A.J. Foyt Racing team director Larry Foyt scheduled two days of testing at Barber Motorsports Park as Round 1 of preparation for the 18-race IZOD IndyCar Series season, which includes the first four events on road and temporary street circuits.
Round 2 will be the Open Test at the same venue March 14-15, where the team can fine-tune setups on the No. 14 ABC Supply car driven by Vitor Meira.
"The Open Test can get pretty busy so at the private test we'll get a lot of track time," Foyt said. "We decided that the permanent road courses and that type of track was our weakness or Achilles' heel last season so we really felt that getting a good baseline setup on that type of track would help us throughout the season. At the Open Test with everybody there, we'll be able to gauge where we are and then fine-tune from there.
"Secondly, it's really tough to re-create a street course because they're all different -- different bumps at different places. The last few years we've tried to do it and it's been a help but we felt like we had a pretty good setup for those kinds of tracks so going to the permanent road course was the most important thing for us."
Team Penske's Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, along with KV Racing Technology-Lotus drivers E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato, will join Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing's Charlie Kimball and Meira on the 2.38-mile course March 1. It will be the first track time for Kimball, who finished fourth in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship.
Other drivers are testing either Feb. 28 at Texas Motor Speedway or March 9-10 at Sebring International. The first practice for season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is 10 days following the Open Test. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, which was won by Castroneves last April, comes two weeks after the St. Pete street course race.
"Barber is a perfect place to try things in a private test," Meira said. "For the road courses you have to find a baseline, learn what the car likes combined with myself and the team. Everyone will be at the Open Test so we will have a lot of rubber on the track and the track conditions will be race-like with a lot of cars running.
"By going prior to that test we can sort out the bigger things, such as ride heights, springs, the geometry package, things that we worked on during the off-season. Hopefully we will come up with a good baseline package for the road courses that will work for us not only at Barber but throughout the year."