INDY CAR Screening Process Continues At Texas Motor Speedway

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 16 2020

INDYCAR  took to the oval at Texas Motor Speedway to test its new Aeroscreen.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – Open-wheel superstar Josef Newgarden says INDYCAR’s revolutionary cockpit Aeroscreen looms as the “last major safety advancement” on cars that now resemble fighter jets.

“This is the biggest change to an Indy car since, I don’t know, probably we went to carbon tubs and a full carbon monocoque,” Newgarden said during the Aeroscreen’s debut test Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I think from a pure safety standpoint, it’s probably the biggest safety innovation since the HANS Device, and you’re talking the early 2000s. That’s a 20-year difference, so it really has been a while since we’ve had a major change like this.”

A two-time/reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion with Team Penske, Newgarden headlined a group of seven drivers lapping TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in cars fitted with the sanctioning body’s new-for-2020 Aeroscreen safety canopy.

Newgarden was joined by veteran owner/driver Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing and 2019 rookie standout Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan in shaking down cars for a group of first-time teammates _  Rinus VeeKay (ECR); Alex Palou (DCR w/ Team Goh); Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson) and Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske).

Friday’s oval session, plagued by early morning weather delays due to cold track temperatures, followed two days of preseason testing on Circuit of The America’s 3.41-mile/20-turn natural-terrain road-course in Austin, Texas.

Newgarden, winner of INDYCAR’s Texas 600 here last June, shook down the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet for McLaughlin, the two-time/reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion from New Zealand. Newgarden predicted racing with the Aeroscreen at TMS on Saturday, June 6, would be similar to previous editions of “America’s Original Night Time IndyCar Race.”

“We’re obviously trying to figure out what does it need to go quickly, how does it affect the aerodynamics,” Newgarden said of the canopy. “It looks very different. Looks a bit more like a fighter jet, in my opinion, you have that canopy on top. But I think the racing will be very similar to what people have seen in the past. For us as drivers, we like the evolution of it.

“Naturally, it’s intended to be a safer race car. I think that’s the last major safety advancement the cars themselves have needed was the head protection. Finally we have that. So I think maybe the racing will be a bit more aggressive because of that, we don’t know yet. But I think the cars look very similar in a lot of ways. I think it’s still an open-wheel race car, it still looks like an Indy car to me, you just have a canopy on top now.”

The Head and Neck System (HANS) Device is a Frontal Head Restraint (FHR) designed to minimize the risk of serious neck injuries in a racing crash. The body of the HANS Device is a rigid collar worn under the shoulder harness belts. Flexible tethers connect the collar to the helmet.

The HANS was designed and developed by Dr. Robert Hubbard, a biomechanical engineer and designer of crash test dummy heads for GM, and Jim Downing, an engineer and five-time IMSA sports car champion. In 1981 Hubbard and Downing identified the Basilar Skull Fracture (BSF) as a major unresolved safety issue. The first custom-made HANS Devices were offered for sale in 1991. The Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) mandated use of the HANS for its open-wheel oval track events in 2000.

NASCAR accelerated its research into the HANS following the death of seven-time Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt due to BSF suffered in a final-lap crash of the 2001 season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Carpenter, an oval-track INDYCAR specialist, said he has noticed “a couple little subtleties” involving airflow with the Aeroscreen while lapping his No. 21 ECR Chevrolet.

“It’s quieter, which is different,” said Carpenter, winner of the 2014 Texas 600 at TMS. “Believe it or not, that kind of changes the sensation of how you feel the car. You don’t hear the air noise and you don’t feel it. You don’t have the frontal pressure on your helmet that we’ve always had. It’s more you feel like it’s coming down behind you and wants to push your head forward a little.

“Visually, it’s actually very good. There’s not any limits or distortion or anything like that. When you’re out there by yourself it’s fine. Where we have a lot to learn and understand what it’s going to be like when there’s traffic, but so far so good.”

Carpenter said he is confident the teams and INDYCAR will solve any Aeroscreen issues. “We change a lot. Things evolve quickly,” Carpenter said. “That’s what INDYCAR is about, is innovation and pushing the limits of whether it’s speed, safety, technology, whatever. I’ve seen a lot of change in my career.”

TMS presents a unique set of oval-track challenges with its trioval and banking. Turns 1 and 2 are banked at 20 degrees, while Turns 3 and 4 are banked at 24 degrees. “This is a place that’s so unique,” Carpenter said, “that even when a guy that’s run ovals comes here the first time they’re like, ‘Wow, this is different!’ You see all the teams (at the test) putting a veteran guy in except Arrow (McLaren SP) just to make sure it’s (the setup) comfortable and stable. It’s enough for a rookie and a young guy to get used to ovals than to have to worry about if the balance is right as well.”

