IRL: Nashville: Round nine pre-race notes

IRL INDYCAR SERIES PARTICIPANTS READY FOR MUSIC CITY'S CONCRETE CHALLENGE INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 11, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar Series continues its 10th season of competition with the Firestone Indy 200 on Saturday, July 16 at Nashville ...

IRL INDYCAR SERIES PARTICIPANTS READY FOR MUSIC CITY'S CONCRETE CHALLENGE

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 11, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar Series continues its 10th season of competition with the Firestone Indy 200 on Saturday, July 16 at Nashville Superspeedway.

This will be the IndyCar Series' fifth visit to Nashville, which has played host to the IndyCar Series since 2001. The 1.33-mile concrete oval is the only one of its kind on the IndyCar Series schedule. The racing surface and the way it affects IndyCar Series machines makes racing a challenge as described in the following first-person narratives:

THE DRIVER:

Alex Barron knows how to get around Nashville Superspeedway. Barron claimed his first IndyCar Series victory in his first visit to the 1.33-mile track in 2002 and finished fifth there the following season.

He was on pace to record another top-10 finish in 2004 before he was forced to retire after his suspension was damaged

"Nashville is the only concrete track we run during the season, so it's really different than the other tracks we run on in terms of handling and tire life. The track is set up a lot like Kansas in terms of banking, but it's bumpy in Turn 2. We run 70 percent of the race during the day and 30 percent at night, so the track changes during the course of the race."

"The challenge on this track is working in the high groove. The abrasive concrete causes a lot of marbles on the high line late in the race, which makes it hard to pass safely. To be competitive you have to have a fast car, but handling is also extremely important."

"Every time I've done well there, I've had a fast car. However, a lot can change on the last pit stop, which always seems to be very important. I enjoy this race because we always get a good crowd, and they really get into it, plus racing under the lights is always exciting."

THE ENGINEER:

Fernandez Racing technical director John Dick is regarded as one of the top engineers in racing. After the last three seasons as a race engineer for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, Dick now oversees the engineering and technical efforts for the teams of Kosuke Matsuura and Scott Sharp. In addition to the current Fernandez roster of drivers, Dick has worked with Roger Yasukawa and also engineered Alex Barron's winning effort at Nashville for Blair Racing in 2002.

"The biggest challenge about Nashville is that it is concrete; it doesn't have a lot of grip and is quite bumpy. The other challenge is that the concrete surface maintains a relatively constant temperature from day to night. You think that would make it more consistent, but it actually makes it harder to forecast what the grip level is going to be like. For instance, at some tracks when you go out for practice in the morning, you know it has a lot of grip and by qualifying time, it is going to have less grip if it is very hot or more grip if it is cooler."

"Nashville stays such a constant temperature that you can't use your typical estimate of track grip. An asphalt track loses temperature very fast when the ambient temperature falls; a concrete track loses temperature a lot slower. It is harder to adjust the car for because it cools off in steps and never reaches that equilibrium while we are racing, like on an asphalt track, so it changes the entire race."

"A white concrete track never gets as warm as an asphalt track, and it is quite abrasive as well. You probably experience the most aggressive tire wear at Nashville. As a result, fuel economy is not such an important aspect in the race due to tire wear. Tires will take a lot longer to get up to temperature than on an asphalt track, and could take five to seven laps to get up to working temperature."

"To win here, you need good grip and a car that is consistent. Restarts will be especially important to gain track position because it is difficult to pass a car of equal speed. At Nashville, it is more a series of sprint races than our other 1.5-mile tracks."

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, Nashville Superspeedway requires a Firehawk tire designed for the durability because the abrasive, grooved concrete surface creates high tire wear.

RACE FACTS:

WHAT: Firestone Indy 200, ninth race in 17-race 2005 season

WHERE: Nashville Superspeedway, 1.33-mile oval
WHEN: 7 p.m. (EDT), Saturday, July 16

DISTANCE: 200 laps/266 miles

TV: ESPN (live), 7 p.m. (EDT), July 16

RADIO: Qualifying webcast: 4:45p.m. (EDT), July 15, www.indycar.com.
Race: IMS Radio Network, 6:30 p.m. (EDT), July 16.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Alex Barron , Roger Yasukawa , Kosuke Matsuura
Teams CIP