VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
Twenty years ago, Arie Luyendyk set
the single-lap record (237.498mph)
and the four-lap record (236.986mph)
at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For
good measure, he’d also set a practice
lap record of 239.260mph a few days
earlier. All of those records still stand,
to the Dutchman’s apparent chagrin.
“Every year it’s the same story,” he
told RACER last year. “And every year
I wish they’d just break it, because
then I’m done with it.”
The 1996 Indy 500 was the first to be
sanctioned by the Indy Racing League,
following the split with CART. The IRL
teams had older generation Cosworth
engines than their CART counterparts,
and by Luyendyk’s estimation that
gave around 50hp less.
“I think with 50 more horsepower
I could have gone around [at] 240,
easy,” he said. “People ask if it was
scary. It was never scary; there was
never a moment. It was always solid,
and that’s why I was able to trim it out
to the point where [engineer] Tim
Wardrop asked me if I wanted to take
the rear wing off. And I had to think
about it. Tom Sneva did it once and he
didn’t like it, so I said, ‘No, we don’t
need to take the wing off.’ We were
[already] fastest, the car was great,
and I didn’t want to be stupid. When
the car handles that good…that car
could have gone 242, 243.”
(ABOVE) Twenty years on, this is still the
car to beat for outright speed honors at
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
ARIE’S INDY BENCHMARK
ONE FOR THE AGES
“Breaking records is
something that people take
an interest in. Just look at
Are the targets speed related? I wouldn’t
necessarily say that. It’s more racing
related, and how the cars drive, and what
happens in turbulent air. But once you fix
all that, the speeds can go up, too. It’s just
something we’ve got to manage, and
we’ve got to manage it smartly.”
Managed right, this could be attractive
to manufacturers if, as expected, the
series reverts back to a standard aero kit.
an integral part of IndyCar’s foreseeable
future, but as one ingredient in the mix,
rather than an objective in itself.
Does that mean that current records
will remain out of reach? Absolutely not.
It’s safe to assume that speeds will
increase in accordance with the series’
comfort levels, even if there are no specific
performance targets in place.
A more pertinent question might be,
does it even matter? That can be answered
with another question, “Jeopardy”-style.
This year’s race at Texas Motor
Speedway and last year’s brawl at
Fontana have established themselves as
recent high watermarks for oval racing
– breathtaking highlights reels that
showcase IndyCar at its most thrilling. But
does anybody even know what speeds
were involved, or were you too engrossed
in the action to pay attention?
Pagenaud is hoping
to follow Helio
and add to Team
Penske’s Indy 500
record, but he’d be
perfectly content to do
so at current speeds.
Visual differentiation would be gone, yet
the opportunity to help set a new
outright record at the Indianapolis 500
would open the door to some serious
bragging rights. But again, offer Chevrolet
or Honda the choice between breaking
the IMS speed record in qualifying and
actually winning the race, and the answer
will be swift and unequivocal.
Speed matters. It is, to echo Frye, one of
IndyCar’s defining qualities – part of its DNA.
But DNA strands aren’t good for much
when taken in isolation. Speed will remain
With high-speed venues like Pocono Raceway having
been secured for the foreseeable future, the IndyCar
Series won’t be short on opportunities to stretch its legs.