the big left turn
ANALYZING THE VITAL INFO
handling, more about flat-out speed. Any
adjustments you make to handling will come
at a detriment to speed, so it’s up to the
driver to deal with what he’s got. At Pocono,
you can only get the handling really good for
one of the turns, because each one is so
different, and it’s best to go for a compromise
so that it’s reasonable at both ends.
Indy and Pocono are smooth, though.
Fontana is a whole different story, because
there the bumps are in a straight line and if
Pre-season work is the foundation; then it’s about number-crunching
There are two keys to having a quick car on
an oval: one is off-season work, focused on
drag reduction, getting friction out of the
car, and making sure as much horsepower
as possible is transferred to the wheels. The
second part that’s more important now than
ever before is grip. With the previous-gen car,
it was 100 percent throttle, 100 percent of
the time. Since the Dallara DW12 arrived,
there’s far more emphasis on Ed’s driving
and on us engineers improving grip and
balance, based on feedback he’s giving us.
During test and practice sessions, it’s so
easy to chase speed without regard to what
the car does to its tires over the course of a
stint. It’s important to not freak out if we’re
only halfway up the charts in practice; what
we’re going for is consistent pace over a
stint by reducing the rate of grip dropoff.
It’s tricky though, because qualifying has
become more important on the ovals than it
was, because you can’t just draft to the front.
These days, drivers don’t just find a groove
and stick to it. To save tires, they use more
of the track, so it’s harder to make passes.
And, of course, the harder you work to get
to the front, the more you use your tires.
Indy is a bit different, because generally
the cars are flat-out all the way around – in
clean air, anyway – and getting the tow is how
you move forward. It’s less about grip and
“Qualifying’s become more
important…The harder you
work to get to the front, the
more you use your tires”
your damping is too stiff, you can go light
enough to send your revs into the hard
limiter, so your main priorities are bump
absorption and grip in the turns.
During a race, I monitor our speed and our
tire drop-off compared with our rivals, and I
present Tim [Broyles, strategist] with all the
facts so he can maximize our time on track
in terms of whether we should or shouldn’t
take our tire life to the end of our fuel load.
I’m also listening to Ed’s feedback to decide
what adjustments he might need to the car
or the pressures on the next tire set.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains a
temple of speed, and Ed Carpenter Racing
has taken pole for the past two Indy 500s.