IRL: Interview with Team Cheever Crew Chiefs

Team Cheever News interviewed Team Cheever's Chief Mechanic, Owen Snyder and Crew Chief, Dane Harte. 1. Rumor has it the Riley and Scott for 2000 is new and improved, and that your team will be using it? Can you confirm...

Team Cheever News interviewed Team Cheever's Chief Mechanic, Owen Snyder and Crew Chief, Dane Harte.

1. Rumor has it the Riley and Scott for 2000 is new and improved, and that your team will be using it? Can you confirm this and provide any specifics

Owen: I think the biggest plus is that Reynard is behind the program and can bring to the table all their technology and experience in indy cars. We are using our 2 or 3 years of experience with the Dallara and applying it to the new R&S chassis.

Dane: One of the reasons we wanted to work with the R&S/Reynard is because they are based in Indy and we would have direct access to the resources that Reynard has based here at ARC: the wind tunnel and the 7-post shaker rig. Having these new tools at our disposal, we are able to put our car on this rig and gather more data to cut down on track time.

2. Has Nissan/Infiniti made any significant commitments for next year's package; e.g., reliability, etc., and will there be other teams joining the fun?

Owen/Dane: The plan has always been that the pay off would come in the second year since Infiniti had already developed the 3.5 liter engine. This is where we expect to get our advantage over the competition in 2000.

3. What's your take on Goodyear's pullout from American open wheel racing?

Owen: If you look at the big picture it is really sad. Goodyear has been in open wheel racing for over 36 years and it seems a shame to see them go. I think the IRL has a lot to offer in 2000 with its 5-year ABC-TV/ESPN package and with people like Little Al joining our ranks. The upside of it all is that it will make the IRL even more of a spec series and lead to closer racing.

Dane: I see two sides also. It is sad to see Goodyear pull out because it gave us a tire war and you never knew which track would favor which tire. So though, you lose the excitement of one versus the other, now, with everyone on the same rubber, it'll make the racing even closer.

4. What kind of speed do you feel you can get out of the 3.5 at Indy.

Owen: All the rules for 2000 haven't been set yet, but I think the IRL is looking for an average speed of 220 mph at the Speedway.

Dane: Several teams have been testing the new engine in the 99 cars at Indy recently and I believe they've been running between 215-217 mph.

5. Nissan has said that there will be no update kit to update the old infiniti to the new 3.5 spec. Also I believe that the rules state that the engines no longer need to be production based. Is the new Infiniti more of a pure bred racing engine than the Aurora???

Owen/Dane: That gets back to our commitment with Infiniti that year two would lead to the pay off. However, the rules still dictate that any engine manufacturer must be able to supply half the field if it becomes necessary, so for that reason, Infiniti will have a kit for the old engine package. Both engines, the aurora and the Infiniti are purpose built engines.

6. Shock technology has become the "tech tip of the moment" in Nascar and other forms of racing, do you use a shock dyno to set-up the shocks for an IRL car or is it based more on the manufacturer's recommended setting, the driver's feel, and the car's resistance to bottoming at a particular track? Or is the shock travel so short on an IRL car that it doesn't pay dividends to go beyond the testing that the shock manufacturer does?

Owen: The travel is small. There are three tracks on our current schedule that have bumps that upset the car if you are not paying attention to the shocks. Shocks are one of the most important items in a spec series that you are able to change.

Dane: Shocks are as important in the IRL as they are in NASCAR and we do use a dyno. We have many different sets of shocks that we use. The IRL, being a spec series, allows us to concentrate on finding small changes that can lead to big gains. Shocks are pretty important.

7. When you are getting an initial set-up for a particular track, do you go for the most mechanical grip first and then refine it with aerodynamics? or do you make a stable platform and trim it out with aero first, then fine tune the suspension from there to get the most mechanical grip?

Owen: The rules dictate your wing package for everywhere but Indy. Indy is a one-off where you are allowed to adjust the wing angle. Experience of both the driver and the team really ends up deciding which area you start out with. We are more race oriented than qualifying oriented, so our thinking is more for traffic versus quickest speeds.

Dane: There is two different set ups. One is for qualifying and one is for the race. In qualifying you try and take out as much drag out of the car mechanically as possible. As Owen said, we really don't do that because the day you have to win is race day not qualifying day.

8. When a driver reports he is experiencing either a serious loose condition or a serious push condition in the race car, what are the steps you take to bring him back to neutral during a race. The steps taken to correct loose, and the steps taken to correct push.

Owen/Dane: There is a list of adjustments of what Eddie has in the cockpit that include the front and rear anti-roll bars and the weight jacker. The crew probably sees it before Eddie does. For example, Dane watches the tire pressures during the race, so he sees which way the car is going. Depending on that information, we can then adjust the tire pressures, staggers or wings on a pit stop.

9. This is for Owen and Dane. What specifically are the responsibilites of the Chief Mechanic and of the Crew Chief. What if any crossover happens with these positions.

Dane: Overall, Owen is in charge of issues of performance while I'm in charge of issues of reliability. Therefore, the crossover happens all the time. It is very important that the two people work very well together. There is no room for egos. And there shouldn't be because both people are focused on the same goal: to win races.

Owen: I agree. Additionally, we are not as departmentalized in the IRL as say a team would be in CART. Everyone here does two or more jobs which is nice. It makes things more efficient and you are able to get down to the problems and solve it quickly.

10. When you receive your new motors from Infiniti, what do you do with them? Do you tear them down completely, or never pop the seal and just stick them into the car???

Owen: The rules state you own your own engines, so they are not sealed. But the engine builder is responsible for building the engines, so generally speaking, we just install them. We rarely take them apart.

Dane: The engine is the only mechanical thing out of our hands. But, with good communication with your engine builder, you can make suggestions to make improvements in the endless search for more horsepower.

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