February 20, 2012  |   By Marshall Pruett - SPEED

Busy Testing Schedules Close Out February

Courtesy of Speed.com

21 IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and former F1 ace Rubens Barrichello will turn laps next week on an array of road courses and ovals stretching from Florida to California.

The festivities start Monday at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., for a two-day test with Chevrolet- and Honda-powered teams.

After engine issues limited their running at Sebring, A.J. Foyt Racing is back for another try with Mike Conway, and Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson is expected to get his first proper turn in DCR’s car. Coyne’s James Jakes should turn his first laps with the new chassis and engine combination.

Team Penske will have Helio Castroneves and Will Power in its cars, Sam Schmidt Motorsports will be out with Simon Pagenaud and just days after its run at Fontana, Chip Ganassi Racing with have all four of its drivers--Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal—on track.

The most notable item for the Barber test is the debut of Takuma Sato with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and possibly a second RLL driver.

As those six teams test a Barber, two additional teams will run concurrently on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

Bryan Herta Autosport’s Alex Tagliani will press Lotus’ test car into service on the high banks on the 20th and 21st, while KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan is scheduled to run on Day Two before the team packs up and heads northwest to Sonoma.

A two-day short oval test kicks off on Tuesday with a pair of Chevrolet teams as Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti logs miles at the reconfigured one-mile Phoenix track. Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand will join Andretti on Wednesday, after which both teams will connect with the convoy headed to Sonoma.

Most of the teams testing at Barber will perform a quick turnaround and head south to Sebring for another two-day outing Thursday and Friday.

Ganassi’s Dixon, Franchitti, Kimball and Rahal will be back at it again, as will Schmidt’s Pagenaud and RLL’s Sato. Two Lotus-powered teams--Dreyer & Reinbold with Oriol Servia and HVM Racing with Simona de Silvestro--are scheduled to shake down and test their respective team cars for the first time.

The Dallara DW12 will make its first appearance in northern California at Infineon Raceway for a weekend test on the 25th and 26th with Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, local driver Hildebrand in Panther’s car and Penske’s Power and Ryan Briscoe in attendance.

The Sonoma test, which is open to the public, will give F1 fans a glimpse of its most experienced driver as Rubens Barrichello returns for his second test with KV Racing. KV’s E.J. Viso will also participate in the test.

Although next week will serve as the busiest period of new-car testing IndyCar teams have completed to date, Spring Training, scheduled for the week of March 5-9 at Sebring, should see almost the entire 2012 grid present.

Before teams head to Spring Training, one final test will close out February as the three Lotus teams that missed the Feb. 20-21 Barber test will visit the sprawling road course.

Dreyer & Reinbold’s Servia will share the track with HVM’s de Silvestro, and Herta’s team should spend the Feb. 28-29 test with Tagliani putting the team’s own car through the paces for the first time.