Thursday, June 7, 2012
Indycar News and Notes - June 6, 2012
by Amy Konrath
1. Teams have aero options for Texas: Three diverse oval racetracks are on the schedule the next three weekends, starting with the Firestone 550 on June 9 under the lights on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
A week later, it's the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ on the Milwaukee Mile. Then it's the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on the .875-mile Iowa Speedway, also a night race, on June 23.
"We're in the middle of a really tough stretch regardless of the types of tracks we go to," said Ed Carpenter, owner/driver of the Chevrolet-powered No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. "There's so much to learn still with the new car, especially on ovals. It's a big challenge and it's all about who's getting it figured out the fastest. There's an opportunity for anyone to go into one of these races and get a big win."
Two days after the Indianapolis 500, Carpenter was among 19 drivers to get a feel for the new car on the Milwaukee oval. He'll join 18 others to test at Iowa Speedway on June 12 (Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand, Panther/DRR's Oriol Servia and Dragon Racing's Katherine Legge will test June 13), and he participated in the 11-car Open Test at Texas Motor Speedway on May 7.
"I'm definitely lucky to be getting time at all these places," he said. "I feel good about Texas but still have a little work to do to get the car where we want it at Milwaukee. I'm excited to get to Iowa; I think that's going to be a good race for us."
Separate tests were conducted in February and May at Texas to set the baseline and confirm the aero package for the high-banked oval. Scott Dixon was quickest of 11 car/driver combinations during the May Open Test at 24.6644 seconds (212.371 mph).
"Comparing it to the old car, we're not that far off (on lap times)," INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said. "We're running as much as 70 horsepower less than the old car, so the efficiency of the car is significantly improved."
INDYCAR last week issued a technical bulletin for the Texas aero package to distinguish it from the one used on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval (the initial oval race of the season):
• Rear wing mainplane between minus 5 degree and minus 10.5 degrees
• Standard speedway rear wing endplate
• Standard rear wheel guard
• Two-thirds radiator inlet shutter
• Rear wheel infils
• Sidepod top deck
• Underwing strakes and sidewalls
Front and rear wickers are an area teams can experiment with during the 12:30-1:45 p.m. (local) pre-qualifying practice session to add or remove downforce.
Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, appreciated the range of options on the car afforded by the sanctioning body.
"Instead of coming here with a 10-degree rear flap that created more pack racing and people didn't have the options to try to separate themselves and create different strategies or be fast for 20 laps but have to lift later on in the stint, there are options," said Dixon, who won the 2008 race at Texas on the way to his second series championship. "It will be difficult to drive for a race stint, which I think is good.
"Having the car in a situation where you can take a lot of downforce off it's pretty difficult and qualifying could actually be difficult for a change. At Texas, that's pretty big."
2. If you missed it: Simon Pagenaud-Charlie Kimball conference call: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Charlie Kimball and Simon Pagenaud participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to preview the Firestone 550. A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at media.indycar.com. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. Simon, Talk about the season so far. As a rookie has it been what you've expected since the start of the season?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's going even better than I expected, to be honest. I think the team has been quite fantastic, providing me such a good car, and Honda obviously as you know, I've had such a long relationship with Honda, and they're really stepping up their game, which is great to be part of such a development aspect of racing. All in all, I'm really happy where I am at the moment. We are attacking the most difficult part for me with the ovals. It's all going to be about learning and experience building. We are looking forward to it.
Q. Charlie, talk a little about year two in the IZOD IndyCar Series and the differences between this year and last.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the momentum we picked up toward the end of last year, laying the foundation as a team -- last season there was nothing on January 1st, and then we showed up at the first race and had a pretty good result there, began a good season, let's put it that way there, and then built through the momentum all season, and then at the end of the year really started to hit our stride, and that carried into the beginning of this year. And as you said, every time we've seen the checkered flag this year, we've been inside the Top 10, having a couple of mechanical problems at Barber and Long Beach hurt us a little bit in points, but knocking on the door of the Top 10 heading into this difficult stretch, as Simon said, with five straight race weekends, it's nice to have some momentum, especially coming off a very successful month of May with an eighth-place result and building through the summer and hopefully to continue to move up the points table.
Q. Simon, you get to experience another new experience for IndyCar drivers with your first nighttime oval race at Texas. Are you looking forward to getting on the track and just experiencing driving under the lights at Texas?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I do really look forward to it. I think it's first and foremost, driving on an oval is completely new to me, but I realize that first my rookie test at Texas was a lot of fun. I was just hoping to get some traffic around me and see how it was, and then obviously Indianapolis was quite something as well in my career.
