I'm a retired educator and lifelong racing fan. I hope to return to fostering greyhounds in the near future. Living mainly in Indy and wintering in Florida. I attend about 10 Indycar races a year as well as some sports car events
In a mid afternoon press conference NTT Indycar Series Jay Frye said today’s Aeroscreen test “exceeded our high expectations. We learned a lot; we have lot of work to do but the foundation is set.” Frye said the cars will visually be different when teams do their own things to blend the new device into their liveries.
If necessary, the AMR Safety Team will be able to remove piece “within seconds,” Frye said. “They already have a piece they are practicing on,” he added.
The day long test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw drivers Will Power and Scott Dixon log 600 miles by 3 pm. Both drivers agreed that the test was seamless . Both drivers commented on how quiet it was in the cockpit. “I can hear my radio,” Dixon said.
Power was impressed with how quickly the project came together. “When you’ve driven it for a day you’re going to feel naked without it, ” he said. Asked if this car could race this weekend, Power responded, “you could race this weekend; no problem, no issue.” Dixon agreed.
Power and Dixon still believe some adjustments need to be made with the tear-offs and air flow adjustments. They both think reflections need work as well. Dixon sais there are some optional and driver’s personal preference items that need to be looked into as well.
Tire wear was not a concern today. Power said the car was more forgiving. The new weight distribution helped, he said. Dixon said on his long run the speed fall off was about the same as this year.
Following the press conference Power and Dixon returned to the track to do simulated “qualifying runs.”
I started the day skeptical of the aesthetics and how the Aeroscreen would work. I am ending the day impressed with the new safety piece. Safety is the first priority and this is a step in the right direction. As the piece blends in with the cars, it won’t be noticeable. It should be even less noticeable on the new chassis in 2022, when it is an integrated part of the car.
When the teams broke for lunch, I took some shots from inside the cockpit. It is a tight fit. The drivers seemed to have difficulty getting in and out of the car. I wonder how taller drivers like Graham Rahal or Alexander Rossi will be able to get in without a challenge. This enhances my concern about a driver getting out after an accident.
Another noticeable thing was the glare from the front wing and suspension arms. The mirrors look to be in a different spot as well.
I went to the turn 2 mounds for a bit. The aeroscreen is noticeable a bit at first, but after a a couple of laps I didn’t even think about it. One thing I noticed this morning, and in turn 2 as well,, is the reverberation off the walls sounds different. It seems a bit muted and deeper.
The cars are supposed to run together at some point today to determine how much dirty air there is and see how well they can pass.
Everybody relax. This will take some getting used to. And we will get used to it. Aesthetically it’s not the best looking Indycar I’ve ever seen, but it is the safest to date. I do see some things that pleasantly surprised me.
Since this piece is a retrofit on existing bodywork it is not going to be the best presentation. I think with the new car the aeroscreen will look better as an integrated part of the tub.
First, my biggest concern from a viewing standpoint, is that you can see the driver and his hands on the steering wheel. The screen is clear. I expected some kind of tinting that would make the driver invisible. Second, a crew member can reach inside to fasten the belts. I thought the driver would need to learn how to do that task. I still have a concern about extracting a driver in a bad accident or in case of fire.
From the little bit I’ve seen of the cars on track, I don’t notice much difference at speed. I will go out to turn 2 later and see if I can see much difference in how the cars look on track. I imagine there will be a much more noticeable profile difference on a road course.
I talked to Cara Adams of Firestone this morning. The tire supplier is using the current tire and has also brought last year’s tire as a backup. She expects higher right front loads due to the weight shift to a higher position. I will try to follow up with her later.
Here are a few more photos. I will up date later. Scott Dixon, Will Power, Jay Frye, and Andy Damerun of Red Bull Advanced technologies will have a media availability at 3 pm.
Tomorrow at IMS the NTT Indycar Series conducts the first of three on track tests of the new aeroscreen. Will Power of Team Penske and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing will drive cars outfitted with the new device. The test is slated to run from 9-5 ET. I will be on site to get a close up look and will be reporting during the day.
Notes from Indycar:
The series announced in May that the sanctioning body formed a partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies to design an Aeroscreen for enhanced driver cockpit protection that will be implemented for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.
The Aeroscreen is being developed to reduce the risk of driver injury from debris or other objects striking the cockpit area. The driver safety innovation that will surround the cockpit consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework.
The RBAT design will be a poly carbonate laminated screen that will include an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, anti-fogging device through an integral heating element and possibly tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party companies. Another feature for the drivers will be a cockpit cooling option that will be designed by Dallara in conjunction with RBAT.
The titanium framework will mount in three areas around the cockpit – the chassis center line, two rear side mounts and roll hoop integration – to provide enhanced load-bearing capabilities.
This will be the first of three on-track tests in three weeks for the Aeroscreen. Additional tests are scheduled for Barber Motorsports Park on Monday, Oct. 7 and at Richmond Raceway on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Photo: Josef Newgarden on his way to clinching the championship at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Kyle McInnes
In some ways 2019 was an unusual season for the NTT Indycar Series. In other ways, it was a typical season.
Some unusual items:
All three of the championship contenders heading to the final race had at least one finish of 15th or worse.
The seven race winners each won multiple times. I can’t recall that ever happening before. Seven winners seems like the lowest total in a few years as well.
None of the three contenders won a race after July 20.
Alexander Rossi did not lead a lap after his dominating win at Road America on June 23.
Typically, Team Penske drivers led more than 900 laps and won nine races. The team also enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the final standings.
