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New Aero Kits Get Indy Workout

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, April 7 2016
Marco Andretti posted the fastest time during testing at Indianapolis this week.

Marco Andretti posted the fastest time during testing at Indianapolis this week.

Various configurations of the superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork kits produced by Chevrolet and Honda _ featuring new-for-2016 domed skid plates _ were tested at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday as preparations ramped-up for 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next month.

Fifteen drivers turned a combined 501 laps around the historic 2.5-mile oval in-between intermittent rain on a blustery day. Marco Andretti, driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda, posted the fastest lap at 223.427 mph.

“We ran through quite a bit of different combinations as part of the aero kit configuration test,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR vice president of competition, race engineering. “The conditions weren’t ideal, but we did get a lot of information to go over and look through over the next couple of days to get ready for the Month of May.”

The 100th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is scheduled for May 29.

All the cars testing were fitted with domed skid plates for the undercarriage of the Dallara IR-12 chassis, a safety initiative mandated on superspeedways this year by INDYCAR. The domed skid plates add approximately six times the amount of downforce (as compared to the 2015 configuration) when a car spins, designed to slow the car prior to any potential contact. The domed skids also raise the speed at which a car would have to be traveling to become airborne.

“On the safety standpoint of the domed skid, it’s a big improvement, especially in the 90-degree yaw,” said four-time/reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who ran 30 laps in the morning session in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “We’ve got to look at safety before anything. Yes, it’s going to make the car maybe a little more difficult (to drive), but every car has a pedal and we have more downforce to put on to compensate for the loss.” Dixon, who won the 2008 Indy 500 from pole position, scored his first win of the 2016 season last Saturday night at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway.

Andretti’s overall fast lap was set in the morning session. His Andretti Autosport teammate, 2014 Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, was fastest in the afternoon and second-quick for the day at 222.047 mph in the No. 28 Honda. RHR won the series championship in 2012. Simon Pagenaud was third-fastest at 221.293 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, the two-time/reigning Indy 500 champion, ran 40 laps in his No. 2 Chevrolet with a best of 219.102 mph.

Chevrolet conducted a private test at IMS for its teams on April 5, so the Ganassi and Penske teams opted not to run in the windy afternoon session halted several times for light rain. Honda teams, meanwhile, used as much track time as they could.

“It’s going to be interesting with these skids, for sure,” said Graham Rahal, who turned 48 laps in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda with a best speed of 218.619 mph. “It’s going to take some work to get them to where we need them to be race-able.”

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe applauded the efforts of the two manufacturers and INDYCAR working together to develop a car that checks all the boxes prior to the opening of Indianapolis 500 practice on May 16.

“The good news is we all seem to be working toward the same thing,” said Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Honda. “We’re all genuinely trying to make a safer car but a car that still races well. I think there’s a way to appease both sides of that argument. Hopefully by the time we show up here for practice week, we’ve found that compromise and everybody can be relatively happy.”

The test was Hinchcliffe’s first opportunity to run a lap at-speed on the track where he suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice last year. The popular Canadian missed the remainder of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season while recovering.

“Everyone was going to be thinking about it until we got out here and ran some laps,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s always nice to be back at the Speedway; we all say that all the time and it’s extra nice to be able to go around at-pace today.

“Sitting out last year was tough. Getting to watch all my friends and colleagues go do the greatest race on earth and have to be watching from the sidelines is a big blow, for sure. This is our Super Bowl, this is what we really put as much attention on as anything else. Of all the ones to miss, it’s the hardest. To get the opportunity now to come back, it definitely feels a little more rewarding.”

Combined test results from IMS with car number, driver, chassis/engine, top speed and laps run:

  1. (27) Marco Andretti , Dallara/Honda, 223.427 (48)
  2. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Honda, 222.047 (30)
  3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara/Chevrolet, 221.293 (45)
  4. (21) Josef Newgarden, Dallara/Chevrolet, 221.124 (44)
  5. (26) Carlos Munoz, Dallara/Honda, 220.827 (25)
  6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Chevrolet, 220.304 (16)
  7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Chevrolet, 220.150 (20)
  8. (8) Ed Carpenter, Dallara/Chevrolet, 220.108 (51)
  9. (12) Will Power, Dallara/Chevrolet, 220.105 (33)
  10. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Chevrolet, 219.690 (30)
  11. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara/Chevrolet, 219.102 (40)
  12. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara/Honda, 218.619 (48)
  13. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara/Chevrolet, 217.775 (12)
  14. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara/Honda, 215.363 (46)
  15. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 209.497 (13)
| , RacinToday.com Thursday, April 7 2016
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