Wheels turn for the first time at IMS in 2016

| Photographer Credit: IndyCar Series

David Turner gives us his insights on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series…..

April 6th 2016 marked yet another step closer to this years running of the 100th Indy 500. The Speedway was again alive to the sound of engines at over 200mph and the feeling of the 500 getting that much closer became a real fact.

The Verizon IndyCar Series held an official test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to assess the various configurations of both the Chevrolet and Honda superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork kits. this was the first time this year that teams had returned to the famed Speedway and the first real laps of the new year.

With more than 500 laps turned on the 2.5-mile oval by 15 drivers while dodging intermittent rain on a blustery day, reams of valuable data were gathered in preparation for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 next month.

The track not used since 2015 was very green and combined with the weather patterns cannot as such be used as a form guide to May but every lap at Indy is a lap that counts and how teams use these findings will be reflected come May thats for sure.

Marco Andretti, in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda, posted the fastest lap of the day at 223.427 mph. “We ran through quite a bit of different combinations as part of the aero kit configuration test,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR vice president of competition, race engineering. “The conditions weren’t ideal, but we did get a lot of information to go over and look through over the next couple of days to get ready for the month of May.”

All the cars testing were fitted with new domed skid plates for the undercarriage of the Dallara IR-12 chassis, a safety initiative mandated on superspeedways this year by INDYCAR. The domed skid plates add approximately six times the amount of downforce (as compared to the 2015 configuration) when a car spins, which slows the car prior to any potential contact. The domed skids also raise the speed at which a car would have to be traveling to become airborne.

“On the safety standpoint of the domed skid, it’s a big improvement, especially in the 90-degree yaw,” said reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who ran just 30 laps in the morning session in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “We’ve got to look at safety before anything. Yes, it’s going to make the car maybe a little more difficult (to drive), but every car has a pedal and we have more downforce to put on to compensate for the loss.”

Andretti’s overall fast lap was set in the morning session. His Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, in the No. 28 Honda, was fastest in the afternoon and second quick for the day at 222.047 mph. Simon Pagenaud, in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, was third fastest at 221.293 mph.

Chevrolet conducted a private test at IMS for its teams on April 5, so the Ganassi and Penske teams opted not to run in today’s windy afternoon session halted several times for light rain. Honda teams used as much track time as they could.

“It’s going to be interesting with these skids, for sure,” said Graham Rahal, who turned 48 laps in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda with a best lap of 218.619 mph. “It’s going to take some work to get them to where we need them to be to be raceable.”

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe applauded the efforts of the two manufacturers and INDYCAR working together at the test to develop a car that checks all the boxes when Indianapolis 500 practice begins May 16.

“The good news is we all seem to be working toward the same thing,” Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Honda, said. “We are all genuinely trying to make a safer car but a car that still races well. I think there is a way to appease both sides of that argument “Hopefully by the time we show up here for practice week, we’ve found that compromise and everybody can be relatively happy.”

The test also provided Hinchcliffe his first opportunity to run a lap at speed on the track where he was seriously injured in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice last year. He missed the remainder of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season recovering, and couldn’t wait to put the mishap completely in his rear view mirror. “Everyone was going to be thinking about it until we got out here and ran some laps,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s always nice to be back at the Speedway; we all say that all the time and it’s extra nice to be able to go around at pace today.

“Sitting out last year was tough,” Hinchcliffe admitted. “Getting to watch all my friends and colleagues go do the greatest race on earth and have to be watching from the sidelines is a big blow, for sure. This is our Super Bowl, this is what we really put as much attention on as anything else. Of all the ones to miss, it’s the hardest.

“To get the opportunity now to come back, it definitely feels a little more rewarding.”

Turing attentions towards the magic day in May came in the form of an escort from third-generation Indy car driver Matthew Brabham, a truck delivering special 8-ounce commemorative Coca-Cola bottles, emblazoned with the Indianapolis 500 logo and they arrived at the famed yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In honor of the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, Coca-Cola is selling limited-edition six-packs of the bottles expected to fly off Central Indiana store shelves as fast as Verizon IndyCar Series machines circle the 2.5-mile oval. Think I might have to get myself a few of those to collect thats for sure.
Race day crowd 2015

The break down of combined times from the two day test is as follows below but again the weather, the green track and the teams focus are only a slight form guide at this stage. The vibe and the feeling however is the 100th is not far away and the race will go down in history as perhaps the greatest race yet in the history of the speedway.

More news from IMS this week also came in the form of perhaps one of the most famous pieces of music associated with the speedway that welcomes race fans with the traditional singing of “(Back Home Again in) Indiana,” a distinct Indianapolis flavor will mark the occasion.

Josh Kaufman, Indianapolis native and winner of the sixth season of television’s “The Voice,” in the U.S. will perform the beloved song at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during prerace ceremonies May 29, with accompaniment by the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, a fixture of the Central Indiana community for 30 years.
Jim Nabors at IMS 2014

“The singing of ‘(Back Home Again in) Indiana’ is a signature of the Indianapolis 500 and one that our fans cherish as a distinctly ‘Hoosier’ moment,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “Since Jim Nabors’ final performance in 2014, our goal is to select performers who have an understanding of the song’s meaning and significant importance to the Indianapolis 500 experience and the race’s fans. Josh Kaufman’s impressive voice and local ties, along with support from the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, will deliver just that.”

“(Back Home Again in) Indiana” – the song originally was just called “Indiana” – was written in 1917 by lyricist Ballard MacDonald and composer James Hanley, incorporating many lyrics and musical themes from the 1897-written “On the Banks of the Wabash,” the state’s official song.

According to IMS historian Donald Davidson, the song may have been heard at the race as early as 1919 (played by a trackside brass band) and was first sung in 1946, about an hour before the green flag by New York Metropolitan Opera performer James Melton. Around 1949 it was moved to closer to the start of the race, where it remains today.

Fan favorite Jim Nabors retired after the 2014 race, having performed the song live 35 times starting in 1972. The group Straight No Chaser performed the song prior to the 2015 Indianapolis 500.

May 29th is creeping up very fast and the IndyCar season is now well under way with round 3 at Long Beach set for April 17th.

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