IRL: Homestead: Season opener preview

IRL INDYCAR® SERIES PARTICIPANTS PREPARE FOR CHALLENGE OF HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 28, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar® Series will open its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 6 at Homestead-Miami...

IRL INDYCAR® SERIES PARTICIPANTS PREPARE FOR CHALLENGE OF HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 28, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar® Series will open its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Originally configured as a quad-oval similar to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 1.5-mile asphalt oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway was reconfigured in 2003 to a variably banked layout that is ideally suited for Indy Racing League cars.

The track now has three distinct racing lanes banked at 18 degrees at the bottom, 19 degrees in the middle and 20 degrees at the top, and presents a challenge to the 22 drivers, team engineers and Firestone engineers as described in the following first-person narratives:

THE DRIVER:

Sam Hornish Jr. has won three of the four IndyCar Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He dominated on the track's former "flat" configuration, winning twice in three starts. In 2004, he used an atypical pass on the bottom to win in his debut with Marlboro Team Penske.

"Homestead is unique because none of the other tracks have that many steps of variable banking. The only place that has anything like it is Turns 1 and 2 at Michigan.

"It is a big change from the way the track used to be. I liked the old track because of how flat it was. You really had to have your car handling well, and it was a big adjustment between having a car that would go well down the straightaways to what would handle well in the corners. Some people would go for all-around straightaway speed and they couldn't get through the corners. It really was all about being able to make your car handle well in traffic.

"But the new track has its challenges too because you want to have as little amount of downforce as possible but still be able to run up behind the guys. So there often are a lot of tradeoffs. People don't realize just because you might be able to go around a bit easier by yourself.

"The track, the way it used to be, was all setup, all making sure the car was prepared right at the beginning of the race. You have that, but there is a lot of mental because you have to wait and make your move at the right time because other people can draft back by you. You have to have the car and the engine and all the things right."

THE ENGINEER:

Andy Brown led Sam Hornish Jr. to 11 of his 12 victories in the IndyCar Series as his race engineer. He's now the head engineer for Panther Racing's two-car effort for Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge.

"Since we last raced at Homestead, we've lost 0.5 liter off of the engine, and gained a significant amount of downforce with the new chassis underbody from Dallara. One of challenges is just how much we can trim out the rest of the aerodynamic package (rear wing flap angles, underbody trailing edge wickers, etc) to suit the above. We don't want to go too far, as we still need to produce a "raceable" package for Sunday. The track was re-paved before last year's race,. How has the surface weathered over the year, will we have as much grip from the tires and track? That's another aspect to consider when adjusting the car. We also have some new team personnel to get to know, including a new driver (Enge). Pre-season testing has gone well, but how will these people react under the increased pressure of a race meeting, and what's it going to take to get the best out of them? It takes a couple of races for the whole team to gel, and one challenge for me is how best to help this process along in the engineering department.

"Perhaps the biggest issue is 'getting back in the groove.' We've all had a winter's layoff, the last race was back in October, and sitting at a desk thinking 'what if,' trying to predict possible issues and putting suitable solutions in the bank, is no substitute for having to think on your feet in the pressure cooker of the pit lane at a race.

"By the third or fourth race, meeting the 'rapid fire' deadlines that occur at a race track becomes second nature, but for the first couple of events there's some rust to be chipped away."

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:

Firestone's race tire development team considers the configuration of each track as it chooses the tire compound to be used at each track. According to Firestone engineers, Homestead-Miami Speedway's high banking angle and tight corner radius create Firestone's most challenging track conditions.

TRACK FACTS:

WHAT:
Toyota Indy 300, First race in 17-race 2005 season

WHERE:
Homestead-Miami Speedway, 1.5 mile asphalt, oval

WHEN:
2 p.m. (EST), Sunday, March 6

DISTANCE:
200 laps/300 miles

TV:
ESPN (live), 2 p.m. (EST), March 6.

RADIO:
Qualifying webcast: 11:30 a.m. (EST), www.indycar.com
Qualifying wrap-up show: IMS Radio Network, 2:30 p.m. (EST), March 5
Race: IMS Radio Network, 1:30 p.m. (EST), March 6

The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , CIP