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INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – June 21, 2012

By Amy Konrath

Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Heat is on in three short Iowa qualifying races

2. Engine manufacturers can submit proposed changes to INDYCAR

3. Camera on starter to aid Race Control

4. Franchitti gets speedy flight

5. Of note

1. Heat is on in three short Iowa qualifying races: Rahal Letterman Racing managing director of motorsports Tom Anderson knows all too well that though they’re 30-lap heat races to set the starting lineup for the Iowa Corn Indy 250, nonetheless they’re races.

“It is going to be challenging because the drivers will all nod and say, ‘Yes, this is just a qualifying race and it’s only to determine a specific position to start and, really, the big show is Saturday night,’ ” Anderson said. “That somehow seems to change when they put their helmets on, so it will be quite interesting to see and I’m sure it will be worth the ticket price for those that show up (June 22).”

Qualification groups will be determined by lap times recorded by entries on the .875-mile oval in the second (45-minute) practice session (3:30 p.m. ET).

Race 1 will consist of the even-numbered positions, starting with the 10th-quickest practice time, and determine the even-numbered positions in the starting field from 10th down.

Race 2 will consist of the odd-numbered positions, starting with the ninth-quickest practice time, and determine the odd-numbered positions in the starting field from ninth down.

Race 3 will consist of drivers ranked one through eight from the practice. Results of Race 3 will determine the first four rows, with the winner taking the pole position.

Each race is projected for 12-14 minutes duration. Cars will carry about one-third of the E85 fuel load, which shouldn’t impact tire wear or the car’s consistency with its maximum 37-degree rear wing flap angle on the compound banking.

“Even though Iowa is a 7/8-mile track, it races a lot more like a mile-and-a-half superspeedway than it does a short track,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ at the Milwaukee Mile on June 16. “It’s high-banked, so it’s a reset from Milwaukee, which is flat. You really have to have a superspeedway mentality to race there.

“I’m interested to see what we have with the new car and new downforce. With the qualifying heats, it’s going to be mixed up. It’s tough because you’ll really have to take it easy and not hurt your race car in a heat race.”

Andretti Autosport drivers have won the past three short oval events: Hunter-Reay at Milwaukee and New Hampshire (August 2011) and Marco Andretti at Iowa (June 2011).

“Certainly, there’s a bit of an unknown going into this race and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,” said James Hinchcliffe, who’s second in the championship standings. “I think it’s cool we’re trying something different and we’ll see if this format is the right way to do it. We won’t know until we get out there and give it a run.

“It puts a lot of emphasis on practice. It does change our focus a bit; in practice we are trying to set up for our race cars and be sure we have the best car over a distance. Now for session two we have to focus on making it quick for at least one lap to get into a good group for the heat races. I think everyone is anxious and excited to see how it plays out.”

2. Engine manufacturers can submit proposed changes to INDYCAR: In mid-June and again at the end of the year, manufacturers whose engines are statistically more than 2.5 percent deficient in power may, at the discretion of INDYCAR, make improvements to components to be homologated.

Alterations are allowed to make up 2 percent of shortcomings, and they will be introduced on only new engines being sent to the track.

Manufacturers must present data to support their case, which is reviewed with relevant data collected by the sanctioning body’s engine support engineers. Manufacturers provide which components they seek to modify, along with projected gains and their scheduled introduction. INDYCAR will permit all, some or none of the proposals and the manufacturer may revise its plans accordingly.

Once approved, INDYCAR will inform the other manufacturers which components are being changed. The new parts will be homologated (sealed) before being incorporated, and the old parts remain homologated until the 2013 homologation date. For end-of-season upgrades, work must be completed and homologated before the first race of 2013.

The engine rules will be stable through the 2016 IZOD IndyCar Series season, with any corrections or modifications decided by INDYCAR after consultation with the INDYCAR Engine Committee.

3. Camera on starter to aid Race Control: IZOD IndyCar Series Race Director Beaux Barfield said a video camera will be fixed on the starter to capture green flag on starts and restarts, which will be recorded in the DVR and automatically synchronized to the other video in the system, eliminating the need to manually sync to Timing & Scoring. “It unquestionably improves our ability to precisely officiate starts and restarts,” Barfield said.

4. Franchitti gets speedy flight: Dario Franchitti was looking forward to seeing the decidedly new spin on the helicopter June 20 in Grand Prairie, Texas. He saw it — and the ground — from different angles.

The four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and helicopter pilot was among more than 1,000 guests, including Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, at the event to view the new X3 hybrid at American Eurocopter. The X3 can cruise at 264 mph, considerably faster than a conventional helicopter, and demonstrates unique maneuverability.

Following the public unveiling, Franchitti attended a briefing conducted by Eurocopter flight test engineers to go over the characteristics of the X3 before climbing into the co-pilot seat for a 20-minute test run.

“The flight was really incredible,” said Franchitti, who has flown and owned a Eurocopter EC120 and AS350 B3. “(American Eurocopter president Marc Paganini) and I had this joke that my IndyCars are faster than all of his helicopters, but I guess that they’ve fixed that one now. The X3 is now faster than the IndyCars. That says it all.”

Franchitti, driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, enters the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 23 with two victories in four starts at Iowa Speedway.

5. Of note: The A.J. Foyt Trophy will be decided at the final oval race of the season. James Hinchcliffe leads Tony Kanaan by seven points heading into the Iowa Corn Indy 2550. … A.J. Foyt Racing principals A.J. and Larry Foyt and driver Mike Conway attended the ABC Supply Founders Day Celebration at the company’s headquarters in Beloit, Wis. … Jimmie Johnson will wear the Graham Rahal Foundation helmet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race June 24 at Sonoma Raceway. The Graham Rahal Foundation, which was selected as one of the 12 charities through the Helmet of Hope program, will receive a $10,000 grant from Johnson.

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The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series race continues with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 23 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Sukup 100 on June 22 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network immediately following coverage of the Iowa Corn Indy 250.