By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Eleven drivers scheduled to test on Texas oval
2. If you missed it: May 3 conference call:
1. Eleven drivers scheduled to test on Texas oval: A two-car test in February established the aerodynamic baseline for the new Dallara car to run in competition on the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway oval in June. On May 7, a larger sampling will take to the track in preparation for the June 8-9 Firestone 550.
Eleven car/driver combinations will participate in the 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (local) Open Test that’s five days before the opening of practice for the Indianapolis 500. The event is open to the public and free, with entrance through Gate 4.
“We’re going to Texas to confirm that the aero spec that we laid down is correct,” INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said. “We made a commitment that we would run cars at Texas in a small number and go back to run the cars in as big a group as possible prior to racing there. It will also give us an insight into Indianapolis.”
• A.J. Foyt Racing’s Mike Conway, Wade Cunningham
• Ed Carpenter Racing’s Ed Carpenter
• KV Racing Technology’s Rubens Barrichello
• Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball
• Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing’s Graham Rahal
• Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti
• Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, Will Power
For the February test, Dallara-provided aero pieces for the production cars of Tony Kanaan and Briscoe that were tested in the full-scale wind tunnel a month earlier. The production cars were slightly different from the prototype that was evaluated on the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway ovals in autumn (different mirrors, different rear wheel fairings, subtle differences in chassis construction and better integration of the Zylon side intrusion panels).
From data and driver feedback from the February test — along with Open Tests at Sebring International Raceway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the four road/street course races — Dallara has made refinements that has produced qualifying event records at all four race venues and exciting racing.
“We were able to work on the balance of the car while we were there and got it to where it felt really solid,” said Briscoe, the 2010 winner of the Firestone 550 at Texas, of the February test. “We’ve had very limited oval track time in general, so it will be a good pre-Indy test as well. It’s a good chance to run together and see what we’ve got.”
Cunningham, the 2005 Firestone Indy Lights champion who competed in the twin races at Texas Motor Speedway last June, will split time in the No. 14 ABC Supply car with full-time driver Conway while his No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply car is prepped for his first Indy 500.
“We haven’t been on a mile and a half yet so we want to experience that and get on an oval before Indy starts up,” team director Larry Foyt said. “We’ll give Wade some time in the new car to get comfortable and familiar with it before he starts ROP (May 10).”
The Open Test will be preceded May 6 by Barrichello taking his IZOD IndyCar Series oval test. The former Formula One driver, who has registered three consecutive top-10 finishes, also will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program.
2. If you missed it: May 3 conference call: Earlier today, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing co-owner Sarah Fisher and Bryan Clauson, one of the drivers her team will field in the Indianapolis 500, participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to preview the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at media.indycar.com. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. Bryan, I know how you felt last year just getting to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Firestone Indy Lights. Now it’s the Indianapolis 500. What kind of emotions will you be going through next Thursday when you get into your car for rookie orientation?
BRYAN CLAUSON: A whole lot of them. I’m really excited. When the scholarship program was kind of laid out in front of us on the USAC side a couple years ago, Randy and everybody involved with the Road to Indy program had kind of envisioned this. For it to parlay into an actual opportunity to run in the 500 is something that I’m really excited about and something that is going to be a special month for myself and my family and everybody in short-track racing.
It’s going to be an exciting time. Not only that, I’m really excited about the program we got put together with Sarah, Wink, everybody over there at SSHR. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I feel like we have a strong program running into the month of May.
Q, Bryan, Sarah mentioned she wished one of the first four races had been an oval. You’ve done a bit of testing on an oval. What kind of experience did you get from the new IZOD IndyCar Series car at Texas?
BRYAN CLAUSON: It was great to finally get in one. We’ve been working really hard on this program over all the winter and the last few months. To finally get to strap in at Texas and not hear from others what it drives like but to get in there and feel what it was like for myself, kind of run through the gamut of things that are different on a big car than a Lights car, work with the engineers, kind of get my feet wet with what the month of May is going to be like, was a lot of fun.
I felt like we had a really good test. As excited as I was going into Texas, I left there probably 10, 20 times more excited. We just had a great time. Really just kind of solidified where I wanted to be and that I found the right group to do this with.
Q. Bryan, first of all, I think you’re the first USAC guy that’s been hired to drive a car at Indy since Tony Stewart. Talk about what that means to everybody else out there right now watching. Secondly, the other tough thing seems to be a lot of people have trouble dealing with horsepower. You’ve been running a Sprint car forever with almost 900 horsepower, 250 more than you’re going to have at Indy. Talk about how that was at Texas.
