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New Aero Kits Addressed At IndyCar Address

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 22 2018

The newest generation of Indy cars are the center of optimism among INDYCAR officials.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

With its new-for-2018 universal chassis serving as backdrop/prop, INDYCAR executive Mark Miles recently delivered what amounted to a “State of the Sport” address covering the Verizon IndyCar Series and its constituents.

Miles _ CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of sanctioning body INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway _ spoke during last week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. INDYCAR’s theme of “The Future Starts Now” was fashioned around the official public unveiling of the universal aerodynamic bodywork kit that will make its competitive debut on the Streets of St. Pete in March.

And fellow-members of Open-Wheel Nation, make no mistake. Miles declared that the state of the series is strong and getting stronger. Believe him. That, he can tell you…and/or add the political cliché of your persuasion to the following remarks.

“The past few years have been a story of growth of INDYCAR,” said Miles, accompanied by a panel of dignitaries from the sport and automotive industry. “We had a way of thinking about it a few years ago, which was taking back the heart of racing, and I think we’re making great strides in doing that, and we get a lot of feedback from our fans indicating that’s the case.

“By all measures, our fan base is growing, whether it’s about TV, earned media, online (and) our social conversations. Exposure on television, for example, over the last few years is up 38 percent. Our audience has grown 38 percent, almost doubled on NBC Sports Network, and that’s not something we take for granted today when there certainly are some headwinds for live sports on TV.

“It’s not just on the screen but also at our races. Here at Belle Isle (site of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix), last year there was record attendance, a great crowd, great vibe at the track.

“In Indianapolis, coming off the 100th a couple years ago, we’ve kept a lot of that growth. And so now our expectation is the base for attendance on race day at the (102nd) Indianapolis 500-mile race is 300,000 people, over 400,000 for the period of May, and we expect that to continue to be strong and if anything to grow. Many of our tracks reported increased attendance at their races.

“The championship schedule is really the foundation for this growth. The long-running events like St. Petersburg (Fla.); Long Beach, Detroit, Toronto, (Fort Worth) Texas, Sonoma (Calif.) are the foundation for that. But we’ve also taken the opportunity to go back and add some tracks that our fans really care deeply about, and we’ll be back in Portland (Ore.)

“On-track the racing has been competitive. I think anybody who pays any attention to motorsports knows it’s compelling sport, but it’s also true that the way it works in terms of the championship has been compelling. For 12 straight years, the finale _ the decision about who will be our champion _ has come down to our very last race, and really just the last few laps of the year.

“And this (last) year we had the opportunity to welcome and crown and celebrate a new Verizon IndyCar champion in Josef Newgarden. We’ve been talking about the arrival of this generation for some time, but now we can say they are here and are taking their place, and we think they give us enormous confidence for the ongoing growth and the popularity of INDYCAR for years to come.

“Looking forward, we are well into the process to make new media arrangements for the coverage of the series beginning after the 2018 season, and I can just tell you that we’re quite optimistic that this will be an even stronger platform for more fans to take in INDYCAR racing. We’re looking forward to being able to make those announcements.

“A sign of growth and I think the vitality of the series is that we are welcoming four new team-owners into the series this year, and these are not folks that are unfamiliar with us. They’ve been involved in racing. They’ve been involved in Indy Lights, and they’re going to add great competitive dynamics to our racing.

“And then there’s the car itself. We think it’s gorgeous. We think it has really excited our fan base. This may be the public premier, but there’s been a lot of talk and we’re having trouble finding a critic. It looks great, and we believe that the changes that have been made will provide for great racing _ more close, more passing, more exciting racing. So we expect that to be great news for the ongoing growth of the series and we’re looking forward to seeing this beautiful car in action.”

To recap, the universal aerodynamic bodywork kit will be affixed to the Dallara IR-12 chassis and used by all competitors during the 17-race season. The universal kit is the result of more than two years of discussion, design, simulation and testing.

Newgarden won the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship driving a Team Penske Chevrolet in the last of three years of aero kit competition between Chevy and Honda. Those kits constantly sought ways to add downforce for higher cornering speeds _ much of it generated by winglets and other aero attachments to the top of the race car. Going forward, the universal kit produces less downforce overall and most of it from the underwing on the bottom of the car.

