The Evolution of the IndyCar

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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The 2012 INDYCAR

It was just about 25 years ago when I was certain that I had seen the most technologically advanced, sexiest INDYCAR that would ever be created. And looking at the images of the newly unveiled March 86C chassis in my newspaper-format AutoWeek, I couldn’t wait for spring tire testing when I could park my car in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum parking lot and get my first, real-life glimpse of the sleek-nosed, pointed-roll-hooped car that would win the 1986 IndyCar constructors cup and the 1986 (Bobby Rahal) and 1987 (Al Unser Sr.) Indianapolis 500.

Innovation and change is what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 have been about from its very inception in 1911. And, beginning today, we all have the opportunity to witness the next big chassis change in INDYCAR and the 2012 Dallara INDYCAR is formally introduced to the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval! And, you can bet, there will be people who will make the trek to the museum parking lot, sit in the south chute bleachers or along the turn 2 spectator mounds just to get a firsthand glimpse of the new design.
 
Looking back, there have been a number of great cars to be introduced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that have left a mark on this great event. Here are some more of my favorite “new car” IMS memories of cars that I saw in person as I prepare for my 36th consecutive Indianapolis 500:
 
1979 – The Parnelli. I know, it had run before 1979. But I was a Foyt fan and the car made an impression on me because it was what A.J. chose to drive after several years in the Coyote (my all-time favorite car, by the way – the Coyote, not the Parnelli).

1979 Foyt finished second in the Indianapolis 500 driving this Parnelli chassis.

 
1979/1980 – The Chapparal, aka The Yellow Submarine. Full-on ground effects coupled with the low profile produced two front row starts and one victory.
 
1981 – The Interscope. The Danny Ongias driven, black Batmobile is still one of my all-time favorites (maybe it is just me, but this car feels like a distant cousin to the newly introduced 2012 Dallara). And you had to love the all silver helmet!
 

1981 Danny Ongais was always fast, especially in this Interscope Batmobile.

 
1982 – Penske PC-10. The pointed nose of the Penske chassis was a huge change from the flatter nose designs that had been the norm for several years. I still can’t believe how far forward the driver was sitting in these cars.
 
1986 – March 86C. I was certain nobody would design a more aerodynamically efficient Indianapolis 500 car. Ever.
 
1994 – Penske/Mercedes Benz. The long, cigar-shaped nose set the car apart from the field. That and huge horsepower!
 
1994 – Reynard. The low profile of the Reynard just screamed “I am fast.” And, true to its looks, a generation of it would eventually (1996) set the single and four-lap track record that stands to this day.
 
2001 – Dallara. I thought the first generation Dallara and G-Force (1998 – 2000) were extremely ugly Indycars. But the second generation I liked. Especially the yellow and black, Panther silhouetted and many times American flag covered, Panther Racing #4.
 
What have I left out? The early 1980s Eagle for one. How about the failed attempts of Ligier and Porsche? Would love to hear thoughts and favorite memories of new car designs over the years.
 
And you can view more images HERE.