DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing was the top IZOD Indycar driver Friday afternoon at Infineon Raceway, with a lap of 1:18.2969. But he had to fight for it.

Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan awaiting the start of Friday Practice. Photo by Lynne Huntting
TONY KANAAN/No.7 Andretti Autosport had been the fastest IZOD Indycar driver Friday afternoon at Infineon Raceway for the first twenty-six minutes of the hour-long session, despite his car just quitting on him during his fourth lap. Kanaan was towed in.

Once Kanaan was eclipsed by DAN WHELDON/No.4 Panther Racing, the top spot rotated among MARCO ANDRETTI/No.26 Andretti Autosport-the top American driver; points leader WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske; and Franchitti.

The top five drivers were Franchitti-last year’s pole sitter and winner, and Power-just .0041 apart; ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 FAZZT Race Team-a time he grabbed on his last lap; SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and JUSTIN WILSON/No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Less than one second separated the top fifteen drivers.

The Friday schedule was a light one, or should I say a Lights-less one. The Firestone Indy Lights Series won’t be on track until Saturday. Friday IRL shared the track with the Historic Grand Prix Formula One cars, and the Formula Car Challenge Series.

The weather was barely seventy degrees F for the mid-afternoon session, with a stiff breeze. The San Francisco Bay Area has not yet really had a summer, unlike the rest of the country.

J.R. Hildebrand
J.R. Hildebrand. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Local driver and top Rookie, J.R. HILDEBRAND/No.24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing acquitted himself nicely in only his second-ever run in an Indycar. He ran as high as tenth, before finishing thirteenth. Although Hildebrand, of nearby Sausalito CA, is one of six drivers racing their first Indycar race at Infineon, he’s been racing at the wine country elevated road circuit for nine years in a variety of cars. He said it was good that they (IRL) was going out in the afternoon, like the race will be on Sunday, but it was also different because there were no Lights cars on track. just the other series laying down different rubber.

The Indycar track configuration, exclusive to the open wheelers, is a 12-turn, 2.303-mile circuit, and the race will run 75 laps.

Three female drivers are included in the 25-car field: DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Andretti Autosport, Rookie SIMONA DE SILVESTRO/No.78 HVM Racing, and MILKA DUNO/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing. De Silvestro finished twenty-second, Patrick finished twenty-third, and Duno was last. This is De Silvestro’s first time at Infineon Raceway and she doesn’t have any teammates to share setups and advice.

Rookie ALEX LLOYD/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing spun and stalled in Turn Seven bringing out a caution, with five minutes remaining in the session.

Power said post-session that he would love to win the race in front of a lot of Verizon folks here to watch the race. He said the test was very helpful, even though the track is different today. Power predicts that Qualifying will be very tight.

Regarding the changes in Turn Three, scene of his season-ending accident last year, he said “I’m still wondering what’s going on when I see dust up in Turn Three ahead of me. The lighting system is a hundred times better than before. The racing is so fast, there’s hardly time to look up at the lights. It will still be hard to react when things happen so fast.”

Franchitti, who is second overall in the standings, said he was “not sure why the track was quicker last week during the test.” He was glad for the IRL open test because of the 2010 severely limited testing policy. Franchitti, who led all 75 laps last year, said he has to start from zero each race, and not be dependent on what he did last year.

Franchitti and Power joked they were tired of seeing each other so much on the podium.


TONY KANAAN of Brazil drives No.7 Andretti Autosport has been racing open wheel indy cars since 1998 – first in CART and then in IRL beginning at the 2002 Indy 500. DARIO FRANCHITTI of Scotland drives No.10 Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates, and has been racing indy cars since 1997 in CART and then IRL in 2002. JUSTIN WILSON of England is racing No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. He started in CART in 2004 and came to IRL in 2008. The three make up the ‘leaders’ of the newly formed Indy Racing League IZOD Indycar driver’s association.

The group, which has no formal name yet, wants to make racing better, for the fans, themselves and the tracks. There might be some safety issues, and if so they would sit down at the end of the season with IRL and/or the race track.

Kanaan, who seems to be the spokesman for the group, said maybe it should be put up to the fans to vote and choose a name. He says he is in charge of comments and complaints, Franchitti handles safety, and Wilson handles media. Kanaan was the most open of any driver I interviewed. Two others told me they couldn’t talk about the association.

The drivers will meet as issues or comments arise. At this time, Kanaan said they would probably meet every other race, with emails being their communication in-between races. They met and formed at Mid-Ohio, and the next meeting is in Chicagoland at the end of the month. He doubted the group would be meeting this weekend at Infineon Raceway.

