By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Dallara modifies 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series chassis in name of safety:
2. If you missed it: James Hinchcliffe conference call
1. Dallara modifies 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series chassis in name of safety: Carbon dust permeated a section of the Dallara Auomobili facility in Speedway, Ind., as personnel cut three slots in underwing supports of the new IZOD IndyCar Series cars to lessen lateral and maintain vertical stiffness.
While it might seem contrary to safety objectives, testing by Dallara earlier this week found that the stiffness of the underwing supports could be a contributing factor to the car slightly lifting off the racetrack in three instances over the Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend when it impacted the SAFER Barrier with the car’s centerline parallel to the wall.
“Dallara’s response has been immediate to try and make sure all improvements possible could be implemented in time for the race – all credit to them,” said Will Phillips, vice president of technology for INDYCAR, sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series. “Feedback from observers, safety officials and drivers enabled Dallara to have the data very quickly, and their solution and response is a great example of how safety comes first.”
The simple modification will be complete for Miller Lite Carb Day on May 25 on all 33 cars in the starting lineup.
Through the nine days of practice and qualifications, five crashes were recorded. All competitors – Josef Newgarden, Bryan Clauson, Oriol Servia, Ed Carpenter and Charlie Kimball — were checked at the infield medical center and cleared to drive.
The 2.5-mile racetrack is the first oval test for the new car that was designed and manufactured with safety features not incorporated in the car that had been in use from 2003-11.
Crash computer modeling and sled testing of the monocoque, roll hoop, attenuator, side and bottom intrusion panels and nose box was part of the design and development process at the company’s Italy headquarters.
2. If you missed it: James Hinchcliffe conference call: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to preview the Indianapolis 500. A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at media.indycar.com. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. James, talk about your season so far. I guess it’s just like you drew it up when you signed with Andretti Autosport.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It certainly has been a good start. We came into the season not knowing a lot of expect with these new cars and an engine war again, me with a new team.
Huge credit to the Andretti Autosport team because that effort has resulted in good results on the racetrack. Like you say, we’ve had good qualifying and then pretty decent race results up to this point in the season, street courses, road courses, and now qualifying-wise an oval as well.
It’s just great to see the efforts everybody has put in is equaling the results on the racetrack.
Q. Talk about this Sunday’s race. It’s been a rain-free month of May. You’ve had plenty of opportunity to be on the course in the IZOD IndyCar Series car. What kind of race do you expect on Sunday?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Again, it’s a race of unknowns. This is the first time anybody will run this car for a full race distance on an oval. With the heat we’re expecting on Sunday, that throws a question mark into the mix. We just don’t know how this car is going to race.
As much as we try to run around in packs in practice, when you have all 33 cars on track running flat out and racing properly, it’s a very different game than what you see during practice, even though we’ll see on Carb Day.
You’re going to have to be flexible on your strategy, you’re going to have to adjust the car at pit stops and inside the cockpit, stay ahead of the changing conditions. That’s sort of the nature of this race just because of how long it is.
Q. The last Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500, the only one actually, was Jacques Villeneuve who ironically drove the No. 27 car to the win. What would it mean for you to bring home a win in Indianapolis?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I mean, it’s beyond words. That’s a tough thing to describe. But obviously this is the biggest race of our calendar. This is the one that everybody wants to win.
We’re starting on the front row, starting in a good position with the Go Daddy car for the drop of the green. But there are 500 very long miles that we have to finish after that and hopefully we can be there at the end.
Q. We know you’re an intense driver with a lighthearted personality. Do you think your personality is a key to your success on the track?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don’t know. I think in the car I’m a very different person than I am out of the car. I try very hard. I worked very hard for a long time to separate those two. There were times where I was probably too lighthearted in the car when I was younger, and there were times when I was too serious out of the car.
Trying to find that balance has been a key to some of my success, just knowing when to flip that switch. If you’re in the lighthearted mode all the time, you’re not taking the racing serious enough. If you’re too serious all the time, you burn out easily, you don’t appreciate where you are, what you’re able to do.
I think having that careful balance is a very important part of what keeps me loving the sport so much.
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) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network.