BRYAN CLAUSON: I think everybody’s really excited about the opportunity that Sarah and Wink and everybody at SFHR has given me this year with the 500. There’s a lot of fan support and people on the short-track rinks that are excited about this opportunity. I think it’s a giant step in the right direction as far as they’re concerned and kind of reopening that door. Hopefully we can go out there and have a good month of May and keep that door propped open.
As far as the horsepower, the big cars, the horsepower wasn’t as much of a change as learning to drive an aero car, kind of focus in on what you’re doing inside the car, how it affects the aerodynamics, the aero platform, the adjustments you make from inside the car, what’s that doing aerodynamically, where you’re placing your car behind other cars.
That’s been the biggest adjustment, changing your mindset a little bit on the horsepower side of things. You’re not really in and out of the gas a lot, you shouldn’t be anyway, so you don’t feel the raw horsepower as much as you do the aero effects of the car.
Q. Any similarity at all with the Indy Lights car or completely different feeling?
BRYAN CLAUSON: I think it was more similar to the Lights car than I probably expected. Granted, it was a mile-and-a-half with a lot of banking. I’m sure when we get to Indianapolis and we’re going 30 miles an hour faster than we did last year, it will probably feel like a different ballgame.
It drove about like I expected it to, after talking to a lot of folks, some people that had driven the car. I’m excited, real excited, to see what it does at Indy.
Q. I know you’ve run Josef Newgarden for the full season. You have to be happy with Josef’s performance so far this season, and if you can talk about adding a second rookie driver at Indy.
SARAH FISHER: Absolutely, Josef, he’s definitely fast. We’ve got that going for us. He’s done a whole lot on the team side, too. He works very hard, as does Bryan. It’s great to marry those two programs together for the month of May.
We’ve learned a lot in the first four events leading up to the 500. I really wish there would have been an oval to give these two rookies a little bit of time before we hit Indy. But it is what it is and we’ve learned quite a bit already. We’re really, really happy with that. We’ve just got to continue to focus on finishing races, achieving that next step.
Q. I mentioned you raced at Indy nine times in your career. What does Indy mean to you? Now as a car owner, watching Josef and Bryan, what kind of advice do you give them?
SARAH FISHER: Well, I’m lucky to have a whole group of intelligent people that will help with advice. But Indianapolis means the world to me. I give everything to continue to go there year after year in whatever capacity it might be.
I’ve been honored to be there five years in a row as a car owner. That’s a very special thing. And then to bring Wink Hartman onboard to join me on the car ownership side, his first experience this year, that will be a lot to share.
It’s very meaningful, sharing that experience with two rookies who are very talented in their own right and have a slough of credentials that give them the backbone to be there, that’s going to be a very special experience, as well.
Q. Sarah, can you talk about, is there a chance Bryan has put a package together that he can run Texas, Iowa, Milwaukee, based on how things go at Indy?
SARAH FISHER: Well, it’s kind of I guess a big picture thing, how you do at Indy, what kind of programs we can put in place, sponsorships we can put in place. We’re still a small team, but yet we believe in great people.
Bryan fits that family culture that we have, greatness in achieving things together. He fits that perfectly. My husband Andy has done a whole lot to put this program together. We’re very proud of it. We believe in Bryan. So we’ll work really, really hard to put something together as the year unfolds.
We have to see how things go at Indy. If we come out of there with some cars, some extras, it makes it a lot easier, quite frankly, to put another race in place here and as we go down the line.
Certainly we believe in the program a hundred percent and we believe in his abilities. We’re going to continue to work hard to grow both programs.
Q. Sarah, I know your team has gotten some sponsorship for Dollar General for Josef’s car for the 500. I know you’ve been working hard to attract some sponsorship. What is the status of the program in terms of sponsorships?
SARAH FISHER: I’ll tell you what, I’m so thankful for our partner Wink Hartman. Racing is the only business I’m in. Luckily he’s in a lot more.
It’s not as great a year as we’ve had in the past. We’ve been pursuing a lot of different opportunities. Dollar General has been a partner of ours in the past and took me to several Indy 500s myself as a driver.
We always maintain great relationships with our partners, even when the time has passed. We’re very fortunate that they jumped in to help us for the month. But it’s for the Indy 500 only.
There’s still quite a bit of pressure on the sales force here to make (indiscernible) eat and make the ship go round. There’s a lot on our plate. Hopefully we can cross some T’s and dot some I’s as soon as we put some results on the board.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indianapolis 500 Mile on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by ABC at 11a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network at Noon (ET).