By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Power gets back in the saddle at Mid-Ohio test
2. If you missed it: Wheldon-Herta-Newey teleconference
3. Dixon making up ground
4. Solar panels to provide about 41 percent of Infineon’s energy usage
1. Power gets back in the saddle at Mid-Ohio test: Back in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car for a test day at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Will Power said he “feels fine” following the hard hit into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier June 25 at Iowa Speedway during the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer.
Power was cleared to drive by the INDYCAR medical staff July 28 and joined Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe on the 2.258-mile road course. Dale Coyne Racing’s James Jakes also tested. The IZOD IndyCar Series visits the venue, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, for the Honda Indy 200 on Aug. 7.
Power also will join Pippa Mann, who will compete in three races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, on the 1.056-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway oval for testing July 5.
Per INDYCAR rules, Power took the ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test and was re-evaluated.
“It’s good to be back out there in the Verizon car,” said Power, who was credited with 21st place in the Iowa race and enters the Honda Indy Toronto 20 points behind championship leader Dario Franchitti. “It was a hard hit at Iowa, but I didn’t actually get knocked out or anything. I just had a headache for the first night and some neck soreness. I needed to get checked out by the INDYCAR officials and it was more precautionary than anything, but that’s good, because you can never be too careful.
“Every driver does a test, called an ImPACT test, at the beginning of every season. It basically tests your reflexes, your memory and so on. Then you have to go back and do that test again if you have an incident like what we had in Iowa. I took the test (June 28) and the doctors cleared me to drive.”
Because race car drivers are susceptible to concussions and other head and neck injuries during crashes, baseline testing is an important part of INDYCAR’s medical evaluation process. The ImPACT procedure measures a driver’s cognitive abilities under normal, healthy conditions. This information establishes the driver’s baseline testing data.
Before competing in an IZOD IndyCar Series event, drivers are required to establish their baseline data by performing the 30-minute, computerized ImPACT test, measuring a range of neurocognitive functions including memory, reaction time, attention span and other cognitive abilities.
If a driver suffers a head injury, doctors will perform the test again and compare the results to the driver’s baseline, significantly improving the ability to diagnose the severity of the injury and better prescribe treatment.
“I’m glad we got the chance to test here at Mid-Ohio to get ready for the road courses coming up,” Power said. “Now I’m looking forward to going back to Toronto next week and trying to defend our win there with Verizon Team Penske.”
2. If you missed it: Wheldon-Herta-Newey teleconference: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport co-owners Bryan Herta and Steve Newey participated in a teleconference today to discuss BHA’s selection as the test organization for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series program. A full transcript and MP3 audio of the call is available at www.indycar.com/media. Selected quotes are below.
Q. Bryan, how important is the role that BHA will play in developing the next car?
BRYAN HERTA: I think it’s super important. We all ‑‑ everybody’s excited about the new car, what it’s going to look like, how fast is it going to be, you know, there’s going to be different engines going into it.
So it’s important for us to make sure that the car is fast, reliable, safe, all those things, so that by the time it’s out on track and the public is seeing it, that it’s a finished product and something that everybody’s going to want to come out and watch racing next year.
Q. Dan, I know you have some extensive time behind the wheel of an IndyCar as a test driver for Honda in the past. What kind of goals do you have for yourself going into an extensive testing program like this?
DAN WHELDON: I think with something as serious as this, it’s not about achieving goals for yourself, it’s about achieving goals for everybody involved.
It’s, for me, a job that I’m going to take very, very seriously. I’m thankful to the IndyCar Series for giving me the opportunity. But there’s a lot you have to undertake. We need to make sure that the product that the IndyCar Series puts out towards the end of this year, beginning of 2012, is something that primarily the fans get very excited about, but also the teams and drivers.
And obviously we want to make sure that the product we put out is incredibly safe. So it’s not, I would say, about achieving goals for myself, it’s more about achieving everything the manufacturers associated with the program want to achieve.
And I think that’s why it’s very good to have Bryan Herta Autosport involved. We saw the job they were able to do at the Indianapolis 500. It’s great that Dalara are involved. They’ve put together a great car, and the car that we’ve been using for a long time now has produced incredibly great racing. It’s been very close but also from a safety standpoint it’s been good.
And we’ve also got the involvement with Honda and Firestone. So everybody involved, I think, has goals to achieve and my job is about helping them achieve them.
