IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-08-08

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. Vitor Meira and Wade Cunningham teleconference 2. Franchitti applauds safety of IndyCar Series chassis 3. Hornish seeks repeat 1. Vitor Meira and Wade Cunningham teleconference: IndyCar ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. Vitor Meira and Wade Cunningham teleconference
2. Franchitti applauds safety of IndyCar Series chassis
3. Hornish seeks repeat

1. Vitor Meira and Wade Cunningham teleconference: IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira and Indy Pro Series driver Wade Cunningham were the guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.

Meira, driver of the No. 4 Delphi Panther Racing Honda-powered Dallara, made his IndyCar Series debut at Kentucky Speedway in 2002. He talked about the level of intensity that racing side-by-side requires.

Q. The one and a half mile ovals have obviously historically been places that have the side by side racing, the pack racing. Coming out of Michigan as a group, not you individually, but drivers in general, do you guys take anything away from Michigan and really what we saw there and maybe take a different approach now coming into Kentucky?

VITOR MEIRA: Well, we do, we do. Actually, I was talking with (Helio) Castroneves about it. It's very good to run close and it's good to run two- three- wide, but everybody has to understand that bad things can happen, and I think we have to push. We have always to get the best out of every opportunity. But also we have to know that when to do that.

And I think in Michigan we were a little bit over the edge, not only who crashed but everybody during the race was a little bit over the edge. And I'm not blaming others or even myself, it's just that's how it was in Michigan, that's how the race is there in Michigan.

Kentucky, Chicago, that's not going to happen because the race is not as one, it's not as fast, and there's not as many grooves. So I think the racing is going to be back to normal. But again, what we learned from Michigan is that it doesn't matter how many how much experience we have, it doesn't matter who you're running with, mistakes happen, and that can translate into sometimes bad news. So we all have to have busy minds.

Cunningham, the 2005 Indy Pro Series champion, talked about joining AFS Racing and its partnership with Andretti Green Racing's IndyCar Series program.

Q. Since you've been tied in with the IndyCar program in some respects, does it look like there's an opportunity either later this year in the fall or winter with AGR or anybody else to finally get into the IndyCar Series and do some testing and maybe move up?

WADE CUNNINGHAM: Well, testing is definitely something that we've talked about all year. I think the way the IRL schedules work over the summer was being on back to back weekends or whatever it was, it definitely made things difficult. And now they are very, very focused on trying to win the championship. Definitely that's probably out of the question until after the season is over.

But being with AFS/Andretti Green, I do think I've been able to build a relationship with the owners that I wouldn't have been able to if I hadn't been with the team. So it's definitely a positive, and I'm pretty hopeful and fairly confident it might lead to something.

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2. Franchitti applauds safety of IndyCar Series chassis: Dario Franchitti has seen the video replays of his crash during the Firestone Indy 400 and the Indianapolis 500 winner is appreciative for the safety features built into his racing maching.

"Mr. Dallara is a personal friend of mine; I've always been a fan of his," said Franchitti. "He has given us fast cars that are very strong as well. I have to say that the car absorbed all the impact. It is because of that car that I'm sitting here today with just a bruise on my nose. It is just incredible."

That Franchitti and the other drivers involved in the multi-car melee were not seriously injured is a testament to the integrity of the Dallara chassis -- especially the roll hoop -- borne from structural requirements and hours of testing.

"We have a number of mandatory structures to create the safest environment we can for the drivers," said senior technical director Les Mactaggart of the sanctioning Indy Racing League. "The current chassis has to undergo a number of mandatory tests to do with the crushability of the car, how we absorb energy in the side structure, how the roll hoop performs and how the structure of the chassis under the roll hoop performs because it's not just a roll hoop structure. You have to attach it to something that can withstand the forces as well."

After the cars touched wheels, Franchitti's car pitched left and sideways at the nose of Dan Wheldon's car. Airflow underneath the flat-bottomed chassis sent it airborne and it landed upside down on the track. The No. 9 car driven by Scott Dixon and No. 22 car driven by A.J. Foyt IV had nowhere to maneuver and ran into/under Franchitti's car, which sent it skidding across the asphalt racing surface.

The roll hoop, which protects the drivers in such situations, worked as designed. The tubular steel frame roll hoop was mandated to withstand 18,000 pounds of vertical, 6,500 pounds of lateral and 15,500 pounds of horizontal loads in testing. The sanctioning body also required that the structure it was fastened to (the top of the carbon fiber tub) also would be able to withstand similar loads.

"That's part of the process of evaluating what happens to a car in an accident situation, and we either change our testing procedures or the structures of the car to eliminate possibilities," Mactaggart said. "The standards we use are the same as the FIA on the Formula 1 cars. The next generation of car will have the same test, but I've already increased the vertical, lateral and horizontal loads, so the test will be much more stringent."

Every time an IndyCar Series car is involved in a crash, IndyCar Series director of engineering Jeff Horton collects data from the on-board system and photographs the cars. Mactaggart also will visit the "bone yard" to examine the wreckage.

"Principally to see if the structures have responded in ways we anticipated to a pre-accident situation because obviously every accident is different," he said. "The whole car could be subjected to forces we hadn't anticipated. So it's a very important process for us to see if everything has worked as we anticipated and if it hasn't to make a note of it and see what applications we can improve to get the results we wanted or incorporate into the future design of the car."

If/when a damaged car returns to service, it must pass a safety inspection before moving to the technical inspection pad and finally onto the racetrack. Each chassis is identified by a serial number. The safety inspection team reviews the repaired areas based on Horton's photographs.

"If it was a major repair, such as Dario's car, it would have to go back to Dallara (in Italy), which would fill out paperwork for what it did to fix the car and send it to the league," IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch said. "All the things that come into play (headrest, pedals, seatbelts, seat, etc.) in an accident are checked every race."

Franchitti, who drove same chassis to victory in the 91st Indianapolis 500 in May, is thankful for the standards and stringent testing, which prevented the roll hoop especially from being compromised.

"I have to say that it did its job," he said. "It really saved me. I guess I owe that car a lot."

***

3. Hornish seeks repeat: No driver has won more than one pole at Kentucky, and Sam Hornish Jr. is the only pole sitter to win the Kentucky race (2003). Hornish also won last year's race, which put him back in the points lead for the championship.

"Like Texas, Kentucky Speedway is a magical place for me," said Hornish, who led the first laps of his IndyCar Series career at Kentucky Speedway in 2000 on the way to a ninth place. "Last year I assumed control of the points lead heading into the final stretch of races by winning at Kentucky. This is the track where it all began, and it's still a place where we find success. Last season the team led most of the race and won when we needed to, but I'm not sure if I can decide on a favorite Kentucky moment. All of them are special."

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Edy's at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 11 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be televised live by ESPN2 and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Kentucky 100 on Aug.11 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Wade Cunningham , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing