IndyCar, are you watching?

UPDATE A reader adds, Dear, Interesting read on the canopy on Don Schumacher's car but Don Garlits had a canopy on his rail as late as 2002 although I don't think it was polycarbonate like the new one. Steve Karnes

Dear Steve, Thanks for the reminder. Interesting that the 'old' IndyCar fraternity that struggles with letting go of the past, thinks that adding a canopy doesn't make it an open wheel IndyCar anymore. From where we sit, Schumacher's dragster (below) still has 'open' wheels, with or without the canopy. Ditto for IndyCar if they can get past the 'old' and put driver safety first. Let's hope it doesn't take a flying wheel (or other object – fence post, suspension piece, deer (recall da Matta)) hitting a driver in the head and killing them before effective change is made. Recall pounded NASCAR with many articles calling for them to make the HANS Device mandatory. They refused. Then their biggest star was killed (Dale Earnhardt) from the very injury the HANS Device was designed for, and then they finally made it mandatory. A sad commentary. My mother (God rest her soul) often reminded me when I was a stubborn kid, you can lead a donkey to the water, but you can't make him drink. Mark C.

schumacher_tony201/18/12 The look might be considerably different but to Tony Schumacher, the first of the Don Schumacher Racing capsule-quipped dragster product line is absolutely the “coolest" dragster he’s ever driven.

“I can tell you this [prototype] doesn’t belong on any other car to start with but the Army car for the first appearance," explained Schumacher. “For all the awesome technology and data they [U.S. Army] have, this is a fitting car for the debut of this canopy."

Schumacher has been a passenger in an F-16 fighter before but experienced the ride from the back seat. This time he is front and center in the experience.

“It’s just bad to the bone and when they close you up in there, you can hear the engine so much better," said Schumacher. “It’s so much quieter that you can actually hear the engine in better detail, doing what it is supposed to do."

The plan over the next few days will be to give Schumacher’s teammates Antron Brown and Spencer Massey seat time within the enclosed cockpit.

“We’re going to get a consensus from them and run it by the NHRA, two, three or seven times before we move forward and then we’ll get after it," Schumacher said. “We just want to make sure it all works. We’ve never seen how it works in a crash. I know I don’t want to be crash dummy."

Schumacher certainly has enough experience with runs going awry in the past and not necessarily of his own doing.

“I’ve hit two birds, had [Gary] Scelzi crash next to me, Kenny Bernstein crash, dodged parts and pieces, and to me this thing appears bulletproof," said Schumacher after an initial 3.80-second pass in the car. “We don’t know for sure because we haven’t had anybody shoot at it yet. It’s pretty stout. You get in there and you feel the difference."

Aside from the crash-testing or chasing down an errant bird, one of the major keys as to whether the design will work will come when the team makes test runs tonight.

“We really don’t know how the vision will be or how to deal with the canopy fogging up," explained Schumacher.

Schumacher said the team is currently working on preventative measures to ensure visibility will always remain at an optimum.

Schumacher remains grateful that his father Don never gave up on the project of building a safer cockpit when faced with the controversy of the previous phase of the movement in shrouding the drivers. The NHRA first approved the shroud design and then disallowed it amidst allegations it offered an aerodynamic advantage. The NHRA later rescinded its decision in allowing a modified version.

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