News & Multimedia

Figuring Out the Right Way to go the 'Wrong Way' at IMS

Cars traveling clockwise at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t the norm. That’s why the three-day process leading up to Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis includes at least an initial double take at the unusual traffic flow.

“That first time you see the car coming down the wrong way on the front straight, it definitely throws you,” said Bryan Herta, owner of Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.

Drivers as well as race teams see the historic venue from the opposite direction for this race, an 82-lap challenge through the 14-turn, 2.439-mile infield course. That means instead of cars zooming down the main straight toward Turn 1, they’re coming out of Turn 14 in front of the first turn and heading North.

“It’s different for everybody to be running around outside the car backwards here, fueling from the opposite side, seeing the cars with big road-course wings,” said CFH Racing team manager/co-owner Andy O’Gara. “You’re used to moving to Indy and having time to get your bearings. But for the road course, you move in mid-week and you’re racing just like a regular race weekend. You don’t have time to adjust and you’re constantly adjusting on the fly.”

Drivers must reset their sightlines. Pit crews practice with a fuel hose needing to stretch to the outside panel of the car.

Setups are tricky. While teams will want to be able to take advantage of two lengthy straightaways, they don’t want to sacrifice speed in the quick turns as a result. Chevrolet has it figured out the best so far with the top 10 qualifying spots.

Two of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ super teams dominated Friday, when Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing qualified for the first six positions out of 25 slots. Will Power will be on the pole. Teammate Simon Pagenaud, the inaugural race winner, will start fifth.

CFH Racing will have three cars in the field with Luca Filippi starting ninth, Josef Newgarden 12th and J.R. Hildebrand 15th.

“It’s just a balance of everything,” O’Gara said of the set-up. “You’ve got to have a good mechanical package. You’ve got to know where you stand aerodynamically. There’s big straightaways here and some sweeping corners as well as some slower, lower-roll speed corners. It’s just a balance of having the combination where you need it.”

A.J. Foyt Racing president Larry Foyt has two cars in the field — Jack Hawksworth starts 11th and Takuma Sato 22nd.

“It’s interesting because obviously here you have this long straightaway, so you’ve got to think downforce level is one of the most important things,” Foyt said. “How trim can you be and still be competitive for the other stuff, then get down the straightaway?

“We’re still trying to figure out this Honda aero package and where it wants to run. It’s challenging for the engineers. They’ve kind of been all over the place. We came here starting both cars very different to try to get a direction and that helped a lot.”

But they’re still working on it. CFH Racing had the same tact, using three different setups on cars to try to center in on what works best.

Sato, like many of the competitors, is an accomplished road racer. His 2013 victory at Long Beach, California, made him the first Japanese driver to win a series race. It was also the first triumph for Foyt Racing in 11 years.

“Obviously road racing is a technique in its own, no doubt,” Foyt said. “I think it’s a great course. What’s nice is coming to a course that’s nice and smooth. You’ve got a lot of switchbacks, so the car has got to be reactive. The car has to react well with good grip.”

Pagenaud was complimentary of the smooth surface.

“This track is a lot of fun,” he said. “We get to push the car very hard.”

Herta’s rookie, Gabby Chaves, will start 16th.

How times have changed from when Herta was in a car. He made 58 career series starts, including five Indianapolis 500s with a best finish of third in 2005.

“It would feel strange going backwards and coming down the front straight backwards,” Herta said. “It does take some getting used to.

“It’s a good way to open the Month of May because I don’t think there was enough buzz about the opening of the Speedway the last few years. Now there seems to be more.”

Show More Show Less
Items 693 - 697 of 970