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DATE News (chronologically)
11/19/11
irl
Infineon Raceway to see changes for 2012
Infineon has too many tight sections that deter passing
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
Infineon Raceway has already announced that the IndyCars will be returning on August 26th next year, but the series wants changes to the track to increase passing opportunities.

“We spent quite a bit of time during the Friday of the Las Vegas IndyCar event last month speaking with Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Tim Cindric from Team Penske,” said Steve Page, Infineon Raceway’s President and General Manager.

“Some of the ideas for changes to the track were pretty wild and ambitious, but we wanted to keep all ideas on the table from a creative standpoint. We also met with Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford and Brian Barnhart, and came away with a few changes that are plausible without being radical reconfigurations to the track.”

Changes to the circuit formerly known as Sears Point have been made on a regular basis since it opened in 1968. In recent years, alterations have been made to accommodate the needs of NASCAR, AMA motorcycles and now, the versatile, multi-configuration circuit will receive its latest round of modifications to improve its IndyCar layout.

“The changes we’re considering would open up passing in a few corners where those opportunities hadn’t previously existed,” Page continued. “We’ll continue to evaluate them through the remainder of the year, and by the first part of the next year, we should have a definitive direction on what we’re going to do. Most options involve paving, so we’d need to get those projects going fairly soon.”

“We saw a lot of potential without taking too much away from the circuit, and the track was really open to working with us to help what they’re trying to do,” said the Aussie, who recently signed to return for his fifth season with Team Penske.

“We’re trying to do anything we could to extend the straights and make longer braking zones to promote passing. There are some realistic ideas that would work very easily, but Will and I also came up with a crazy idea or two…”

“We asked about making use of the drag strip, kind of making two back-to-back straightaways next to each other. If you used it and ran down the drag strip, back towards the pits, then made a hairpin, then drove back up to the Turn 7 hairpin, we thought that might be exciting…then you keep all the flowing stuff going up the hill, but in the middle of the track, you’ve got a few hairpins to mix things up… We threw that one out there…I’m not sure that one’s going to happen, but it was cool of Mr. Page to let us explore a bit.”

Of the more likely changes to appear in 2012, Briscoe’s suggestion to lengthen existing straights was met with a favorable response, as was his call to widen the entry to a few corners in some of the single-file sections of the track.

“You go through Turn 3 and 3a, where Will had his accident a few years ago, and then, at the moment, we turn right immediately,” he said. “Instead of doing that, if we ran all the way down the hill where the NASCAR guys have their right turn, maybe extended it, made it a hairpin, then drove back up the hill to rejoin at our normal Turn 4—basically adding a loop--I think that could be quite interesting. You’d get a longer straight, a passing zone, and you’d still return and go through the Carousel (Turn 6) and keep that whole complex, which to me, is the signature corner at Infineon. You don’t want to lose that.”

Improving the run out of the Carousel to Turn 7 and then down to Turn 11 also received a lot of attention from Briscoe and Power.

“Then, at Turn 7, instead of doing a double-apex like we do now, make it a tight hairpin for us like at the Magny Cours F1 track,” said Briscoe. “You add a real passing zone there—it’s a kind of optimistic move at the moment. We also talked about skipping the chicane into Turn 9 and staying right like they do on the NASCAR layout and go flat through there into Turn 10. Maybe we’d have to lift then into Turn 10, but the natural question is about safety and adequate runoff area.

“Then maybe you could extend the turn at the final corner, Turn 11. The run out of Turn 10 isn’t very long so it’s not much of a braking zone. I don’t think they want us to go all the way down to the normal “Turn 11, but we suggested maybe going halfway—split the difference from where we turn right now and the NASCAR Turn 11. They might have to do some paving to smooth the track surface there, but I think it would add yet another place where passing can take place.” speedtv.com

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