IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-08-11

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 11, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Panther Racing's experimentation aids drivers' view, nets aero improvement 2. 50 States in 50 Days Tour on site at Kentucky 1. Panther Racing's experimentation aids ...


Today's IRL headlines
1. Panther Racing's experimentation aids drivers' view, nets aero improvement
2. 50 States in 50 Days Tour on site at Kentucky

1. Panther Racing's experimentation aids drivers' view, nets aero improvement: Buddy Lazier gets comfortable in the seat of the No. 95 Pennzoil Panther Racing car, checks his mirrors and heads onto the high-banked oval for a routine 200-plus mph practice session.

The 2000 IndyCar Series champion will reprise the scene this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, where he'll compete in the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300. Distinguishing between the No. 95 car and its sister No. 4 entry driven by Tomas Scheckter will be easier thanks to the new day-glow orange mirrors perched atop Lazier's Dallara chassis sidepods. His view is improved, too.

Maximizing every part of the machine -- within the Indy Racing League rules of course -- doesn't end when the season starts. Halfway through the season, Panther Racing chief engineer Andy Brown had the new fixed mirrors installed on the three cars with the aim of improving driver visibility. That the design netted a slight aerodynamic boost is gravy.

The genesis came from data and driver feedback, which led to testing, additional consultation and finally implementation.

"We are constantly looking at the whole car, but there are very few areas that the teams can work on or change (within the rules)," said Brown, Lazier's race engineer. "This is one area of the car where observations of the damage caused to the leading edge of the mirror housing by dust and debris at the track suggested that we could improve.

"There also was a conscious effort to improve rearward visibility for the driver. After one race we had where the spotter couldn't be heard by the driver, the complaint was that the rear tire blocked too much of the mirror's field of view. I started doodling over the winter then gave my ideas to Kevin Bayless and the GM wind tunnel program guys to experiment. During their testing, they improved the shape of the mirror head and the mounting posts, plus worked on the positioning to make them as effective as possible, both for airflow and rearward vision.

"We consulted with Tomas Scheckter many number of times on the latter with trial fits in the car."

Technical inspection Rule 126: All cars must be equipped with right and left side rearview mirrors in a fixed position. The mirror glass must be a minimum of 2.500 inches above the top surface of the sidepod. Mirror lenses must be rectangular and have minimum dimensions of 2 inches high x 6 inches wide.

There's not much room for interpretation, but Indy Racing League senior technical director Les Mactaggert said periodic bulletins are sent to entrants to inform and reinforce parameters. Because of the architecture differences between the Panoz and Dallara chassis (the Panoz sidepods are higher), the new mirrors first installed by Panther and for this weekend by Andretti Green Racing and Marlboro Team Penske appear taller.

"If you look at the position of the mirror that has a shorter stem (Panoz) relative to the position of the rear wing end fence they are almost in the same position," said Mactaggert, who noted standard fixed mirrors are part of the chassis delivered by the manufacturer. "It's just a visual thing.

"We modified our regulations just to make it clearer to teams what they could and couldn't do. We took the maximum height dimension from the bottom of the car (27½ inches) rather than the top surface of the sidepod so we gave everybody the same chance. We specify minimum size of glass (2 x 6 inches) and control that quite carefully. But the positioning of the mirrors on the car is very specific to the driver because of different heights, so the teams have to tailor the position of the mirrors to get the best rearward and lateral view as the regulations state."

With multiple cars tightly packed around racetracks, increased visibility was a natural modification, according to Brown.

"The increase in height is actually an improvement for rearward visibility and was one of the goals that we were trying to achieve," he said. "The drivers can now see over the rear tires, and there is a lot less of the tire blocking their view. Don't get me wrong, we did achieve an aero gain (albeit slight). But, importantly, and as intended, the drivers' prefer the rearward vision that they get with these pieces."

If wind tunnel tests suggest the mirrors improve efficiency and help improve rearward and lateral visibility, then it's a win-win for the team's efforts.

"The positioning of the mirror relative to the rear wing end fence is very important," Mactaggert said. "If you can create small vortices that run back to the rear wing end fence, it makes the rear wing slightly less obvious to the air and reduces the drag by a very small amount. It is a gain, though minimal.

"There isn't any racing team that would put something on the car that is actually worse."


2. 50 States in 50 Days Tour on site at Kentucky: ESPN's SportsCenter Across America Tour, an unprecedented 50-states-in-50-days tour, will originate from the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 14.

The stop with the IndyCar Series represents the Kentucky part of the tour, which began July 17 at Fenway Park in Boston and continues through Sept. 4.

Each SportsCenter Across America segment originates from a mobile "SportsCenter" set with an anchor and a live audience.

The daily segments will include event action, historical notes, factoids and vignettes about each state's contribution to the national sports scene, as well as "Best" lists compiled from ESPN research and voters.


The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 14 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast will also be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Bluegrass 100 on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 18. The season finale of "The Fast Life" airs at noon (EDT) on Aug. 14 on ESPN2.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Buddy Lazier
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske