James Hinchcliffe leaves the pits at Indianapolis - Anne Profit photoEnlarge Photo
The IZOD IndyCar Series will offer new options for aerodynamics settings on Texas Motor Speedway's high-banked 1.5-mile oval this weekendj, during the Firestone 550K evening race.
This weekend kicks off a three-week consecutive span of oval contests, as the Indy cars go from Texas to The Milwaukee Mile to Iowa Speedway's .875-mile oval, also a night race on June 23.
Separate tests were conducted in February and May on the Texas oval to determine a baseline and confirm the aero package for this particular oval.
Scott Dixon, runaway winner at the Belle Isle steet course last weekend and driver of the No. 9 Target Honda-powered Indy car, was the 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."
To distinguish the aero package from that used on the flat, 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval (the first oval contest of the season), INDYCAR issued a technical bulletin that sets certain requirements and allows other options and specifically denies the teams other parameters.
In essence, the rear wing mainplane must be between minus 5 degrees and minus 10.5 degrees, and the cars must use the standard speedway rear-wing endplate and standard rear wheel guard. Cars may use a two-thirds radiator inlet shutter but teams cannot apply rear wheel infills, sided top decks and underwing strakes and/or sidewalls, the series has decreed.
Front and rear wickers are one area where teams are permitted to experiment during the pre-qualifying session, which occurs between 12:30-1:45PM CDT on Friday.
Dixon is vocal about his appreciation for the range of options offered by INDYCAR: "Instead of coming here with a 10-degree rear flap that created more pack racing--so 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," he said.
"It will be difficult to drive for a race stint, which I think is good," added the Kiwi, who won the 2008 race at Texas on the way to his second series championship that year. "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."
The idea of having to work harder during qualifying is exciting to most of the drivers, including owner/driver Ed Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka 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," Carpenter said. "There's an opportunity for anyone to go into one of these races and get a big win."
He won the final oval race for the previous Dallara Indy car at Kentucky last October, and was one of 19 drivers getting a feel for the new car at The Milwaukee Mile two days after the Indianapolis 500. He'll join 18 car/driver combos who will test at Iowa Speedway on June 12 with another three working Iowa's oval the next day.
Carpenter 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," Carpenter 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."