Askew, the 2019 Indy Lights champion, said he had been anticipating this test in the No. 7 Arrow SP Chevrolet. “I love ovals. We had a lot of success in Indy Lights last year, both at Gateway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Askew, driving for the first-year team formed by the merger of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and McLaren in its INDYCAR return. “We did a test last year at Kentucky (Speedway) in Indy Lights and I kind of feel some similarities between those two tracks with the trioval and how smooth the tracks are.

“But it’s a completely different car, much quicker. An extra 30 mph at those speeds feels like an extra 100 mph. I did a couple of stints. I feel real comfortable with the car. The track is super-smooth and fun to drive. Turns 1 and 2 are a bit tricky; Turns 3 and 4 are a bit easier.

“With my experience and how comfortable I am with ovals so far, I’m able to feel what the car’s doing and that’s really all the engineers need to know. It’s an advantage for me because I get more track time than other rookies. I’m trying to learn as much as I can so when we get to IMS for the first oval of the year (in May) we can hit the road running.”


A $15-million purse, largest in the 104-year history of the Indianapolis 500, is among a list of wide-ranging improvements announced by motorsports mogul Roger Penske in his new role as owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Enhancements revealed on Friday _ exactly 100 days from the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24 _ include the largest purse in the race’s history; improvements to the qualifying format and television schedule; new sponsors investing long-term in the 500, IMS and NTT IndyCar Series and a multimillion-dollar investment in the fan experience at IMS.

“This is the Racing Capital of the World,” said Penske, who completed change of ownership of IMS on Jan. 6. “It is on par with some of the most historic sporting institutions in this nation and across the globe, from Churchill Downs to Augusta National. We’re announcing a meaningful investment in our fan experience that will produce rapid results. It’s part of a long-term plan to ensure the legendary status of the Speedway continues to grow and evolve for generations to come.”

The purse for the 104th edition of the Indy 500 will grow by $2-million to more than $15-million, boosting the prize pool for series teams and drivers.

Qualifying weekend _ Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17 _ will feature a variety of changes to its format and broadcast. Specifically, multiple attempts will return to the Last Row Shootout, expanding it to 75 minutes. Previous versions of the Shootout featured one attempt per car. In addition, speeds will rise via a boost in turbocharger level that will increase horsepower by 45 per car.

An expanded weekend TV schedule will ensure NBC televises coverage of qualifications on both Saturday and Sunday, with total network exposure increasing over 2019.

The series and IMS will add six new major sponsors in 2020_Pennzoil, Verizon, Snap-on Tools, DEX Imaging, Road & Track magazine and Global Medical Response.

Technology upgrades include more than 30 additional large-screen video boards, including 24 along the Paddock seating. Paddock screens will bring race action and vital information to an additional 25,000 fans. All seven large, infield big-screen monitors will receive a running order addition.

Another new feature is the IMS Media Wall. This video board, measuring 100-feet wide by 20-feet tall, will be installed at the base of the Pagoda facing the Pagoda Plaza as a cornerstone of a plan to transform the popular gathering area for fans. It also will provide data-driven race insights to fans from NTT.

Verizon and its 5G Ultra Wideband network will transform the Speedway into a first of its kind technology-led entertainment complex. IMS will be the first motorsports facility with commercial 5G service to enhance both the consumer experience and track operations.

Infrastructure improvements will be noticeable inside and outside of the 110-year-old facility. Pedestrian traffic on Georgetown Road will be widened by two lanes to make ingress and egress easier for more than half of the venue’s Race Day customers.

More than 125 restrooms are being renovated inside IMS. New pavement will be added to the Parcel B lot near the IMS Main Gate to improve parking and create a cleaner look for the “front door” of the facility. Approximately three miles of fencing will be added to the entire grounds.

The winning driver and team of the Indianapolis 500, Grand Prix and Brickyard 400 will receive “higher” honors, as the winner’s car will be elevated to the same level as the Victory Podium after each race. This will give fans a better vantage point for photos and social media sharing of the most prestigious Victory Lane in global motorsports.

Night light signage will be installed over Gates 1 and 2, while IMS will assume responsibility for a beautification project along Crawfordsville Road. Fans will notice fresh paint and new signage on more than 50 concession stands inside IMS, picnic tables added throughout the grounds for more gathering space for families and friends, and placement of more than 230 racing-themed flags around the facility and Crawfordsville Road.

All aspects of the fan experience investment plan are underway and will be completed before IMS gates open for the Month of May on Friday, May 8.  Tickets now are on sale at IMS.com and the Speedway Ticket Office for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, GMR Grand Prix, Big Machine Vodka 400 and all activities at IMS.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 16 2020
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