“We’ve tried to check the boxes on everything you need to with this car to make sure it’s going to function well and give us what we were looking for from a design standpoint,” said Newgarden, the 27-year-old from suburban Nashville, Tenn. “INDYCAR is really looking to deliver on big promises. It’s bolder, it’s more daring and really, we believe it has improved aerodynamics that are going to help the racing product tremendously, so I’m looking forward to that probably the most.

“We believe it’s going to be faster, we believe it’s going to be safer, it’s going to provide better racing like we’ve talked about.”

The universal kit was “reverse-designed” to start with an aesthetically pleasing look _ sleek, bold and reminiscent of fan-favorites from the 1980s and ’90s. From there, aerodynamic and safety objectives were addressed without sacrificing appearance.

The new chassis features smaller front and rear wings with fewer pieces that could create debris in on-track incidents. A re-designed undertray will improve air flow underneath the car while helping diminish the wake of turbulent air behind the car, theoretically making it easier for cars to approach and attempt to pass a car in front.

Additional design highlights include a sleek lower engine cover and leaner rear tire ramps. Safety-wise, the design features reinforced side pods and the radiators moved farther forward to absorb side impacts. Removal of the rear wheel guards and other parts from the previous kit have shifted the weight balance slightly forward, which will improve handling.

“The design has really been clear on what we’re looking for,” Newgarden said. “We want it to be an incredible-looking Indy car. We want people to come back to the IndyCar Series and love what we’re producing from an aesthetic standpoint, but the message that we really want to push is that our racing product is going to be the best on the planet.

“Speaking as a driver, I don’t think you’re going to get a better race car out there as far as an open-wheel car. You’re really going to have a great racing product.”

Team-owner Roger Penske, Newgarden’s boss, agreed with his ace driver. Indy cars owned by Penske have won 15 season championships, 16 Indianapolis 500s and 197 total races since 1968.

“I think Josef gave you a good update on the vehicle,” Penske said, “but the opportunity to showcase the drivers (with the universal kit) because the downforce was so high on the existing cars in ’17 and before, this will give us a great opportunity. I know all the drivers that have tested it, both on the Honda side and the Chevy side, are giving us great reviews. So from a cost perspective, a competitive perspective and I think the look of the car, it’s going to be a home run.”

Mario Andretti, a four-time champion whose 52 wins rank second on the all-time chart, applauded INDYCAR for developing the universal kit and what it means for the series.
“Our audiences today are more sophisticated than ever and they want more and more from us as far as the product, as far as action on the track, overtaking and so forth,” said Andretti, the 1969 Indy 500 champion. “We have to give it to them because that’s what we like to do, ultimately. I think this is the best way to achieve it.

“Like I said, this thing is beautiful as it is. It’s just going back to what the pure open-wheel, single-seater should be.”

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule will start with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC). The schedule again is anchored by the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 27 (11 a.m. ET, ABC) and concludes with the Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16 (6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Joining Miles, Newgarden, Penske and Andretti on the discussion panel were Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations; Mark Reuss, executive vice president of General Motors and Henio Arcangeli Jr., senior vice president, Automobile Division – Honda & Acura at American Honda Motor Co. An edited transcript follows:

MODERATOR: Jay, both Honda and Chevrolet have been INDYCAR partners for many years but also have expressed the desire for more competition. Might the universal chassis attract more OEMs?

JAY FRYE: “First of all, we’d like to thank Chevrolet and Honda for all their support. It’s phenomenal. The winter of 2015 we started talking about the aero kits and the future and where we wanted to go collectively as a group. Simultaneously we started talking to some other OEM prospects, and based on all those conversations we really got to this point. So in March of ’16 we come up with a vision of what it could look like. The vision was through collaboration of our OEM partners, our teams, our paddock, and the fans, so we’re quite proud of where we ended up, and I think this will be the centerpiece of this five-year plan that we have in going forward.”