Q. Steve, I know you were involved with the setting up the Firestone test team back in the mid‑nineties when Firestone was talking about coming back to IndyCar racing, what kind of unique challenges do test teams have, especially since your team is not really involved in the competition side on the IndyCar level?
STEVE NEWEY: Well, some of the challenges, you know, are very similar to what a race team faces every race weekend or every test event. And that is conducting the testing in a very practical manner, first of all, and conducting it in such a way that all the various invested parties get what they’re looking for in terms of results.
So it’s a very tedious process. It can be at times it can be downright boring, frankly, because you’re not out there competing and racing against other teams and other drivers. So it’s about accumulating miles and confirming the structural integrity of all the components that are highly stressed and it’s a very methodical approach, and we’ve got a great team put together.
And I think I’m looking forward to it and it reminds me a lot of the program we did put together for Firestone back in 1994, and I might add that was a very successful program. And we’re taking this very serious, as Bryan said, and we’re looking forward to the challenge in providing each constituent that’s involved in the testing program with the conclusion that they’re looking for.
Q. Steve or Bryan, it’s been a month since your team won the Indianapolis 500. What has that win done for the morale of your team which fields full‑time Firestone Indy‑wide entries, and are there any prospects for racing later in this year or even next year based on that win?
BRYAN HERTA: Yeah, it’s been amazing for the team. You know, all of us have just thoroughly enjoyed everything we’ve been able to be a part of since the 500 and since that win.
And, you know, we’re looking forward to what that means for the future of our organization. It’s no secret that we’re very happy with Dan, that our goal is to race full season in 2012, that all things being equal we’d love to do that with Dan. So I think we’re working in that direction.
I think being part of this test program and the continuity that we bring over from the Indy 500, it’s the same group of guys, same driver, same people involved. We can transition seamlessly into the test program. Ideally out of the test program we’ll be able to transition into a full season program for next year.
In terms of racing for this year, you know, theoretically right now on the schedule we’d be done in time to get to Vegas for the finale. And it’s something we’ve talked about, but our focus is on make prognosis sure we do a good job for this test program and really trying to gear up for next season.
3. Dixon making up ground: Scott Dixon advanced 20 positions to finish third in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer. Now all the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver has to do is make up about 50 points – equivalent to a race victory — to be in the mix for his third IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
He has nine races remaining, including three consecutive street/road courses on deck in the next five weeks. The result June 25 – his fifth top 10 in a row, and highest, at the .875-mile oval – moved Dixon into third in the standings. He’s 73 points behind teammate Dario Franchitti and trails Team Penske’s Will Power by 53.
There’s not a magic bullet to closing the gap; just continue to pile up podium finishes. Having your chief competitors struggle helps, too.
“It’s a tough championship; if you get into a bit of a rut and even get mixed up in the wrong programs, you can lose a lot of points quickly,” he said. “If you have a good weekend it’s 53 points as opposed to somebody maybe making 12, so you can close the gap pretty quickly.”
Dixon referenced 2008, during which he had a 65-point lead in the championship over Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves following his victory at Edmonton. He increased the advantage to 78 points two weeks later with a victory at Kentucky Speedway. But 12th place at Infineon Raceway and fifth at Belle Isle, while Castroneves recorded first- and second-place finishes, cut the margin to 30 points heading into the season finale.
Castroneves charged from 28th place to win at Chicagoland Speedway by 0.0033 of a second over Dixon, who secured the title by 17 points over the 17 races.
“When you have your bad weekends, if you can sort of extract the best points or the best finishing position, that’s what you need to do,” said Dixon, who’s recovered from non-top-10 finishes in three of the first four races with five consecutive top 10s. “I think that’s what Dario has been very strong at throughout the last few years; where they maybe haven’t had the best car, they’ve still come up with a hell of a good finish at the end.”
4. Solar panels to provide about 41 percent of Infineon’s energy usage: Infineon Raceway, in partnership with Panasonic, has installed 1,652 solar panels that will cover 41 percent of the raceway’s energy usage.
In a further move designed to reduce energy consumption, Panasonic has also provided the raceway with a low-energy LED video board, replacing the current installation on Highway 37. The IZOD IndyCar Series makes its annual trip to the Sonoma Valley circuit on Aug. 26-28.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Indy Toronto on July 10 at Streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Toronto 100 at Streets of Toronto on July 10. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at Noon. (ET) by VERSUS.