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05/09 2018

WILL POWER PREDICTS PLENTY OF PASSING AT THIS YEAR’S INDY 500

 

Will Power powers through a recent open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of the May 27 Indianapolis 500.PHOTO BY CHRIS OWENS

Team Penske driver says the new car creates plenty of tow

BY:  BRUCE MARTIN

Team Penske driver Will Power believes the 2018 aerodynamic package for the Indy 500 will draft better at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway than the previous package that created a stunning number of passes.

In fact, Power believes a car can “catch a tow” from one end of a straightaway to the other at the 2.5-mile rectangular-shaped race course.

“It feels like a much bigger tow,” Power told Autoweek. “You get a really big tow behind the car. When you look at the numbers, it’s a little similar. You can’t take as much off this car in terms of downforce and drag. It looks like it should be way cleaner, and you shouldn’t get much of a draft, but you do. The downforce is basically the same.

“I think you will see very similar racing as we’ve seen at Indy the past few years.”

Power was among the 21 drivers that competed in last week’s open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was surprised with some of his findings during six hours on the track.

“My car got better and better as the day went on,” Power said. “It’s a different car with a different setup, but once you get it in the setup window, it feels to me similar to the other car. I felt like I got a very big tow, and I think tire degradation will be very similar.

 “I think it’s very similar to the downforce level of last year. Scott Dixon said the car drafts really well, and it has a little more drag than the other car. I think the draft will be the same as it has been. It just depends on how it behaves behind another car in the corner.”

David Faustino is Power’s race engineer at Team Penske, and he believes the new car will race similar to the previous car, but tire degradation will play a factor in this year’s race compared to recent years.

“We learned lots; the car seems good and it’s positive,” Faustino told Autoweek. “You can probably pass when the tires are new and after that, there might be some degradation to hold people off. You might actually be able to lead this race, which is nice. It seems like the passing is going to happen in the early part of the tire life whereas before you could do it all the time. The tires do go off here.

“Overall, it’s probably a little more difficult for these guys, but it seems reasonable. It seems very reasonable. They can get close, they can run in line. So far, it’s been pretty positive.”

Faustino also believes it will be hard to find an edge in qualifications because there isn’t as much to adjust on the current package.

“The only thing so far that I’m not really liking is the qualifying deal,” he said. “I’m not sure we can separate ourselves in qualifying. There isn’t much there to trim it out.

 “I think it will be a little different race. You will see a little less passing and a little more difficulty in the guys fighting for that win. It will be better for some people and worse for others. In general, once the tires start to go it’s tough and that is what is keeping more passes on restarts. We might see that here.”

The current aerodynamic package features less downforce and drag and that makes the cars run faster on the straights. It’s up to engineers such as Faustino to formulate a setup that will allow their drivers to find a competitive edge in the Indianapolis 500.

“The old aero kits had more downforce and with more downforce, it was easier to run close,” Faustino continued. “We’re not miles off that, though. It’s just a little less. We are not optimized on setup yet, either. It’s not the same for us. We have to change some things so that is good.

“We have four cars running here so we have to take a step back and see what everybody did. We have a lot to work with. It’s going to be crunch time on the computer and looking at a lot of data.”

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins May 15. First day of qualifications is May 19 with Pole Day scheduled for Sunday, May 20. Carb Day is Friday, May 25.

The race is May 27.

The next race for the Verizon IndyCar Series is Saturday’s fifth annual IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis around the 2.43-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.