MODERATOR: Mark Miles spoke about this _ television ratings are up, attendance at tracks is up. Mark Reuss, how does that help Chevrolet grow its brand with INDYCAR?
MARK REUSS: “A few years ago when we sat down and put this engine program together again to get back into this sport, it was a little bit of a leap of faith. But I can tell you that the new crew here has done a great job of growing the sport, and that’s what we had hoped. And if you look at the buyers here that tune into this, 20 percent of those are millennium, the ‘next-gen.’ In that buyer set we’ve got about a 20 percent higher opinion of Chevrolet in terms of reliability, durability and technology. And the twin-turbo V6, we take that technology like the fuel injection piece of that and the direct injection piece of that, we take it right into our passenger cars and crossovers, so there’s a great engineering technical exchange.
“There’s a great fan base we reach, and it’s in a place that’s now growing again, and I couldn’t be happier for American motorsports and open-wheel racing.”

MODERATOR: There’s a race in Detroit, the only double-header on the schedule. It’s the week after the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet is the title sponsor, the host. What does that event mean to Chevrolet and also to the city of Detroit at Belle Isle?
MARK REUSS: “When you go back to the crisis that the country and our company went through and you look at the birth of the Duel in Detroit during that time frame, that was a real part of teaching our company how to win again. So internally it means a ton, but it also brings a lot of money to the Belle Isle conservancy. You can see that year-by-year, race-by-race, turn into a place once again that is the pride of Detroit and our home office. Really, no less than taught a lot of our company how to win again.”
MODERATOR: Roger Penske, you’ve talked before about the importance of consistent rules, cost containment. How does this common aero kit help in those areas?
ROGER PENSKE: “When you think about costs, which obviously we’re looking at that throughout all series today, I think the evolution of the aero kit has been terrific because we can take our existing chassis and put this aero kit on it and instead of spending $400,000 or $500,000 for a car these kits are somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000. It gives us the ability to go to the next step, the look of the cars.”
MODERATOR: Sponsorship is critical for all motorsports, certainly for INDYCAR. What are you hearing, Roger, from your partners as far as the growth of INDYCAR, the momentum, and this new car? How is that going to impact things?
ROGER PENSKE: “Well, I think the numbers are obvious. Attendance is up. The interest for young people, we see the demographics now at these races. I mean, it’s just amazing. They’re real events, super events in some of these cities like here and Toronto and Long Beach and certainly in St. Petersburg. But from our perspective, we announced Hitachi as a sponsor that has come here early-on because they like the technology. They can be part of the engine build and be part of that, which made a big difference. We see more people knocking on the door today that we have in the past, and I’m not sure that’s the same all across motorsports.
“I think today the market is strong for us, and with the flexibility of the 500-mile race certainly at Indianapolis, you have Pocono and then you have street races, permanent road-courses, this is the flexibility that we want. It’s not just one series, one oval. We get that flexibility.
“And another thing is that the series isn’t 36 races. We can go racing with a reasonable budget and we can do it for obviously much less, and I think that’s tremendous, and I would hope that Jay listens to me today. Let’s keep it at this number so we can keep costs down, you got it?
JAY FRYE: “I always listen.”
