It was 90 degrees outside and at least 120 degrees inside everyone’s Indy car for two hours on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the conditions and new aeroscreen really tested the drivers’ mettle.
Nobody needed relief and nobody was treated for heat prostration after 80 laps around the IMS road course, but most of the 24 finishers were toasted.
“I’m not going to lie, man; my neck was toast today,” said Graham Rahal after finishing second in the RLL Honda. “I’m looking forward to some recovery this week. Road America is going to be cool. We’ve got nice straightaways (and a chance) to breathe a little bit compared to here. Today was definitely a physical race. It was a tough one.”
Simon Pagenaud, who charged from 20th to take third, thinks he and his Penske team need to work on trying to get some more ventilation in his Dallara Chevy.
“Personally, we’re probably going to do some work on trying to vent inside the car better because it’s extremely hot and I’m exhausted,” said the 2019 Indy 500 winner. “The air doesn’t circulate well in the cockpit. It’s such a small cockpit, and it feels like the air just stays — doesn’t come out of the cockpit — and there’s no wind. You could actually run with your visor open just to get some air.
“I think we just need to do some work on ventilation, maybe work on the helmet and the tube, and work on also having a bigger drink bottle. I think those were what we had in the past. The heat level — it doesn’t work for me.”
To which Rahal added: “The drink bottles are in the sidepods with all of the exhaust, and the water is hotter than I drink my coffee. Overall it was brutal.”
Winner Scott Dixon lost the cooling in his helmet for a couple of stints before getting it plugged back in during his final pit stop and said: “I didn’t feel too bad considering. But it was steamy.”
Pagenaud is thankful his off-season workout program helped prepare him for days like Saturday.
“IndyCar racing is probably one of the most physical sort of racing that there is. We don’t have power steering. And now it’s also really hot in the race car. Those are the kind of things that you say, ‘Thank you’ to your training. I’ve been training in the heat, but I’m going maybe adjust (the training) a little bit to be even stronger.
“It’s evolving every year. It’s fun, and I’m glad I trained this hard this winter.”