Many of the IRL drivers came from the CART/Champ Car Series, which had a driver’s association.

One example of how the association, IRL and tracks can work together is the safety improvements at Infineon’s Turn Three, scene of last year’s crash when WILL POWER/Team Penske crested the hill and had no place to go but into NELSON PHILLIPPE, who was stalled on track. Power suffered two broken vertebrae and a concussion, putting him out for the rest of the season.The drivers had suggestions on providing more warning of problems in Turn Three, and the track listened.

Infineon installed new strobe lights (four total now) with blackboards for better visibility. Also, sets of LED lights have been installed on fence posts. These are in addition to the flag marshals in corner stands. The drivers also have in-car lights for full course cautions, one or two radio spotters and and Race Control audio.

Many of the drivers were able to check out the new lights at an IRL test a week ago. The new lights are a “huge improvement” said Kanaan. “It is an awesome example” of how people can work together for betterment.

Power was fastest of the 14 IRL drivers during the one day test.

J.R. Hildebrand of Sausalito CA will be running his second ever IRL race at Infineon, his home track, driving for Dreyer & Reinbold. At the test, Hildebrand’s first reaction when he came up over the hill in Turn Three was “Wow – those lights were bright, the strobes flicking on and off.” They got his attention.

Hildebrand has a long and varied experience at Infineon, cutting his teeth in karting, then Jim Russell cars, Formula Fords, Star Mazda, Firestone Indy Lights (champion and 2009 Infineon winner), Historic Formula One, and Historic Trans-Am.

Also coming from a background in Champ Car and IRL is TONY COTMAN, who has just been hired by IRL to oversee the implementation of the IRL version of the Car of Tomorrow, making its debut in 2012. In his role as consultant/Project Manager for the technical program, Cotman will write the engine and chassis regulations, coordinate with suppliers and manufacturers (cost containment), communicate with the teams. etc. He will also work with the IRL technical and safety staff, as well as outside aerodynamic and engine experts. Cotman had most recently been part of the ICONIC Advisory Committee which was key in developing the new car strategy going forward.

Cotman had been IRL Vice President of Competition until he resigned last year to start NZR Consulting, with a focus on race circuit design, safety and management. He was key in designing the new course in Brazil. Prior to coming to IRL, Cotman had been with the Champ Car World Series in a variety of roles 2005-2007, including Vice President of Operations and Race Director. He oversaw development and implementation of the CCWS cost-effective chassis.

Cotman is a member of the FIA circuits commission, and is Race Director for the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

Cotman’s appointment seems to have universal approval. Kanaan said Cotman, who used to be with his team ‘back in the day’ (Team Manager 1998-2001), is “the most capable guy around that can do the job. He knows both series.”

Hildebrand said he was impressed with Cotman after he had a one-on-one discussion with him after the announcement of the new car. Hildebrand wanted more specific information, asked Cotman 20 questions, and got 20 perfect answers.

RAFAEL MATOS of Brazil races with Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports. He said he’s glad Cotman is coming back. Matos said Cotman is very fair in enforcing rules and penalties.

Cotman being fair was a universal theme among the drivers with whom I spoke.


Day One at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and it’s sunny and fresh Friday on the waterfront – a term which means chilly. The breeze would temper any heat wave, but none are due. The crowds are everywhere including the front gate for walk-up tickets. One needs elbow spurs to make it through the Esplanade crowd. JIM MICHAELIAN, President/CEO of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association, is pleased. “I’m exhausted from having to make my way through the crowd corridors at the Grand Prix and I couldn’t be happier being exhausted.”

Izod IndyCar Points Leader, WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske continues to dominate as he turned the fastest lap in the first practice session. His time was1:11.4039/99.221 mph. The top four drivers ran 99+ mph. His two teammates, HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 and RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 were second and fourth, respectively.

Last year’s LBGP winner, DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Chip Ganassi Racing was fifth in practice. Friday it was announced by Scottish-based TW Steel that Franchitti has been signed as the latest global brand sponsor for the maker which calls itself “Big on oversized watches.” Franchitti helped design his own watch, which will be officially launched during the Indy 500 qualifying weekend.

Franchitti admits to being “into watches” and was gifted by a TW watch four years ago by his good buddy, TONY KANAAN/No.11 Andretti Autosport. Having a home-based watch company means for Franchitti “I love big watches and we can understand each other.” Other TW clients include the Renault F1 Team and EMERSON FITTIPALDI. TW’s Chief Commercial Officer, STEWART BAIN of Scotland, said “Dario personifies the spirit of our brand in his pursuit of perfection, and everything he’s done for the racing community.”

