After many meetings and long waits during a suspended Sunday one-day Indianapolis 500 qualifying schedule, news came from the Verizon IndyCar Series. Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway read the statement and took questions. He brought along Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President Competition & Operations.
“This morning we saw a third car get into the wall turn backward and lift into the air. We’ve said all along we want to go faster, but we want to do so safely.
“As a precautionary measure, INDYCAR will require that the cars qualify today in the same aero setup that they will run in the Indianapolis 500 next weekend. Also, for today, boost levels will return to race conditions. Given these changes, we have elected to not award points for today’s qualifications
“Safety for drivers and fans is the top priority for INDYCAR and we will continue to be proactive in our research and development to improve all safety aspects of our sport.”
Honda’s statement regarding Indy 500 qualifying changes came from Art St.Cyr, president, Honda Performance Development: “Even though we have every confidence in our design, we support INDYCAR in their efforts to improve safety.”
Chevrolet’s statement regarding Indy 500 qualifying changes came from Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports: “Chevrolet met with IndyCar this morning and the decision was made to run race-level aerodynamics and engine boost during qualifying in an effort to reduce speeds and increase downforce. We continue to review all available data from the crashes. Safety is our priority.”
The Speedway’s statement came from Doug Boles, President: “Had this been a one-off we wouldn’t be as worried as we are right now, but we’ve had three of them. The cars have come in, hit the wall. What we are trying to do right now, the best we can and INDYCAR can ensure this is not going to continue to happen, so we are letting the INDYCAR folks and engineers know how to do that.”
The revised schedule:
•1:30-2:00pm ET – Group 1 Practice
•2:00-2:30pm ET – Group 2 Practice
There is no guaranteed green flag time
•2:45pm ET – Group 1 in Tech Line
•3:15pm ET – Group 2 in Tech Line
•3:15pm ET – Indianapolis 500 qualifications (all cars, one time through)
30 minutes following conclusion of qualifying – Group 2 qualifying (Pos 31-33 and unqualified cars.
•There will be no Fast Nine Shootout.
After the crash with semi-flip and slide with Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet, Group 1 practice was ended early, and the day’s schedule went on hold, while there was action and reaction. Meetings were held and the crowd grew larger and larger outside the INDYCAR Administration trailer and offices. Many people were seen going in and out, including IMS and INDYCAR officials, Chevrolet and Honda administrators and executives, INDYCAR team owners and key personnel, and at least one driver – Ed Carpenter.
After waiting in Gasoline Alley for more than an hour, the assemblage – which the Yellow Shirts divided into Media and others – was told there would be a conference with Miles in the Media Center. Mass exodus. During the wait, the welcome sound of the nearby No.20T Chevrolet engine for Ed Carpenter was heard – even drowning out the Scottish bagpipers.
It took the CFH team two and a half hours to prepare the backup car for Carpenter, which was fortuitous as he was third in the qualifying lineup with his T car and eighth for his primary car. Carpenter has had the pole position for the last two Indy 500 races. And, for the practice session, he was in Group 1. He did get out for eleven laps, turning 223.631 mph and a 219.558 mph without a tow.
Carpenter clearly wasn’t happy after his accident. Reportedly he said “I am so pissed off but I can’t really say what I want to. Hopefully this series will be smart and react sooner rather than later so we don’t have to keep seeing things happen like this.”
Miles said in the conference that the added Fast Friday/Qualifying turbocharger boost was rescinded, meaning the cars would run the original 130 kPa rather than the boosted 140 kPa – which generated up to 40 more horsepower.
Walker said the teams would have to race whatever aerodynamic trim they used Sunday. “That rule alone will cause the manufacturers to select certain components for the race. We’re adding more downforce and reducing engine power.”
This led to major scrambling by the teams to make changes before the newly scheduled practice at 1:30pm ET – about two hours after the notice.
Walker was asked why changes were mandated for all the cars when it was Chevrolet that had the three cars flip. “Just because there were three Chevrolet incidents doesn’t mean there aren’t three Honda’s out there waiting to happen. Honda doesn’t feel they have that, but it’s all about safety – reduce horsepower. It would be negligent on our part to focus on just one manufacturer. These three incidents all started from three different starting points: tire pressure, aero balance, and an accident. We need to address the issue – the big issue is where it ended. Need to work backward to what started the incidents.”
Walker responded to another question regarding further testing. “Since the No.3 accident, we’ve been working with both manufacturers on that, and they’re running their super computers day and night. Do we see anything? That whole process has continued and will continue. We can’t learn any faster than that.”
It was pointed out that the only real track testing was the open oval track test Sunday 3 May 2015, and a lot of changes to the packages have been made since that time. Real time testing is hard to simulate. Walker said “Hindsight is always gives us a different perspective. There is such good computing power now that we can simulate all different kinds of situations. The ultimate test is on the race track. That’s the situation now. We want to put on a competitive race with two complete manufacturers.”
Miles added that “We need to be cautious and we don’t know yet what caused the problem. We don’t anticipate any regulation changing in the next week. It’s unlikely.”
ABC TV will broadcast live from Indianapolis 1-3pm ET and then started at 3pm the coverage will switch to ESPN News.