MODERATOR: Henio is new fairly recently to Honda, which is involved in virtually every form of motorsport globally. How does its presence and its work at INDYCAR help the Honda brand and what you’re trying to do?
HENIO ARCANGELI JR: “Let me begin by saying that Honda is passionate about racing as well as the IndyCar Series. In fact, Honda has had a continuous, uninterrupted involvement in American open-wheel racing since 1994, 24 years. At its heart, Honda is actually a racing company. If you go back and look at the founder of Honda, Mr. Honda, he built a racetrack in Japan, Suzuka, before he ever built a production automobile. So racing is very important to Honda, and the IndyCar Series is very important to our motorsports strategy.”
MODERATOR: Honda has had solid success at the Indy 500, winning three of the last four. What are the chances for 2018, kind of starting all over with a common aero kit?
HENIO ARCANGELI JR: “You know, we’re very hopeful. Honda has been able to power 12 winners over the past…and the associates who are involved in our racing program, every year their No. 1 goal is to win the Indy 500, and this year is no different. We’re very happy with the teams we are working with. We think we have fantastic drivers, so I think our chances are very good.”
MODERATOR: Mario, as a driver, as an observer, closely following what’s going on, how do you think this is going to impact competition this year?
MARIO ANDRETTI: “Well, I certainly don’t lack enthusiasm, and I hear a lot of positives, and there is a negative in all this is I don’t have a ride yet. I drove for you, Roger. I’m only a little older, but you know what I mean?”
ROGER PENSKE: “I’ll have a seat for you tomorrow, OK?”
MARIO ANDRETTI: “Now I feel better. But to answer your question, obviously kudos to INDYCAR for really taking a big, big step definitely forward because we all know that since the inception of ground effects and the sophistication of aerodynamics, aerodynamics are always a blessing and a curse _ a blessing because obviously you get the downforce that all the drivers love because you go quicker around the corners, and the curse is you’re creating turbulence, you’re paying the price.
“And there’s always been this how do we get a balance, and it’s been a forever argument as long as I know. I think from what was learned in the past few years in the previous car, a big step is made now to achieve what all the drivers have been complaining about, and that is I just can’t get close to the guy in front of me.
“But the features here, by having more ground effect downforce and reducing the surface aerodynamics, which creates all of the turbulence, is a huge step forward. From here, I think we really have something to work with. And the beautiful part is also that more of a level playing field because there’s a unit that was good across the board, but you always have to keep in mind the show itself and give the competitors a level playing field.
“And I’ll tell you what, this series _ even the veterans in our series are young enough to really be around a long time. I mean, look at Scott Dixon. I mean, he’s coming up on breaking all-time records as far as performance, you know? And then you have young dudes like Josef, who comes on the scene strong as can be, is with a team now that’s given him the opportunity to win. Boom, he wins, wins a championship and here we go. Now we have the American contingent competing, obviously, against the international arena, and that’s the best of all worlds. We like that. There’s a lot of pride that goes into that.
“We have all of that going in this series, and I can’t wait for the first race, quite honestly. And like I said, if I get a ride, then I’ll be over the moon.”
MODERATOR: And Dixon is gaining on you, so you need to space that gap.
MARIO ANDRETTI: “I know, I know, I’ve got to get back in it. I’ve got to defend.”

