(LEFT) For an IndyCar
rookie like Tristan
Vautier, qualifying at
almost 225mph for
the Indianapolis 500
is a major step up over
anything he’s done
before. With so much to
take onboard, drawing
on the knowledge
and experience of
the team is essential.
They have more power, mechanical grip
and downforce, and better brakes, too.
That doesn’t mean, however, that an
IndyCar is easier to drive. Quite the
opposite. The Indy Lights car has a bigger
margin of error, and tends toward
understeer when pushed too far – usually
easily corrected with a bit of a lift. “In an
IndyCar, you have to be aware of what the
car is going to do, because when it starts
to understeer, it’s a little too late,” he says.
That’s one of the details that points the
way toward IndyCar success. Nail each and
every one, and the rewards can be great.
Miss even one or two, and it’s the difference
between a podium, or being an also-ran.
(ABOVE) Winning the
2012 Firestone Indy
Lights title was Tristan
Vautier’s last step on
his journey to the
IZOD IndyCar Series.
For example, Pagenaud was in the hunt
at the Iowa Corn Indy 250. He started
eighth and was in a fight for the podium for
most of the 250 laps, but ended up sixth.
Solid enough, but not where he wanted to
be. He was sure he’d run a perfect race and
couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in the
top three. Then he looked into the details.
“You see you maybe lost a little bit
going into your pit box, or braking for the
pit speed limit or on pit entry,” he says.
“We’re talking about five tenths here, five
tenths there. But that counts for a lot on
an 18-second lap. Then you realize it’s not
just driving fast on the race track, or doing
good pit stops for my crew, or steering the
“Once you get to a certain level
and think you’re at the limit,
other things come into play”
car to the limit. It’s everything – every little
thing. You always try to do your best in
every area. But once you get to a certain
level and think you’re at the limit of what
you can do on the track with the racecar,
there are other things that come into play.
It’s incredible, the level of dedication you
have to have and the understanding of
everything that happens.”
200mph test bed
Teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series
have near-identical equipment,
so finding an advantage is tough.
It often comes down to details.
With 2000-plus shifts in some
races and gearbox temperatures
reaching 194degF, the oil in the
Schmidt team’s ’boxes better be
up to the task. Testing in the lab,
in the shop and finally on the
race track has proven that it is.
“We’ve tested a number of
oils on a gearbox rig, and Lucas
always comes out on top,” says
Rob Edwards, Schmidt Peterson
Motorsports GM. “Since Sam’s
[Schmidt] IndyCar team started,
before Sam owned it even, we’ve
exclusively used Lucas gearbox
oil. We also use Lucas products in
our dampers, and Lucas greases
In the dampers, shaft velocity
can reach 25in./sec, going up
to more than 40in./sec hitting
curbs on road courses, lap after
lap – which provides valuable
data for the Lucas engineers.
“There’s an ongoing
dialogue of us pushing the
envelope in what we’re looking
for and feeding that back to
the Lucas guys,” says Edwards.
THE INDYCAR SERIES SERVES AS A CRITICAL PROVING GROUND FOR LUCAS OIL PRODUCTS
Rob Edwards (ABOVE, left) says pushing the envelope
on lubricant tech is a two-way process with Lucas Oil.