Threatening skies over IMS

The dictionary defines ‘flukey’ as constantly shifting; uncertain. That certainly describes the weather and practice sessions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mother Nature called the shots once again at The Brickyard for Verizon IndyCar’s Fast Friday practice, the last day before two days of new-format Qualifying for the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Cliff Notes for Indy 500 Qualifying 101 have been distributed and maybe by Sunday night all will be understood.

Drying vehicles and tire toter audience

The Friday sun played hide and seek for awhile, and the flotilla of IMS vehicles again took to the course for drying laps after the morning cycle of rain-dizzle-rain-drying, etc. The jet dryers joined the group. So far 39 IndyCar driver/car combinations have turned 7601 laps around the 2.5-mile oval track. Anyone want to hazard a guest at how many laps have been turned by service vehicles so those IndyCar could run?

The last day of pre-qualifying practice didn’t start on time at noon, due to weather. Quelle Suprise!

No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

The first car got on course at 2:51 pm local time, and the speeds shot up as predicted, with 17 drivers exceeding the 227.116 mph fastest time of the week, set by HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet. After 10 or so minutes, ED CARPENTER/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ran a 230.552 mph/371.03748 kph. And then the rain came. It should be an interesting afternoon.

Helio Castroneves
Helio Castroneves

The cars have been given additional boost and the brass ring in this circus will be reaching speeds of 230 mph. Some drivers, such as Castroneves have spoken positively on the subject. “I really like what I have, and feel that with the boost that going up you are going to see bigger numbers, up probably about five miles an hour. I’m not very good at math by the way, but I would say 229/230 it’s possible. We are looking to see those numbers keep going high.”

Sam Schmidt
Sam Schmidt

SAM SCHMIDT is currently the team owner of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports running three Hondas with his regular drivers, SIMON PAGENAUD/No.77 and Rookie MIKHAIL ALESHIN, in No.7, and for the Indy 500, the 1995 Indy 500 winner, JACQUES VILLENEUVE. Before he was a team owner, Schmidt was an indy car driver, until his crash in January 2000 at Walt Disney World left him a quadriplegic. Now he’s gone full circle.

Sunday 18 May 2014, Pole Day at IMS, Schmidt will ‘qualify’ his 2014 black Corvette Stingray C7, a tricked out SAM -semi-autonomous motorcar. At 9:30 am he will be in the chute and run four laps. His goal is to average 100 mph, and be “one of the guys.”

The SAM Project came about approximately seven months ago when Schmidt was contacted by Arrow Electronics. Sam was already involved with Falci Adaptive Motorsports, which builds handicapped-accessible vehicles. This SAM project is a collaboration between Arrow, Adaptive Motorsports, The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Group and Schmidt’s IndyCar team. They mostly used off-the shelf technologies. The idea is to have a car Schmidt can control.

Schmidt’s Corvette is tricked out with infrared technology like that used in movies. Schmidt will wear a special baseball cap outfitted with eight small silver-reflective spheres, which will interact with four infrared cameras on the dashboard, reflecting light from Schmidt’s head movements which control the car. By tilting his head he can steer, speed up, and when he bites a mouth sensor, the car will slow or stop. The car is equipped with a GPS system to keep it away from the edges of the track.

The car was first tested at The Brickyard, where Schmidt reached 78 mph, and then tested on the 7,500 foot runway at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he got up to 84 mph. Now he’s going for 100 mph in qualifying trim. Later this year, Schmidt plans to run at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to become the fastest quadriplegic in the world.