Cooper Tires Winterfest update #1 – Feb. 18th

The helmets of Carlin duo Ed Jones and Max Chilton
The helmets of Carlin duo Ed Jones and Max Chilton

Good morning/afternoon from NOLA Motorsports Park (NOLA) in Avondale, Louisiana.  I (Steve) will be keeping you updated from the Cooper Tires Winterfest at the 2.67-mile 13-turn road course.  The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series has an open test today (Wednesday) and tomorrow  (Thursday) morning before the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire and Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda series take over for practice, qualifying and three races each on Thursday afternoon and Friday.

Indy Lights are scheduled to be on track from 9am-noon and 1pm-5pm, however due to a cool start to the day (it was 29F when I got up this morning) they didn’t get out on track until 10am.  Cooper Tire works from the same premise that Firestone does in the Verizon IndyCar Series, either the track or air temperature must be 50F.

Eleven cars entered for the NOLA portion of Winterfest, they are:

No. Driver Team
4 Felix Serralles Belardi Auto Racing
5 Juan Piedrahita Belardi Auto Racing
7 RC Enerson Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
11 Ed Jones Carlin
12 Spencer Pigot Juncos Racing
14 Max Chilton Carlin
18 Kyle Kaiser Juncos Racing
42 Jack Harvey Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
51 Shelby Blackstock Andretti Autosport
71 Ethan Ringel Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
77 Scott Anderson Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

So it’s the same group that tested at Homestead Miami Speedway minus Scott Hargrove and 8Star Motorsports who are skipping this test.  The pair will however be present when testing moves north to Barber Motorsports Park next week.

The track is brand new for Felix Serralles, Ed Jones, Max Chilton and Ethan Ringel, while the other drivers were here for the 2014 edition of Cooper Tires Winterfest.

Most drivers have used tires in various states of wear that were left-over from their last test at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  Each team does get two new sets of Cooper Tires, but don’t expect to see those used until later in the day.

Morning session times:

Rank Car No. Driver Fastest Lap
1 12 Spencer Pigot 1:27.430
2 11 Ed Jones 1:27.795
3 51 Shelby Blackstock 1:28.702
4 18 Kyle Kaiser 1:28.760
5 42 Jack Harvey 1:28.791
6 14 Max Chilton 1:29.610
7 5 Juan Piedrahita 1:29.958
8 7 RC Enerson 1:30.787
9 77 Scott Anderson 1:30.960
10 71 Ethan Ringel 1:32.826
11 4 Felix Serralles 1:43.408

There were three red flags during the morning session.  The No. 7 of RC Enerson and the No. 42 of Jack Harvey both required tow-ins and I need to find out what the third was for.  I’ll find out what the problems were for Harvey and Enerson were and what the cause of the third red was during the lunch break.

For comparison, at the recent Verizon IndyCar Series test the quickest time was 1:17.9, set by Will Power.

I’ll have a lot more Pro Mazda coverage on Thursday and Friday, but did want to pass along that Neil Alberico will return to Cape Motorsports with /WTR for a sophomore season of Pro Mazda.  The 22 year old from Los Gatos, California rode four podiums to a third place championship finish in 2014.  He immediately becomes one of your favorites for the championship.

Now for some non-racing info.

I drove down to New Orleans from Indianapolis yesterday.  It was pretty close to 14 hours with two stops for gas and one 20 minute stop for food.  Because of the snow in Kentucky and Tennessee, I decided to take I57 & I55 through Memphis, TN and Jackson, MS.  I did run into some fairly slick roads for a 60 mile stretch in Missouri and also got slowed down by an accident in Jackson, MS.  A long drive, but not terribly taxing.  Taking the shorter route and not encountering any problems and the drive would be closer to 12 hours.

I’m staying about 30 miles west of NOLA, in Raceland.  I haven’t had to chance to sample any of the renowned local food fare yet, but I still have a couple of day.

I haven’t gotten a chance to explore too much yet, but on first impression,NOLA Motorsports Park is that it is a very modern facility.  It’s obvious that they are still working on some of the infrastructure, but from what I’ve seen it should have no problem hosting an Verizon IndyCar Series race.  More on the area and facility later.

Thanks so much for reading.