I think Texas, there's not much practice, so obviously the most I can learn, the best for the future. I think as a rookie and I would say as a novice in this season, it's all going to be about learning as much as I can. But under the lights should be a lot of fun for the fans and quite tricky for us, but it should be good fun.
Q. Charlie, I know you've had a camera crew following you. You'll be a featured driver on an episode of INDYCAR 36 coming up here in a couple weeks. Does knowing the camera crew is going to be around you for 36 hours at Texas change the way you prepare for the race?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I don't think it changes the way I prepare at all. It adds an element, and I've got to be a little more aware of what's going on. But I think that the nice thing about the IndyCar 36 is that it gives an insight to all the fans and everybody interested in racing to see how we prepare. So ideally we shouldn't change anything when the camera crews are there, so everybody gets an understanding of what really goes on behind the transfer of the doors and the drivers lounge. Hopefully we'll be able to give that insight and also give people a better understanding of what diabetes is for me and what it means to manage it, using all the tools that I have available before I ever get anywhere near stepping in a race car.
Q. Question for Charlie: You had the chance to test here last month. Did you get a chance to run much in traffic, or was most of it in single car runs, and what do you think is going to be the effect of this aero package with this car on this track?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, we did a little bit of both. We ran on our own and doing some Q thins and then in some traffic. The package we ran in traffic had a little more downforce and a little more drag than what we'll be allowed to run this weekend. So I think you'll see some really good racing.
Last year, I felt like the races at Milwaukee, Loudon and Iowa, the short ovals, drivers were really having to drive the car and pedal the car, especially halfway through towards the end of the tire and fuel stint, was some of the best IndyCar racing I've seen or been involved in. So I think the aerodynamic package that the IndyCar Series has come up with for Texas will create some great racing this weekend.
Running in traffic with enough downforce to run right behind someone full throttle isn't a huge amount of fun or a big challenge for drivers, but when you have to start pedaling it as the tires go away, that's when you really see cars and drivers come to the fore.
Q. For Simon, getting your first race now on a 1.5-mile oval, I know Indy and here are two completely different animals, but what's kind of your expectations going into this time of event for the first time?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think the main thing is to take things one step at a time. Obviously it's going to be a huge learning curve for me. But in the meantime, it's still a race car and four corners. I just have to understand what the car does, see what the others are doing in traffic, and try to understand the racetrack. I've been watching Indy, especially with what Dario was doing, how he came back to the front.
So I've been watching the race from last year's, and it's definitely a great show. As Charlie said, it's going to be a lot about pedaling the car this year, so it should be a little bit more rewarding for the drivers. So we'll see.
I think there's different grooves you can use at Texas, which I think is great for the fans and also for us, gives us different opportunities and different ways to set the car up.
I think finishing the race is very important for my learning curve in the future.
3. XYQ forms partnership with INDYCAR, will sponsor Milwaukee race: INDYCAR announced today it has entered into a partnership with XYQ, which will see the augmented technology company and application service provider named as the entitlement sponsor of the June 15-16 Milwaukee IndyFest at the Milwaukee Mile.
The IZOD IndyCar Series race at the historic oval in West Allis, Wis., will be named the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ.
XYQ will create a wireless application called the Milwaukee IndyFest WayFinder, designed to help fans navigate at-track activities through geo-coordinate technology. The smartphone application will be available for download in the Android Marketplace as well as at iTunes.
"The Milwaukee IndyFest is a great opportunity to utilize our technology to help modernize the guest experience at the oldest track in the country," said John Marcum, founder, XYQ Inc. "This real-time application service will allow fans to find everything they need at the track to ensure they don't miss out on any of the on- and off-track action during race weekend. We feel the synergy between the sport and our company is a great way to highlight our technology in a way that will benefit the fans."
Under the agreement, XYQ will be the official Augmented Technology and a New Media Partner of INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights.
"The technological capabilities we will see from XYQ at Milwaukee are just the start of how we can activate this new partnership to further enhance the at-track experience," said Greg Gruning, executive vice president, corporate business development, INDYCAR. "The combination of XYQ's high-speed, real-time capabilities and cutting-edge technology are a great fit for our sport, and we are excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for this partnership."
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Firestone 550 on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Milwaukee 100 on June 15 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on June 21. NBC Sports Network coverage of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will be televised at 5 p.m. on June 7.