Short oval package won't short-change excitement
Following a smashing success of the new car-engine package at Texas Motor Speedway, the IZOD IndyCar Series completes the mid-season trio of oval events at the Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway.
Those consecutive Saturday races won't lack for entertainment, but they'll be devoid of the drama associated with how a rear wicker the thickness of Tuesday's USA Today can influence a race car's performance on a 1.5-mile, high-banked speedway.
The short oval aerodynamic package for the 1-mile, flat Milwaukee track and .875-mile, progressively banked Iowa Speedway is closely aligned with the road/street course platform. The lone mandatory element is the addition of front brake duct backing plates, while two-thirds radiator inlet shutters are options. Rear wheel infils and sidepod top decks (drag reductions) are verboten.
Eighteen drivers tested May 29 at Milwaukee and 21 at Iowa Speedway on June 12.
"The package worked well at Milwaukee and I expect the same at Iowa for two exciting races," INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said.
The final element of the aero package devised for Texas Motor Speedway in an INDYCAR/driver collaboration proved to be what almost every competitor sought in the first race of the new car on an 1.5-mile oval.
"There was plenty of passing, an exciting finish and a safe race," Phillips said of the 228-lap race under the lights won by Justin Wilson in the No. 18 Sonny's BBQ car for Dale Coyne Racing. "Would we have tweaked the package slightly if we had to do it again? Not much. We made the drivers work hard, which is something they have been asking for."
Most drivers who utilized the one-eighth-inch wicker were able to run almost flat until the Firestone Firehawks wore and the fuel load lightened to conspire to make the car became a handful. Still, it was the alternative to the pack racing that drivers were attempting to steer clear of.
"This is the best racing I've ever had on an oval," said Power, the series championship leader by 36 points over Scott Dixon. "You had to lift, you had to look after your tires, you had to really drive the thing — it was moving around. That is just the sort of racing that we need at these sort of tracks."
Racing at the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ on June 16 (1 p.m. ET on ABC) and the Iowa Corn Indy 250 (10 p.m. ET June 23 on NBC Sports Network) will likely continue the momentum.
"We put on some great shows this year, and we need to keep that buzz going," said Graham Rahal, who was overtaken by Wilson on Lap 226 after brushing the Turn 4 wall. "I saw guys going forward like crazy one stint, next stint they were falling back like crazy, and I was one of them. That's phenomenal. That's the way it should be. That's the way it used to be.
"And, ultimately, the goal here is to put more butts in the seats out there and more eyes on the TV. If racing like this keeps helping it, then I'm all for it."