Test day shows the importance of contenders having help
James Hinchcliffe has a single focus entering this weekend's MAVTV 500 - help Ryan Hunter-Reay win the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
"I told Ryan the day after Baltimore that I'm racing for you now. I've got less to fight for, so my No. 1 goal is to help Ryan win this championship," Hinchcliffe said.
Hinchcliffe and his teammate Marco Andretti got off to a good start in achieving that goal on Wednesday at Auto Club Speedway turning in some of the fastest laps among the drivers and teams preparing for the MAVTV 500. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon topped the test at a little more 216 mph.
The work of the Andretti Autosport team was important to Hunter-Reay, who crashed his car two hours into the eight-hour test session. Hunter-Reay, who trails Will Power by 17 points entering the race, was uninjured in the crash, but lost valuable track time.
"The car was pretty loose on the first run and we went for a second run on it," Hunter-Reay said. "We probably got a little greedy with it as light as we were running on downforce. Just came around. It happens. It's part of it. The good news is the car is not that bad. And we still have two team cars still pounding around."
The data gathered by Hinchcliffe and Andretti will play a big role for Hunter-Reay when he returns to the 2-mile oval for practice and qualifying on Friday. Hinchcliffe said the work done today and Friday will be the most important thing he can do for his teammate.
"Once the green flag drops, in a lot of ways our hands are tied," he said. "There's only so much you can do. As teammates, our role is more important today - the test day - or Friday practice. With what happened to (Ryan) today, it just gets highlighted even more.
"I'm happy to report that we've made some gains with the Go Daddy car and we've gotten through a lot of the program we wanted to do. Hopefully, when he gets back on track on Friday, he's comfortable with the car we've given him and we can help him from there by tuning and tweaking it into a championship-winning ride."
The attitude is similar at Team Penske, which will field Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe as the wingmen for points leader Will Power.
Briscoe and Castroneves have their own positions to race for, but supporting Power as he attempts to win Team Penske's first title since 2006 will be in the back of their minds.
"We have to take points away from Ryan," Castroneves said. "That's the only way we can help Will at this point. We want to bring a championship to Team Penske. Whatever we can do to not let Ryan win this race, we're going to try to do."