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Speeds Jump On ‘Fast Friday’ At Indianapolis

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2016
Will Power led the field during a Friday practice for the Indianapolis 500 in which speeds shot above 230 mph. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Will Power led the field during a Friday practice for the Indianapolis 500 in which speeds shot above 230 mph. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Team Penske’s Will Power halted Honda’s week-long stay atop the speed chart at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during “Fast Friday” practice, a pivotal session leading into qualifying for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

bugindy500Power posted a lap of 232.672 mph around the 2.5-mile oval in his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet to earn $10,000 from Harding Group for the day’s fastest lap. But Power admitted he had help from the tow of the draft from a car running in front of him.

“I got a good tow,” Power said. “But even when the car is out of traffic, it was pretty good, pretty solid. I think it’s fast. I think it’s going to be really, really tight for pole. There’s a lot of quick guys out there and I think Honda is right there, too.”

Speeds jumped significantly Friday aided by INDYCAR’s planned increase in turbocharger boost pressure for the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines produced by Chevrolet and Honda. The added boost was good for approximately 30 horsepower and 18 drivers turned laps in excess of 230 mph _ including 15 without benefit of a “tow” from cars in front of them.

Power became the first Chevrolet-powered driver to pace any of the week’s four practice sessions. Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing, was second-fast at 232.344 mph. James Hinchcliffe was third at 231.972 mph in the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, with Carlos Munoz fourth at 231.952 mph in the No. 26 Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.

“It’s been a really good week,” said Munoz, who has finished in the top four on the speed chart every day this week. “Today was my worst position in the whole few days. It’s more or less like 2013 in my rookie year when I was always in the top (and finished second in the race). The car feels great. Really fast car, for sure, in traffic and alone.”

The all-important “no-tow” speed chart for laps run without benefit of a draft was topped by Munoz’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Townsend Bell, who turned a lap at 231.342 mph in the No. 29 Honda. Bell was barely ahead of Power (231.339 mph) and Andretti drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay (231.284 mph) and Marco Andretti (231.255 mph). RHR won the Indy 500 in 2014.

The race’s 33 entrants, who completed a combined 8,162 practice laps this week, now face two days of qualifying for the May 29 classic. The nine drivers who log the fastest four-lap/10-mile qualification attempts Saturday will be locked into the Fast Nine Shootout for pole position on Sunday. The other drivers move onto Group 1 qualifying Sunday, when starting positions 10-33 will be determined.

“To get pole here, it’s just got to be your day and it’s got to work out,” said Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion whose best Indy 500 start was second in 2010 and 2015. “That’s the way it is around this place. I think it’s the same for the race.”

Meanwhile, the traditional draw for qualifying positions following Friday’s practice saw 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan earn the first spot in line in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

“We spent a lot of today working through our qualifying setup and getting where we want to be for this weekend,” Kanaan said. ”It’s difficult with the wind constantly changing and all 33 cars trying to get a clean qualifying run at once, but we were able to get some qualifying simulations in that gave us solid data to work with.

“We still need to make some changes to get the car into a position to qualify well. But with all four Ganassi cars bringing the information that they have to the table, I’m confident that we’ll have a good car for qualifying.”

Simon Pagenaud, the current series point-leader and winner of the last three races on the schedule, drew the second spot in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevy. Juan Pablo Montoya, the two-time/reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, is slated to be the 27th primary car to qualify in his No. 2 Team Penske Chevy.

Each of the 33 entrants is guaranteed one qualifying attempt Saturday, provided the car is in the qualifying line at its designated time and follows proper procedures until it reaches the head of the line. Cars may make multiple attempts throughout the day to better their position.

A final practice session Saturday morning (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com from 8-10 a.m. ET) will precede first-day qualifying from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. (ET). First-day qualifying coverage takes place on ESPN3 (11 a.m.-3 p.m. ET) and ABC (4-6 p.m. ET), with additional on-track action that day streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Group 1 qualifying on Sunday will run from 2:45-4:45 p.m., with the Fast Nine Shootout from 5-5:45 p.m. to determine the Verizon P1 Award pole-winner and recipient of $100,000. Sunday’s coverage again is on ESPN3 (2:30-4 p.m. ET) and ABC (4-6 p.m. ET), with practice from noon-2 p.m. streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Coverage of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) May 29 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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The work leading to a trio of engineers earning the 2016 Louis Schwitzer Award for innovation and engineering excellence at the Indianapolis 500 was put into motion before the 2015 race even started.

When three Indy cars went airborne after spinning backward during crashes in Indy 500 practice a year ago, INDYCAR and manufacturers Chevrolet, Honda and Dallara took on the task of developing a remedy to slow spinning cars and keep them planted on the track surface.

Their answer was the rear wing beam flaps now mandated on every Verizon IndyCar Series entry competing in the 100th Indianapolis 500. For their efforts, Tino Belli, INDYCAR’s director of aerodynamic development; Arron Melvin from Pratt & Miller Engineering, designer of the Chevrolet aero kit, and Alex Timmermans of Dallara were named co-recipients of the 50th annual Schwitzer Award. It is the first time engineers from different organizations have won the award.

“I think that shows how collaborative the work was,” Belli said.

With safety always a priority, INDYCAR and its manufacturer partners set out to find a solution as soon as the issue surfaced in the first year of aero kit competition between Chevrolet and Honda. Efforts were so intense and productive that a rear wing beam flap was ready in time for the 2015 race. But INDYCAR opted not to use it because it had not been tested to satisfaction and other aerodynamic changes to the cars had been put in place.

Extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations further developed the flaps last summer, followed by wind tunnel tests of prototypes at General Motors and Texas A&M University. The flaps, located on the rear wing main plane, flip up as the car spins backward, adding 650 pounds of drag to slow the car and 500 pounds of downforce to keep it more securely on the track surface.

The beam flaps are mandated on all three superspeedways on the series schedule this year _ the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway and 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway _ as are domed skid plates underneath the tub to increase downforce when a car spins.

The first real-world test of the beam flaps and domed skids came Wednesday at IMS, where rookie Spencer Pigot of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing spun the No. 16 Honda in Turn 1 during practice. The results were a confirmation to the Schwitzer winners.

“Everything that we saw with the domed skid and the beam flap would seem to be validated,” Belli said. “We saw a lot of tire smoke (meaning the car remained on the track surface), which we didn’t see so much last year. And we saw the car, when it hit the wall, it had a significant tail-down attitude to it. So I think from what I looked at, I was quite pleased.”

Dallara’s Timmermans added, “Also quite happy to see that the left-hand flap, which was contacted quite heavily by the rear wheel guard, stayed structurally sound.”

The Schwitzer Award is named for the winner of the first auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 and the designer of the engine that powered the Marmon Wasp to victory in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911. It is sponsored by BorgWarner and presented by the Indiana Section of SAE International.

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NAPA Auto Parts, in conjunction with major supplier NAPA Balkamp and supporting vendor partners, has joined with Andretti Autosport to sponsor the No. 98 Honda to be driven by series rookie and native Californian Alexander Rossi in the 100th Indianapolis 500. Rossi’s car is being fielded in a collaboration between the Michael Andretti-led organization and Bryan Herta Autosport. NAPA Auto Parts also will be carried as an associate sponsor on all Andretti Autosport cars for the remainder of the 2016 IndyCar Series schedule.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2016
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