NHR Returns to Kansas Speedway - Site of Their Front Row Start FRONT ROW AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY IN 2009 The team has competed at Kansas Speedway two times. Their first experience here was in 2008 as a transition team from the Champ Car...
NHR Returns to Kansas Speedway - Site of Their Front Row Start
FRONT ROW AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY IN 2009
The team has competed at Kansas Speedway two times. Their first experience here was in 2008 as a transition team from the Champ Car World Series and they qualified 20th and 22nd with Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson. Wilson went on to finish ninth while Rahal finished 12th in his oval racing debut. The following winter the team made gains in their overall program and specifically on their oval racing program and became the first, and only, transition team to date to earn pole in the IZOD IndyCar Series. In their return to Kansas Speedway last year the team qualified both entries on the front row. Graham Rahal became the youngest pole winner on an oval in series history with his four lap average speed of 211.311 mph and Robert Doornbos qualified second in his oval racing debut with a four lap average of 210.665 mph. Rahal finished seventh and Doornbos finished 12th after a pit penalty. The team also won pole on the streets of St. Petersburg in the 2009 season-opener with Rahal.
449TH INDY CAR EVENT FOR TEAM
The team is closing in on a milestone of having competed in 450 Indy car races since their first season of competition in 1983. The Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway will mark the 449th event since being formed, making the upcoming 2010 Indianapolis 500 the team's 450th event. The number includes participation in CART, Champ Car, IRL Indy 500's and the IZOD IndyCar Series to date over the team's 28 seasons of competition (chart available upon request). Including this weekend's event, the team will have entered a total of 797 cars in these 449 events.
ENGINEERED FOR OVALS
Newman/Haas Racing has long been known as an "engineering driven team" and that, coupled with experienced employees that produce reliable race cars, has been key to the team's eight titles, 107 wins, 109 poles and 248 top-three podium finishes. The Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway will mark the first oval race of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season as well as the first of a four-race oval stretch which includes the Indianapolis 500. The Kansas race will also mark the first time that Formula Dream / Panasonic driver Hideki Mutoh will drive on an oval in an NHR-prepared race car. Race engineer Martin Pare comments on this weekend's race at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway.
What is the run plan for the first practice session in Kansas since this will be the first time Hideki has run with us on an oval? "We will start right away with the "race car," i.e., we won't be trimmed out, going for the ultimate speed on the first run. We will start on low fuel to check the fuel pick-up but after that initial run we will fill the tank and work on race set-up. We have most of two sessions to get Hideki comfortable in traffic. We will do one qualifying simulation run at the end of the second practice."
Many drivers won't have run on an oval since Oct. 10 in Homestead. How does the team and driver prepare themselves for this change? "Hideki will watch videos of last year's race. In the "prep notes" we highlight some details like braking pressure coming in the pits and etc. The drivers got used to standing on the brakes on road courses to generate as much pressure as they could. On ovals you can only use half of that otherwise you instantly flat spot your front tires. Other similar types of things are included in the prep notes." We won pole (and front row) in Kansas last year. How much of that setup will carry over from 2009 or have the new technical rules from late last season changed things? "A lot from last year's pole set-up will carry over this year. We made a few changes later in the season (Kentucky) that gave us better race cars. Some of those changes we won't have time to go back to during this coming race weekend for qualifying."
Hideki likes a similar road/street setup as Graham's from 2009. Would it stand to reason he will like his oval car setup similar too? "I think so. We have come to find that Hideki is not willing to turn the steering wheel as much as Graham did on an oval. This is the biggest difference. Otherwise last year's end of season set-up should be a very good baseline for us."
As a transition team, we closed the gap to established Indy car teams on ovals a lot last year from the year before. Can more gains be made from last year to this year? "There are more gains to be made. There are areas we didn't touch last year."
What impact do the tech changes make on the Kansas race? What sort of racing action do you anticipate? "I expect the race to be as exciting as Kentucky and Chicago last year. The new rules made it easier for the drivers to be racing wheel to wheel. There will be a greater mix of experience between drivers so traffic, and how you handle it, might have an even bigger impact."
What is the role of the weekend in Kansas as it relates to the Indy 500? "The biggest part has to be for the drivers to get used to high speeds, high lateral G-forces, drafting and side-by-side racing. All of the things you don't have on road courses."
NHR ON OVALS
Since being formed by Carl Haas and Paul Newman in the fall of 1982, the team has earned a total of 107 wins and 109 pole positions. Twenty seven of their 107 wins and 19 of their 109 poles came on ovals. The team's previous win on an oval was by Sebastien Bourdais on 6-4-06 at the Milwaukee Mile. Their previous pole on an oval came here last season by Graham Rahal (4-25-09). Eight of the 17 races on the 2010 schedule are on ovals.
Hideki Mutoh, driver of the No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic Dallara-Honda-Firestone entry:
HIDEKI ON KANSAS SPEEDWAY, AND THE TEAM'S IMPROVED PERFORMANCE ON THE OVALS
This will be Hideki's third race here and his first on an oval with NHR since joining the team in 2010 after having driven for Andretti Green Racing, co-owned by former NHR driver Michael Andretti, for the past two seasons. Mutoh's highest series start is THIRD at Nashville Speedway (oval) and best overall series finish is SECOND (Iowa 2008; oval). In 2009 he started 13th and finished eighth here and in 2008 he started 13th and finished sixth.
"I think the team will be very competitive again in Kansas this year," said Mutoh, 27. "The team improved a lot on ovals during the season last year and over the winter they had a new development that will help even more. I think the team will be even stronger on ovals than they were last year. I'm looking forward to getting back on an oval in a Newman/Haas Racing car."
HIDEKI ON THE CHALLENGE OF 1.5-MILE OVALS AND SPECIFICALLY KANSAS SPEEDWAY
"On 1.5 mile ovals, we have more racing going on. There is more overtaking and a lot of action happening than maybe happens on a short oval. As a driver that is the biggest difference. Because Kansas Speedway is a D-shaped race track, Turn 1 is quite an open entry but into Turn 3 you have to turn in from a straight line to the corner so it is more challenging. It is also quite bumpy as well."
HIDEKI ON THE FIRST RACE AT KANSAS SINCE THE LATE 2009 TECH CHANGES
"Late last season, they made technical changes that allowed the teams to have more downforce on their race cars. It's more comfortable to race with more downforce for sure! I think we will be able to overtake more and it allows for more to happen on track which makes a better show for the fans. Push to pass and other things they added allow us to have more side-by-side racing like it used to be maybe 15 years ago. It has improved the show for sure. It's more fun to watch and also more difficult to drive."
ON HIS FIRST OVAL RACE WITH THE TEAM AND ADAPTING THE 2009 SETUP
"We have had a lot of meetings about ovals. I have also been watching the in car camera from Graham's car last year and the races. That has helped to get back into the flow of oval racing right away. From what Martin has told me, it sounds like I like my car very similar to Graham on an oval. I don't think we will need to change the car much from the setup they used last year for Graham. That's a very good thing."
HIDEKI ON HIS NEW FAMILY
"I speak to my engineer Martin almost every day and I go to the race shop three or four times a week. I even have a desk between Martin and Bruno. I visit the race shop more than I ever have in my career. It's good because you get more comfortable working together.JIt's more like a family now."