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Dixon Takes Safety Screen For A Test Drive

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 4 2019
IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon tested the series’ new “Aeroscreen”. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Scott Dixon crammed hot laps around five diverse NTT IndyCar Series layouts into a single session during a simulator test Tuesday of INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen driver safety prototype at the Dallara Research Center in Speedway, Ind.

Manufactured by Roush Creative Services, the device was tested less
than six weeks after INDYCAR announced its ongoing partnership with
Red Bull Advanced Technologies to fully design the Aeroscreen concept
during a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Aeroscreen is scheduled to be implemented for the 2020 season.

Dixon logged simulated laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval; Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked/1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth; Iowa Speedway’s 0.875-mile short track in Newton; Barber Motorsports Park’s 2.3-mile natural terrain layout in Birmingham, Ala., and the 1.968-mile Long Beach (Calif.) street circuit.

A five-time/reigning series champion, Dixon ran 20 laps round Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s famed oval and a half-dozen laps on each of the other tracks.

“I think the technology game moves very quickly in our sport, and I think INDYCAR has always been at the forefront of moving safety additions along,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. “I’m very happy to try and help push this forward and be one of the drivers that can help define areas that may be tricky.”

The RBAT design, which will encompass the cockpit, consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework. However, Dixon’s simulator test only utilized the framework produced by Roush in this collaborative safety effort. The framework mounts in three areas around the cockpit _ the chassis centerline, two-rear side mounts and roll hoop integration _ to provide enhanced load-bearing capabilities.

While the polycarbonate laminated screen was not in place for this test, Dixon said he experienced no visibility issues with the framework of the prototype. Dixon added he noticed the chassis centerline piece, but it was no more of a distraction than the Advanced Frontal Protection device used on Indy cars the past six races (two ovals, two street circuits and two permanent road courses).

“It was very similar to (the AFP),” Dixon said. “So, everything was pretty smooth.”

In addition to visibility, INDYCAR officials sought Dixon’s opinion on the change in center of gravity the Aeroscreen creates and the varying loads associated with it. Dixon also got to experience entry and exit from the cockpit, although he could not put weight on the 3D-printed mock-up produced by Roush.

“I think every step of the process has been done very well,” Dixon said. “It’s not throwing things and seeing what sticks; most of it has been proven previously and getting to this portion on the simulator covers a lot of the bases we’ll see when we get to the real world maybe in 30 or 60 days with the first generation (of the Aeroscreen).”

INDYCAR President Jay Frye attended the test along with engineers from the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body, Chip Ganassi Racing and chassis supplier Dallara as well as representatives of Red Bull Advanced Technologies joining remotely.

“It was a successful step in the process of this collaborative safety initiative,” Frye said. “We had no issues today, so we can check the box on this test and continue to progress toward the ultimate goal.”

The Red Bull Advanced Technologies design will consist of a polycarbonate laminated screen that includes an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element and tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party companies. Another feature for the drivers will be a cockpit cooling option that will be designed by Dallara in conjunction with RBAT.

The completed Aeroscreen is projected to be track-tested for the first time in September at IMS. “Honestly, it’s been very well done from the get-go and the full process has been well-covered in many different areas,” Dixon said. “So, it’s been pretty easy.”

Seven races remain in the 2019 season, culminating with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California.

The series returns to action July 12-14 with the Honda Indy Toronto. The 85-lap race on Sunday, July 14, will air at 3 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts Radio Network.

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INDYCAR has consolidated its Marketing and Communications teams into one department while adding two award-winning motorsports veterans.

Mike Zizzo has been appointed Vice President of Communications and Kate Davis will serve in the newly formed position of Director of Communications as part of a reorganization to create an integrated and strategically aligned Marketing and Communications department.

Zizzo and Davis will work with Vice President of Marketing SJ Luedtke, who joined INDYCAR in February after serving as a Nike executive for nearly the past decade, in developing and executing a comprehensive marketing communications plan.

“Mike and Kate provide INDYCAR with a tremendous amount of motorsports knowledge and communications experience, especially from sanctioning body and promoter perspectives, and they are highly respected both inside and outside the industry,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “They will complement SJ on the marketing side and provide INDYCAR with a stronger, more integrated Marketing and Communications department.” 

Zizzo, who had been serving as a public relations consultant for INDYCAR since February, is an award-winning communications executive with 23 years of motorsports experience. He has served in management roles for two sanctioning bodies _ CART and NASCAR _ and most recently spent the past 13 years as Vice President of Communications for Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Zizzo is the only two-time recipient of NASCAR’s national series track public relations representative of the year award and also received the sanctioning body’s “Best Youth Marketing Initiative” honor for his Speeding To Read educational program at TMS. He also is a previous winner of the esteemed Jim Chapman Award for motorsports PR excellence.

Zizzo’s motorsports career began with CART from 1996-2002 and that tenure was highlighted by serving as Vice President of Competition Public Relations for the open-wheel sanctioning body. He joined NASCAR from 2002-2005 as a Senior Public Relations Manager with an emphasis on competition before moving to Texas Motor Speedway later in ’05.  

Davis is a veteran communications and content executive who has spent the past 17 years with NASCAR in various broadcast or digital-related capacities. She joined NASCAR in 2001 and served as the Senior Manager of Broadcast Communications before spending the last 12 years with NASCAR Productions and NASCAR Digital Media.

In her most recent role as Senior Director of Content, Davis oversaw development and production of content that was distributed to NASCAR’s television, radio and digital partners, third-party clients and TV and radio affiliates throughout the country. During that tenure, she was part of a team that produced an Emmy Award-winning documentary.

In related moves, Curt Cavin will shift from Vice President of Communications to the role of Senior Manager of Digital Content Editorial. Communications colleagues Kate Guerra, Senior Manager, National Media Outreach, and Arni Sribhen, Coordinator of Media Relations, continue in the department in similar or redefined roles.  

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NTT IndyCar Series point standings heading into the Honda Indy Toronto on July 12-14, Round 11 of the 17-race schedule: 1, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 402; 2, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 395; 3, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 341; 4, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 308; 5, Will Power, Team Penske, 294; 6, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 292; 7, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 271; 8, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 244; 9, James Hinchcliffe, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 216; 10, Felx Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing, 209.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 4 2019
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