MODERATOR: Jay, it was a year ago about this time at the auto show when you were showing off concept drawings for what would be the look of the future Indy car. What has the roll-out of the new car been like for you and everyone at INDYCAR?
JAY FRYE: “It’s been a phenomenal team effort by our current OEM partners, Chevrolet and Honda, all the teams, everybody in the paddock, all our guys at INDYCAR and girls have done a phenomenal job to get it to this point. This process started early in December of ’15 with I guess the direction or what could be the direction. By first quarter ’16 we came up with a vision of what the car could look like and how it could possibly perform, and we unveiled what it possibly could look like last January here. It’s been a long process, but it’s been very rewarding and very, I guess…it’s done everything we thought it would do and then some, so we’re really pleased and encouraged by where we’re at.”
MODERATOR: This version of an Indy car, every time you look out on social media and talk to fans they’re excited about the car. It looks like the drivers are excited about the car. What does this version of an Indy car mean to the future of the sport?
JAY FRYE: “Well, part of this whole process we talked about, we’ve come up with a five-year plan, so the plan actually was activated and started in ’17 by freezing the current kits and then having the universal car starting in ’18. So this car will run in 2018, ’19, and ’20. End of ’18 we’ll get together with a collaboration of people and come up with what our goal or plan is for 2021 and beyond, so the plan is kind of a rolling five-year plan.
“So far, so good, and I think coming from a team perspective it’s important to have…that everyone understands the direction of the series, where we’re going, what we’re doing, what it’s going to cost. All this is locked in now for the next three years. Again, this all goes back to all the people that helped make this all happen, and it was a great effort by our entire paddock, by Chevrolet, Honda, Dallara. Firestone has been at all the tests; this car is probably going to need a little bit different tire than the ’17 version, so it’s been a great team effort.”
MODERATOR: What has the feedback been from teams and drivers to you about testing of the car?
JAY FRYE: “It’s been very good. Again, what’s really good about it is it’s really correlated. When we did our tests with Oriol (Servia) and Juan (Montoya), there were certain things they thought and said and felt, and then once it went to the manufacturers’ testing that continued on, and now with the team testing it’s continued on. The car has always correlated. It’s done what we thought it would do from all the data that we collected on it originally from the scale model testing to the CFD, all the work we did. This car has correlated very well.
“There’s been some really unique and I think, kind of cool byproducts of the car, too. The drivers all feel like it has so much more horsepower. The car has so much less drag, they’ve all said this feels like it’s got a lot more horsepower. That’s a byproduct of what we have worked on, and that was something we didn’t expect them to say, but they have, and that’s been something that’s correlated across the board, too. There’s unique nuances to this car.”

