Overheard in St. Petersburg – Friday

UPDATE Update on why the drivers were taking a different line through the chicane – Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay said that he and other racers were concerned about new, raised curbs at Turns 2, 4 and 9. Turn 4 is the intersection of Second Avenue S and First Street SE, Turn 9 the intersection of Central Avenue and Bay Shore Drive NE.

Hunter-Reay compared the previous curbs to loaves of bread: bumps small enough for the cars to drive over while keeping speeds up. The new curbs are bigger, like tabletops, he said, so drivers must maneuver around them.

"Our concern is it is going to lower the cornering speeds a little bit," Hunter-Reay said. "We need these things to look as fast as possible on TV. Now we may have to tiptoe around them."

03/23/12 A beautiful day here in St. Petersburg, Florida as the IndyCar Series kicks off its 2012 season with the theme being 'new.' "New cars and engines," Improved safety, Improved television "ratings and attendance." In spite of the "extra costs associated with a wholesale equipment change and a less-than-ideal economic and sponsorship climate, a full grid" of 26 cars will race for Sunday's event.

Based on lap times from Day 1, the Honda and Chevy engines appear to be on par with the top-10 almost divided equally between the two. Considering Lotus got a late start and Honda and Chevy grabbed all the top IndyCar teams, the Lotus cars are not too far off the pace considering the circumstances. The high speed ovals may tell another tale, we'll just have to wait and see.

In 2006 the Champ Car race ran under the lights

Word is that the Grand Prix of Houston will announce Wednesday that it has "secured a title sponsor for the event." IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is "expected to attend the news conference, but it is not known when the Grand Prix of Houston would be added to the IndyCar Series schedule. We would expect it to be added in 2013 as either an early season or late season race to avoid the oppressive heat and humidity in Houston. The Grand Prix of Houston has not been run since '07 when it was part of the Champ Car World Series. It ran as a night race in the parking lots of the Reliant Park football stadium in 2006 to avoid the heat the attendance was good. In 2007 it became a day race. If they want to do a day race it should run in February or early March. In fact the IndyCar season should begin the week before Super Bowl Sunday and be over by Labor Day and the start of the college and pro football season.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard appeared on Bloomberg TV’s “Sportfolio" said IndyCar is “an American-based sanctioning body so what we really want to focus on is making sure we have a minimum of 14-16 races here in the United States on a yearly basis. But then we want to listen to our partners and our sponsors and make sure we’re really reaching out to the markets they want to see us in. The top two markets they wanted us in were China and Brazil" I guess he forgot that the two Canada races are not in the USA, but that is OK, we assume he meant 14-16 races in North America.

On the record most team members say they are getting used to the new car, but off the record the word is that the car has had a lot of issues, but there is no alternate so they have to suck it up and get on with it. The new car is over one second per lap faster than last year's car and much of that gain is coming under braking where the new carbon fiber disk brakes really haul the car down. It is clear the new car still does not turn well, owing to Dallara's poor design. It's still understeering and we noticed coming through the chicane before the final turn, the drivers were avoiding hitting the curbs, whereas last year they had their two inside wheels on the curb. Hitting the curb must unsettle the chassis too much because the car is tail heavy.

Simon Pagenaud's No. 77 required a Honda engine change, which means he will be given a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday's race.

A lot of teams told us they really need more time with the new car, the Lotus teams especially, since they had limited preseason track time. Some cars didn't get their first Lotus engines until a day or two ago.

In the offseason Randy Bernard replaced 15% of the series' front office staff and "overhauled the series' executive ranks." The changes are "designed to improve communications across series departments and make sure everyone is accelerating in the same direction." Bernard is finalizing a search to fill a couple key executive posts — including web and licensing positions — he said he feels he has the team in place he needs to accelerate series growth. He said that he will "not downsize the staff of 60, just improve it"

"The tires are really, really good when they're new and it feels like we have a ton of grip and the balance is really good," said James Hinchcliffe. "But compared to last year, they are degrading at a quicker rate. Maybe that's intentional. I think Firestone was asked to do something to spice up the show a bit. When the tires fall away sooner it will definitely make the racing better." That could lead to surprises Sunday in a race known for producing unlikely faces on the podium. Mark C. reporting from St. Pete

Leave a Reply