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IndyCars to test at New Hampshire today UPDATE Tony Kanaan drew a comparison between New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he completed the first segment of a two-day Firestone tire test, and Chicago Motor Speedway, where he competed in CART, in helping decide downforce parameters for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series return to the 1-mile oval.

100901DIXON_300px (ROGER  AMSDEN)
IRL driver Scott Dixon gets into his car during tire testing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway yesterday in Loudon.  Note the massive 70,000 seat grandstands that will look near empty come race day
ROGER AMSDEN/UnionLeader.com
The conversation with IZOD IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch and Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon is just what Firestone Racing senior project manager Dale Harrigle wanted to hear. It helps his cause as Firestone engineers went through their due diligence to discern a direction for the tire specification.

"Especially coming to a track we haven't run at in a long time, we want to bring veteran drivers who can tell us what they feel in the car and give us a direction," Harrigle said. "We want guys who have driven different downforce levels and different racetracks that can help us hone in on where we want to be for this race."

Nearly 400 tires of 20 different compounds were brought to the track, which last played host to the series in 1998. On June 27, IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard joined Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith and New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president Jerry Gappens in announcing a race date for 2011 (Aug. 14).

"When the IRL announced this race in Loudon, obviously we had a history here from '96 through '98 but the closest track we ran at most recently was Milwaukee, and this track is similar to Milwaukee," Harrigle said. "Our baseline tire is the 2009 Milwaukee tire. We took that construction, put some current compounds on it and brought it here as our control tire. We also have some compounds that are a little softer and a little harder to give us a good range.

"We completed our runs on the control tires to get the guys comfortable, give both teams time to work on their car setup and then we'll go through our range of compounds to see where we are. On (Sept. 1), we'll evaluate where we are with the appropriate level of grip, hardness and durability for a fuel stint."

Kanaan and Dixon agreed that the aero package used at The Milwaukee Mile as a baseline was initially comfortable for the variably-banked (2 to 7 degrees) oval.

"Out of the box we were very close," Blanch said. "In qualifying, with the package we have now, the drivers can probably get flat if the car is really good. In the race, there will be no way you're going to get flat. They'll have to constantly work the throttle, which is what you want.

"The track is going to lend itself to really good racing when we get the numbers right on the downforce."

Kanaan and Dixon agreed on that, too.

"The track is very suitable for these cars," said Dixon, who was more than 1.5 seconds quicker out of the box than the 1998 IZOD IndyCar Series pole speed and 6 seconds quicker than the NASCAR Sprint Cup track qualifying record. "The key points are picking the tire and an aero package that is going to be good for the racing and the fans.

"I'm excited to be back on another short track. I can't wait to get back here for the real thing."

Added Kanaan: "We have a big responsibility because if we don't find a good package we're going to get yelled at."

08/31/10 Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon are expected to test at the New Hampshire 1-mile oval track this morning in preparation for next year’s return of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
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