MODERATOR: Josef, I know you’ve had the chance to drive one of the new cars already in manufacturer testing. How excited are you to get your hands on this car?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Very excited. Obviously people have seen the car over the last six, seven months. There’s been a lot of testing and there’s been stuff in the media describing what the car is about, why it’s been developed and taken the way it is. It’s been great. I can’t wait to get going on track with more cars. We’ve not had a ton of cars on track together. Normally it’s just been two or three, so once you get a whole pack together, you’re really going to see what this car is capable of.”
MODERATOR: What does the car drive like? Compare it to the car you won the championship with in 2017.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Well, I think it depends on the tracks, so people are going to have to pay attention throughout the whole season to really see how it develops.
“I think street courses are going to be the biggest difference. Any development that you’ve had setup-wise on street courses I think is going to be thrown out the window. I think we’re all going to have to work really hard to figure out what this car wants. Essentially the car is more lively. It slides around a lot more. You have to be comfortable with it moving underneath you, particularly on corner entry. Drivers are going to struggle to find their footing on their braking and getting into the corner. The rear is really wanting to come around on you.
“And then after that, it’s really going to be about managing tires over stints. I think that will be difficult, which is a good thing. It’s really going to make it hard on the driver to last through the entire race stints. And then the most important thing is just the following rate. With this new car and the way the aerodynamics work, it’s all about powering the underwing. We want to make the downforce for the car mainly from the underwing, not disrupt the air to the car behind you. So I think the following is going to be a lot better. You’re going to be able to be just right up on someone like a Formula Ford or a go-kart even.
“That’s really going to play into the hands of the drivers that like to race close, and the drivers that like to do that I think are going to put on a good show for the fans.”
MODERATOR: Team Penske has announced that you’ll be carrying the Hitachi colors in eight races in 2018. What will it be like carrying those colors that are associated with Team Penske and your former teammate Helio Castroneves? And carrying that No. 1 on your car and being a marked man, is there any extra pressure with the number, as well?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Well, secretly I was actually a little jealous of Helio over the last couple of years. I think Hitachi is such a wonderful brand. It’s really fun to see how they’re integrated within the sport. These guys are all about technology, innovation, helping practically in the real engineering world, both socially and in environments like INDYCAR.
“For us, they partner with Chevrolet, our engine manufacturer, and they help us build a better engine. There’s a really fun tie-in for them, and to be part of their team and their culture, for me it’s a real treat.
“To carry the No. 1, that adds a little bit more pressure. But the thing that I tell people is when you drive for Roger Penske, there’s always pressure, so whether you won a championship or not, I think that level of…not expectation but responsibility to do your job and represent the group well and trying to get the most out of yourself, I think that’s going to be there the same as it was last year.”
QUESTION: After testing the universal car, what kind of speeds do you expect to see at the Indianapolis 500 in May?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “I’ve not actually been on the Speedway yet. Dixon, (James) Hinchcliffe have been there, Montoya has been there, so I’ve gotten to talk with those guys a bit. I really think you’re going to see very similar speeds to what we had this year, 240, 245 miles per hour. We really worked hard to drastically change the entire car but keep the top speeds where they were the year before. The drag coefficient, everything about the car, which is a lot of what we walked here, I think you’re going to see very similar qualifying speeds to what we saw last year.”
QUESTION: What about the safety aspect? Do you think the universal car is going to be safer?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Oh, absolutely, yeah, yeah. Really the biggest change from that is going to be the side pods. So we’ve moved everything forward. There’s a lot more crushability from the side pod. It’s more positioned in front of the driver on the side. That’s probably the biggest safety advancement just from the aero kit side. Obviously we’re always pushing for any development that we can have, and I keep talking to Jay about the screen that we’ve been working on, and it’s exciting to see the level of detail that INDYCAR has put into this and really the care that they’ve gone through to make sure that we’re developing something that’s going to be only a benefit and no negatives.
“We’re continuously looking for that. But I think with the new kit itself, the side pod moving forward, not just from an esthetic standpoint looking to me much more like an Indy car and really good, but it’s going to provide that crash structure that the drivers have wanted for the safety cell.”
QUESTION: Jay, you talked about the process the past couple years of development of the universal kit, and while obviously something like that is never flawless, were you surprised as smoothly as the process went overall?
JAY FRYE: “Yes, but I think part of it was that we had a…it was a well-thought-out and good plan. If you go back to the whole process starting in December of ’15 through coming up with a vision, kind of idealist in the first quarter of ’16 to freezing the kits for ’17, going through the process that summer to figure out what we wanted to do, and then even coming here last January where we unveiled some sketches and drawings of the car.
“I think in that time frame we also tested the ’17 version car with some of the ideas we had for the ’18 car, and everything came back from that. So this car is correlated throughout the whole process, whether it’s scale model testing, track testing, anything we’ve done, and that’s a huge compliment to everybody who’s been a part of this. We’re really proud of where it is.”
QUESTION: What does that say about people like Bill Pappas and Tino Belli at INDYCAR for the efforts that they’ve put in?
JAY FRYE: “Yeah, Bill and Tino did a phenomenal job, and Andrea Toso at Dallara did a phenomenal job. Chris Beatty was part of the process. The teams are part of the process, the manufacturers are part of the process. We’re just really proud of this car. This is very much INDYCAR’s car, where we all had a hand in getting it realized. Even the fans, think about last year when we were here at the auto show when we did the renderings, we got the fans’ input. We wanted to provide them something that they were looking for.
“I think when you’ve got a car that has a great historical feel, I think we got our identity back like Josef said a minute ago. There’s some other things that we’re going to be looking at. This is just the first step in this process, and then there’s a five-year plan that started last year. The next three years we’ll run this car, but there may be some little nuances that we do to this thing over the next couple years that could even add to and enhance the car and where we’re going.”