Josef Newgarden combined consistency and some great pit strategy by Tim Cindric to jump to an early points lead which he held most of the season. Rossi climbed to within 16 points after Mid Ohio, but the lead expanded in the following race after Rossi’s involvement in the first lap incident at Pocono. Simon Pagenaud saved his job with his two brilliant victories in May. He had a 4.8 finishing average over the last six races and came up just 25 points short of his second title.
Rossi was dominating at Long Beach and Road America. He finished second in the Indianapolis 500. The rest of the time he was good, but not great. I thought Rossi was more consistent in 2018. Since his Road America win, Rossi had an average finish of 7.7
Dixon’s Title Defense Stalls
Scott Dixon’s season was typical of his title defense years. He never got going. 2019 was just the second time he has finished outside the top three in the standings.
Dixon finished second three times and third once in the first five races. A 17th place in the Indianapolis 500 followed by a crash and 22nd place in the first Belle Isle race put Dixon in a hole he could not climb out of. He did bounce back to win the second race at Belle Isle and also won at Mid Ohio. Dixon now has 46 career wins, just six short of Mario Andretti for second place all time.
Rookies Have Outstanding Year
The four rookies- Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, and Santino Ferrucci- collectively had a season that any rookie group would be thrilled with. The class earned 2 wins, 4 poles, and 6 podiums. Ferrucci had an average finish on ovals of 6.2. Rosenqvist’s street/road course average was a respectable 7.1. Herta took most of the headlines with his three poles and two victories, but mechanical issues and accidents suppressed his averages and kept him behind in the points standings.
Rosenqvist won the Rookie of the Year title with a fierce drive at Laguna Seca from 14th to fifth to edge Herta by five points. He served notice at St. Petersburg that the rookies meant business when he passed Will Power on a restart. With Rosenqvist staying at Ganassi and Herta moving to the main Andretti team, I see a future rivalry between these two in a couple years.
Surprises and Disappointments
The biggest surprise of the year was Takuma Sato winning two races and earning two pole positions. Sato had a big slump beginning at Texas and was blamed for the early accident at Pocono. It would be nice to see him put a full season together.
Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank racing deserve consideration for driver and team of the year. Harvey earned the team’s first podium at the Indycar Grand Prix. In just 10 races, Harvey had four top ten finishes, got into the Fast Six twice, and finished on the lead lap in seven races. They seemed to struggle after their long break following Road America. If their plan to be full time in 2020 works out, they should be even better.
Zach Veach was probably the most disappointing driver. After finishing 2018 strongly, I thought he would have a great year. He lingered in the back half of the field most weekends and finished 18th in points, ahead of only Matheus Leist and Ed Jones among the drivers who drove all 17 races.
The Best and Not So Best
Not every race can be great, and like most years a few races stood out.
For me, the best races were the Indycar Grand Prix, Mid Ohio, Iowa, and Gateway.
The worst races in my opinion were Pocono, Detroit 1, Toronto, and Portland.
I went to Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca with low expectations. When the race was announced as the season finale replacement for Sonoma, I thought it was just a lateral move. We would see the same processional race on another narrow track. The only similarity between the two is they are both in northern California. I was wrong on all counts. I was very impressed with the track. The racing was great. I was not anticipating any kind of decent crowd, but again I was pleasantly surprised.
Not since my first time at Road America have I been so impressed with a track at first glance. The top of the mountain was daunting as I entered the track grounds. My jaw dropped at my first glimpse of the Corkscrew. As massive as the track seems, it is really rather easy to navigate. The layout is actually quite simple. Walking to the top of the corkscrew is quite a hike. There is a path to walk down from there to turn 10. It’s an easier walk down than up.
There are several vantage points from which at least 80% of the track can be seen. From the top you can see all of the track except for turn 6 and part of the front stretch. I watched the race from the outside of turn 2. I could see up to turn 5, the run to turn 10, and a bit of turn 11.
Another difference from Sonoma is the greenery. Sonoma is green in the spring, but when Indycar came in September the scenery was brown. Laguna Seca has lots of evergreen trees and green grass.
I questioned the wisdom of the Indycar scheduling the finale at this track a week after the IMSA race. I thought for sure it would hurt attendance. It was a pleasant surprise to see a good crowd there. I talked to several local fans. One fan told me he had attended every Indycar race at the track and was very happy the series had returned. Several fans were wearing vintage shirts.
A younger couple in the RV camping area told me when they called to reserve a spot the first day tickets went on sale, they each called on their own phones and were on the phone for three hours before one of them got through.
I have seen estimates of 25,000 on race day. I believe that is a credible number. So many fans are hidden from view at the Corkscrew, that it is difficult to gauge the size of the crowd. Sunday’s attendance is a good baseline to grow this event from.
I was expecting Sonoma 2.0, a race where position changes came about because of pit strategy. Fortunately, it was a good race with challenges for the lead all day, passing through the field, and fights for position in the top ten. Felix Rosenqvist and Sebastien Bourdais carved their way into the top ten from mid-pack. Colton Herta had his hands full holding off Scott Dixon after pit stops.
The brief yellow in the middle of a stint didn’t allow for pitting, which kept the caution shorter. I hope this yellow period can serve as a model for the future, where the caution time isn’t extended to allow drivers to pit. I’ve always thought cars should pit under caution at the risk of the green coming back out at any time. IMSA has short yellows. It is something I’d like to see Indycar adopt as well.
It’s Still Not the Finale I’d Like to See
While the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey was a major improvement over the recent finales at Sonoma, I would still prefer the NTT Indycar series end its season on an oval and without double points. An oval provides more chances for drivers behind in the standings to overtake the points leader. If a driver is far enough behind that their only chance to win the title is to dominate a double points race, he or she likely doesn’t deserve the championship.
I’ll be back next week with a full season review and coverage of the aeroscreen test at IMS.