IndyCar drivers brace for wild ride at Texas

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An unanticipated problem was encountered, check back soon and try again Error Code: MEDIA_ERR_UNKNOWN FORT WORTH — It could be the concoction of speed and nerve and bravado that makes Texas Motor Speedway such a compelling IndyCar venue.It could be the cunning required to manage tires and fuel for endless laps and then summon the willingness to dice within inches of other cars racing more than 220 mph.It could be the litany of odd — and often unsavory — things that happen at the 1.5-mile track that brandishes the slogan “No Limits.”“When something goes wrong at Texas,” said driver Oriol Servia, “it seems to go really, really wrong there.”Q&A: Sebastien Bourdais on perfect laps, Paul NewmanTexas matters for different reasons Saturday night: Honda Performance Development should have a clear indication if its teams have any chance of becoming more competitive against Chevrolet this season as the series moves to the second oval on the schedule.Because while Chevrolets have won six of eight races this season under the first use of aerodynamic body kits, HPD has been biding its time for the oval portion of the schedule. There, said HPD president, Art St. Cyr, Honda should improve after exerting much of its developmental efforts.“Our kit was designed around ovals,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “They’re all a little bit different. Indy has a little bit of its own specific specification that doesn’t transfer to other ovals, so we won’t know until we get to Texas.”Oval performance matters most, St. Cyr said, because winning the Indianapolis 500 is the top goal — Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal led Honda in finishing fifth — followed by the manufacturer’s championship and race wins.Honda drivers, like Ryan Hunter-Reay, front, have struggled this year but they hope to do better on ovals. (Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)Honda drivers, like Ryan Hunter-Reay, front, have struggled, but they hope to do better on ovals. (Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)Progress at Indianapolis is debatable. Rahal has been the class of the Honda contingent and his finish was in keeping with how the rest of the season has played out. He’s fifth in driver points as the top Honda competitor.Though the oval portion of the IndyCar schedule is diverse, the convention of the speed-inducing 1.5-mile, 24-degree-banked Texas track should help indicate future possibility for Honda, at least more than the 2.5-mile flat expanse of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.After a paltry showing through the first seven street/road course races – Honda drivers James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport won rain-shortened events – Honda needs to quell a paddock unease. St. Cyr has attempted to tamp down any panic.“We think we’re OK,” St. Cyr said. “Our side pods and our engine cover actually give us some side force which actually helps on ovals, almost to the detriment of our handling on road courses.”Honda drivers are not alone in wondering how the speedway kits will affect competition at Texas. Competitors were already musing the topic in the days before the Indianapolis 500, when three Chevrolets went airborne. Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay said he was “interested to know as well” how the aero kit-era car would perform at Texas.IndyCar announced Tuesday that it had implemented the use of so-called closure panels to the front and back of both manufacturers’ real wheel guards with the intent of preventing cars from going aloft when turned backwards at high speeds.“Unfortunately, we’re going to find out just like the rest of you guys. We have no idea,” Hunter-Reay said in May. “Texas is, obviously, a different rule package, a different downforce mandate there that we have. It is a very different package than (Indianapolis).“Texas is going to be interesting. It’s always hot there. We’re always going to be sliding round with the lower downforce numbers than we run lately there. And we’ll certainly run a lot less downforce there than we have been running here. There’s certainly concerns there, but I have no idea yet.”Defending Texas race-winner Ed Carpenter, who drives a Chevrolet, predicted that increased downforce could open a second lane at Texas and manifest more passing. If so, he said, “I think they’ll be a little easier to pass and keep the field a little closer together. I don’t see it being to the point where it’s a pack race like we had pre-2005.”The panels also will be used at 2-mile Auto Club Speedway and on the 2.5-mile triangular Pocono Raceway. Series vice president of technology Will Phillips said they will “serve as a blocker so air cannot flow through the rear wheel guards” and “ultimately raise the point at which cars would experience lift when traveling backwards.”The series also increased downforce over the 2014 Texas race with a mandated adjustment to rear wing angles to between -6) and -10.5 degrees.Ed Carpenter won at Texas last year. (Tim Sharp, AP)Ed Carpenter won at Texas last year. (Tim Sharp, AP)Consternation, said former Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, is the byproduct of reintroducing innovation into the series with the highly manipulateable kits. De Ferran, a Honda consultant who was a member of the “I.C.O.N.I.C.” committee tasked by the series with launching the aero kit movement in 2010, said it was to be expected one manufacturer would rush ahead.“This is a little bit of a hangover from the one-make era,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “The probability that the curtains were going to open and everyone was going to be exactly the same, to me, were fairly small. And it appears in certain circumstances that Chevy has built a better mousetrap. Not all circumstances, by the way, I believe, but overall that’s the way it appears, anyway.“It’s called competition. There’s nobody there holding your hand. You’ve got to do better and use everything you have to improve.”With innovation comes the risk and the reward of trophies vs. wrecked cars. Helio Castroneves’ airborne tumble at Indianapolis was traced to an ill-conceived setup. The unforgiving speed and bare-knuckle mentality engendered at Texas make for a dangerous parlay.CASTRONEVES: Gains ground after IndyCar reduces penaltyDe Ferran saw this personally in 2001 after being one of many to suffer from adverse effects from G forces that forced the cancellation of a Champ Car race here.“That was crazy,” de Ferran said. “The forces in your body were so big and I remember coming back into the pits and really having a hard time remembering what had happened a few seconds ago. It was extraordinary. Some guys suffered more, some suffered less. It literally took all your strength to stay breathing and turning your wheel.”De Ferran, however, said he is not concerned the unknowns of the current aero kit could enable such a scenario this weekend.“I think IndyCar has done a lot of work to understand where we are going to be, speed-wise,” he said.Ultimately, the attempt, said Servia, a degreed mechanical engineer, is worth trying for the longer-term good of the sport.“Racing and development have been hand in hand since Day 1,” he said. “I believe there should always be some development because tracks, fans, want to see and understand technology better, solutions better, why these guys are better than these guys. But also it attracts manufacturers to do better. Manufacturers come and they spend money making something good and they spend money saying how good it is, promoting it. “I am all for development, but with that comes a risk, people doing a better job than others, or messing up in some areas. I think we all understand that when you (are) trying to open the door, there is a risk sometimes of getting some things wrong.” Session ID: 2020-09-18:cd04a80f6c33742b574d5689 Player ID: videojs-brightcove-player-634141-4273778667001 OK Close Modal DialogCaption Settings DialogBeginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsDefaultsDoneClose Modal DialogThis is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.last_img

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