series officials at 4:20 they got on track at approx. 4:30 p.m.  Each driver made two five-lap runs while dark clouds were forming and until the rain began after 5 p.m.  The team abandoned hope of running again at approx. 6:15 p.m. 

“The car characteristics are similar to what we are used to,” said Rahal, who will make his IndyCar Series debut this weekend in St. Petersburg.  “Certainly you can feel the extra weight and higher center of gravity but we didn’t get much time to work on the setup due to the rain.  We only got 10 laps of running.  The six laps I ran at lunch were installation laps and to work on the gearbox.  The winds were also taking away from the speed of the car.  Certainly we have got some work to do but I feel better about going to St. Pete after getting some time, however little, in the car.”

“We managed to do two, five lap runs and only worked on the baseline and ride height before it started to rain,” added McDonald’s driver Wilson.  “We didn’t get to try too much.  It was all over too quickly.  We did get to check driver fit and still need to make a few modifications but we have a better idea of what to do now and it was good to work through that before we get on track in St. Pete.  The car feels a bit slower and heavier but we really didn’t get a good indication due to the limited amount of track time and the conditions weren’t that great today.  I am looking forward to getting on track in St. Petersburg.”

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place April 4-6.  The race will be televised live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 6.

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