The RACER Mailbag, May 25

The RACER Mailbag, May 25

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 25


Q: Still getting over Dixon’s pole run, and had a couple of questions. Did all teams run with the fuel buckeye covers on both sides for qualifying? Also, I watched a video of Arie Luyendyk’s record run, and noticed that the rear wing on the Reynard was negative like they run today. How do the downforce, drag, and horsepower numbers of the ’95 Reynard-Ford compare to the IR-18/Honda of today?

Steven Friedland, Morristown, NJ

MP: We weren’t allowed on pit lane during Sunday’s runs, so I can’t say on all buckeye covers, but I’d have to assume they were all in place.

Can’t say on the Reynard’s 1996 Indy 500 aero, but Arie says the Ford-Cosworth turbo V8 was wound up to 800-850hp for qualifying; with the Chevys and Hondas on road course push-to-pass boost, the estimate is somewhere around 750hp.

Q: I was watching the broadcast during the Fast 12 qualifying runs and took notice of the throttle and brake graphs during each run. I noticed a trend where all the Chip Ganassi Racing cars had some amount of brake applied. Only one other team had something similar. I would think that any amount of brake on a qualifying run would be disastrous, and I know the teams go to great lengths to make sure the brake pads are pulled back from the rotors before the run. I could understand that it might be noise, but not on all five CGR cars. I was surprised that Townsend Bell or Hinch didn’t comment about it.

Is CGR dragging a brake to help with turning? I did notice that the brake wasn’t being used in Fast 6 runs.

Bman from E. Coventry, PA

MP: I think Towny finally noticed the red brake trace and mentioned it was an error with the data/graphic. I first noticed it with one of Sato’s runs on Saturday; it was just a bug on the screen and not evidence of braking on their runs.

Q: During Scott Dixon’s Fast 6 effort I noticed he had a different strategy than every other driver on Sunday. With NBC’s fantastic qualification graphic we could see when the drivers would shift. Most followed a strategy of running in sixth gear down the front straight through Turn 2 and downshifted into fifth for the backstretch through Turn 4. Most would shift back into sixth before passing the pit wall. It kept speeds below 237 entering Turn 3. In contrast, Dixon would downshift only before entering Turn 4 and get back into sixth immediately exiting 4. He had significantly higher speeds entering Turn 3.

I know there are a lot of variables and changes the drivers are making that we cannot see, but why wouldn’t drivers want to be all-out down the back straightaway?

What makes Turn 3 different from Turn 1? Speeds into 1 approached 242, while most were below 237 into 3?

Dustin Koetter, Sellersburg, IN

MP: It all depends on the team’s choice of gearing and the anticipated speed they’ll be able to achieve in whatever the forecast calls for with wind, etc. One team I spoke with tried a top gear that would have produced a 245mph top speed in the Sunday Fast 12 practice session; they hoped their setup, combined with favorable ambient conditions, would help them to pull a crazy top speed number, but they were way off and this driver spent the session in fifth gear because sixth was way too tall. It’s likely that Dixon had the right gears at the right time; a headwind into Turn 3 and a tailwind out of Turn 4 was definitely evident on a number of runs by the other drivers.

A year before his tragic death, Gordon Smiley started eighth in the 1981 Indianapolis 500 with this Patrick Racing Wildcat Mk8-Cosworth but crashed out of the race. Motorsport Images

Q: 40 years ago, two drivers lost their lives in a span of a week. In F1, Gilles Villeneuve died during Friday practice at Belgium, and Gordon Smiley while qualifying for the Indy 500. Once upon a time these two raced each other in the Formula Atlantic series in 1976 and were fierce competitors. Gilles went on to greater heights racing for Ferrari in F1, while Smiley at times showed some promise during his stint in Formula Aurora and in IndyCars. So why did Smiley get overlooked?

Alistair, Branson, MO

MP: He was a classic journeyman driver who raced whatever he could find and wherever he could find it. He’d done two Indy 500s before he was killed trying to qualify for a third, and was known for being fast and brave. From what Robin told me, it was the latter part — his supreme bravado — that didn’t seem to land well with team owners, especially at Indy. Funnily enough, Mr. Villeneuve was among the most daring drivers of all time, but it was also apparent he possessed the kind of talent that only comes around one every couple of decades. I’ve never heard that assertion made for Mr. Smiley.

Q: What happens to the tires that are used for a qualifying run? Do they still have to start the race on the tires they qualify on? And if you attempt multiple times, I figure those tires are no good for any other qualifying runs, but are they still good enough to be used for the following Monday practice and/or Carb Day? Is it still 36 sets of tires per entry?

Dan, Linn Grove, IN

MP: Teams are no longer required to start the Indy 500 on the tires they used in qualifying and yes, they have 36 sets to manage across the opening lap of practice to the final lap of the race. When we have rain delays and whatnot, it favors the teams by ensuring they have plenty of new or low-mileage rubber at their disposal on Sunday.