Rutherford: New package will be 'exciting' Johnny Rutherford pivots over the pit lane wall at Texas Motor Speedway (not bad for an individual who turns 74 on March 12) when he recognizes static time in the test session to get a closer look at the new Dallara car.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion surveys the sleek machine from nose to tail and engages its occupant, Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe, in conversation about the hand clutch (moved to the steering wheel for 2012), aerodynamic drag and engine power.
“Have fun,” he bids the driver on this test day on the 1.5-mile oval before catching up with Rick Mears a few feet away.
Rutherford views it all as “fun,” an opportunity to develop the characteristics of the new chassis to one’s potential advantage and provide feedback to Chevrolet engineers regarding the new-for-2012 engine package. Over the years, he’s had plenty of such opportunities.
“It’s a challenge for sure, and it’s a lot of fun for a driver,” says Rutherford, who proudly announces he’ll be a grandfather for the sixth time (all boys). “I enjoyed it and did a lot of testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Goodyear. Tire testing is a great teacher. I drove for McLaren for several years and they were very thorough in their thoughts about where they wanted to be and the testing we did. I learned a great deal from testing the cars that helped me throughout my career.”
Getting behind the wheel, according to Rutherford, on multiple courses is the most effective route to developing the package for the diverse IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
“This new car, you can draw it and build it and do whatever you think you need to do to find out how it’s going to react or what it’s going to be like. But it’s still a fact that the only dyno you can put it on to tell what it’s going to be like is the racetrack – that black ribbon out there,” he says.
“The car that we just went away from and ran for several years (the Dallara introduced in 2003) took three years to develop to where everybody was comfortable with it and knew what was going on. This is brand new now and has a brand new engine package so it will take time. It’s going to be exciting for the drivers and something that the fans can really get into because they’ll follow how it responds and works.” IndyCar.com
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