QUESTION: Josef, you talked about entering the corner and a little bit of instability there. This is part of the process of bringing the driver back into the equation and relying on individual skill more. That’s what the drivers wanted, right?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Yeah, I mean, the drivers definitely got what they asked for. We wanted a car that was more difficult to drive, that really put it more into our control. That makes us valuable. I mean, teams pay us to drive these cars at the limit, and we want to showcase our worth to the team.
“I think you’re going to see that next year. You’re going to see a car that just is constantly moving. You’re going to have to become comfortable with that if you’re not already. And at the same time, it’s more fun to drive at the limit now. The car is more predictable with the weight distribution moving forward and all the other handling characteristic changes, it’s actually more predictable to drive. I enjoy driving it on the limit, and I think there’s a lot of good drivers in the field that are going to appreciate that aspect from the car.
“And like I said, it’s going to be a challenge this first year figuring out how to set this thing up. That’s the biggest thing that’s going to change is what does it really need now to be driven at the limit.”
QUESTION: I guess in addition to your teammates, who do you think are going to be your main competition for the championship this year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Well, I still think you’ll find the guys that were towards the top last year. I think they’re still going to be around, poking around for the championship and for an Indianapolis 500 win.
But I think it’s hard to discount anybody. I mean, the top teams if you want to consider the Penske, the Ganassi, the Andretti organizations as the really large organizations, they really struggle to find separation now. You don’t get that like you got 10 years ago where there was big performance gaps.
“Sort of the mid-sized teams such as an Ed Carpenter Racing or Schmidt Peterson or the Rahal organization, it’s very difficult to find big performance gaps, and with that just comes extreme competition.
“A guy like Graham Rahal, he can very easily win the championship. He can win an Indianapolis 500. The Schmidt Peterson boys like James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens now, they’re going to be very difficult to beat.
“I don’t know if I can really call out one or two people. I think you’re going to have, absolutely, (Will) Power, (Simon) Pagenaud, Dixon, those are going to be very tough guys to beat. But it’s really the whole field you’re going against and that’s sort of been the motto with INDYCAR racing over the last five, six years, is our competition is pretty much as tight as you can make it.”
QUESTION: Jay, by taking and making this universal aero kit you wanted to open it up for more engine manufacturers to look at it. Is that making any progress? Have you got some engine manufacturers that do want to come on board?
JAY FRYE: “There’s been great collaboration on this whole process and project. Again, when we started it in December of ’15, we did, and we continue to talk to other OEM’s about our direction where we’re going. We’ve made them part of the process. We thought about who best to…we didn’t want to come out with a five-year plan that no other OEM wanted to be part of, either, so we actually had them be part of the process, so they’re aware of what we’re doing. They seem to be enthused about what we’re doing. Does that mean they’re coming for sure? Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to do but I think we’ve removed some hurdles going forward.
“Again, this is just coming from a team perspective. I think it’s great that we have a plan that the teams know where we’re going the next three to four years. Everybody has been part of the process to get us where we’re at today.
“The end of ’18 we’ll start talking about what we’re doing to do in ’21, so it’ll be a rolling five-year plan. I think this paddock is full of brilliant people. Our manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda are great partners, Firestone has been with us every step of the process, so the future feels really bright and we’ve just got to now go execute and keep doing what we’re doing.”
QUESTION: I understand there’s also a windscreen that’s going to be tested to try to prevent the driver from getting hit by debris. When do you start that testing and will you use it in the coming season?
JAY FRYE: “We’ve been testing different applications over the last year, and whether it’s the CFD, the simulation work, different materials, we’ve even quietly had little strips of products on the front of the side pods on a few cars just to see what it does abrasion-wise. So we’ve been very thoughtful and going through a process.
“We hope to have something possibly on a car at the Phoenix open test (in April). This will be the first time we actually put it on a car on a racetrack. Again, it’s early to tell what would be next and when it would happen. We just want to make sure we do the right thing and we get it done correctly, and if that takes…again, the car as it sits right now has a much more robust safety feature with the side impact piece, with the Coke bottle shape and with the side pods moving forward. We just want to keep going. We’re not done. We’ll hopefully have something to look at here in a couple of weeks.
“One of the things we always talk about is data doesn’t drive; so far we’ve had all this stuff, some of what the data says this and the simulator says this. The day we actually get it on a car, an actual race car and a race car driver driving the thing, that’s the ultimate final test. That ultimately tells where we’re at in the process and where we’ve got to go next. That’s something that we’re looking forward to getting done here very soon.”
QUESTION: Josef, you mentioned less downforce coming from the wings now and more on the floor and the corner entry. Thinking about street courses like St. Petersburg, first race for the car with the (circuit) bumps and all of you screaming down into that first turn, the first lap for the first race of 2018. Could you talk a little bit about how will you be reminding yourself at that point that you’ll be in that brand new car with the new characteristics, or will that be something that will be minute-by- minute?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Well, that’s a good point. We probably should have that speech with the field before we go out there. I’m sure we’ll be reminded by race control that we need to watch as it’s a new car and it’s going to be our first time running it in race situations. You can’t predict all that stuff. I think there will be some guys that get caught-out. Heck, it could be me even. I could get caught-out in the first race.
“It’s going to be different. The brake zone is going to be slightly different, the characteristics of the car, the way it attacks corner entry, the way it feels on corner entry, the way we’re going to drive side-by- side, how close we can race each other, those are all going to be new things that we’re going to have to figure out. In a way, that’s exciting. The driver has got to learn something new. The fans get to watch that process. But it can also bring some risks. There might be some accidents to start the year, and that’s all part of it. It’s all part of racing and figuring out how we’ve got to race this car.
“To me it’s an exciting thing. It’s an exciting thing to go through as a driver, and as a fan I think it’s an exciting thing to watch.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 22 2018
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