Dario Franchitti. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Dario Franchitti. Photo by Lynne Huntting

Franchitti did a TW Steel photo shoot, and could have a new career in modeling based on the photos used in the announcement. He enjoyed the experience and wanted an oversized suitcase to take away all the TW watches. Franchitti said his fellow drivers are eager to see his watch and want to get one.

Franchitti said it was “pretty special to win here at Long Beach last year. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. It will be tougher this weekend, with 0.2 seconds covering the first five cars. Any slight mistake will take care of contending for the Fast Six in Qualifying. I barely missed it last week.”

All 25 IndyCars ran practice, and the differential between Power’s top time and last-placed MILKA DUNO/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing was more than eight seconds. SIMONA de SILVESTRO/No.78 HVM Racing was the top Rookie, in fifteenth place.

Duno spun out.

IndyCar has another practice Friday afternoon.

Firestone Indy Lights driver, SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA/No.29 Bryan Herta Autosport turned a 1:15.1732/94.246 mph lap to top the charts for the only Lights practice session Friday. He said the track is bumpier this year but has good grip. The street surface is and will continue to get better. There are lots of passing zones. Saavedra said he’s learned that “some drivers ‘sleep’ on the long straights, and that’s when I can pass.” Because of the track surface this weekend, his team is changing the 2009 settings.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/No.2 Team Moore Racing was second. Never one to blend into the woodwork, he is sporting a new look on his driving shoes. There are rubber spots on the inside exterior of each shoe, so they tend to stick to each other while he’s driving. He covered the sticky area with a racer’s answer to everything – duct tape. That wasn’t much for getting attention – which Hinch likes to do…so he used his ever-present Sharpie to mark the shoes Stop and Go. Now he’s thinking of painting them red and green. I suggested he contact the graphic shrink wrap vendor in the ALMS paddock and have something custom designed for his shoes.

JK VERNAY/No.7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports was fifth overall, making him the top Indy Lights Rookie of the ten newbies in the field. DAN CLARK/No.40 Walker Racing is classified as a Rookie in Indy Lights as his previous open wheel experience was Champ Car, not IRL, and he lacks oval track experience.

All eighteen Indy Lights cars were on track. and the speed differential was more than four seconds.


Despite the raggedy start and the first lap first turn melee involving seven to ten cars, Pole sitter DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing led flag to flag and won the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. He was the fifth different Indy Racing League Indy Car winner at Infineon in the five year history of the race in the wine country.

This was the first time since 2003 that an Indy Car driver led the race flag to flag. The last time was SCOTT DIXON/Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who led the entire Richmond race in June 2003. Franchitti’s victory moved him up to second in the points behind new points leader and race runner-up, RYAN BRISCOE/Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who finished 0.2488 seconds behind the Scottish driver.

Briscoe said he gave it his all, but just could not catch up despite using the Power to Pass boost assist at the end. He now leads the standings with 497 points – the fourth time he’s led the points this season. Franchitti has 493 points, and Franchitti’s teammate, SCOTT DIXON, went from first to third in the standings with 477 points.

Fourth in the standings is HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske with 371 points. He finished eighteenth after suffering a broken suspension, possibly caused during a contact with TONY KANAAN/Andretti Green Racing. These top four drivers are the only ones still mathematically eligible for the 2009 Drivers Championship. DANICA PATRICK/Andretti Green Racing remains fifth in the standings, but is no longer a contender. She was one of those caught out in the first lap traffic jam and finished sixteenth.

Finishing third, his career-best finish, was Rookie MIKE CONWAY/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Fourth finisher was MARIO MORAES/KV Racing Technology, also his best. HIDEKI MUTOH/Andretti Green Racing finished fifth, second race in a row.

MARCO ANDRETTI/Andretti Green Racing took the checkered flag in eleventh place, but was put back to fourteenth by the IRL Stewards after the race for ‘avoidable contact’ with Dixon on the last turn on the last lap, spinning out Dixon. The position change moved Dixon up one place and one additional point, which will be crucial in the last three races.

This is the first time in IRL history there have been so many championship lead changes in one season – thirteen times in fourteen races. Three races remain.

Sunday was Franchitti’s first win at Infineon, fourth of the 2009 season, twelfth of IRL career, and 22nd of his open wheel career.

JUSTIN WILSON/Dale Coyne Racing qualified nineteenth, but started at the back due to a tire change. He got up to seventh before a late-race spin in Turn Eleven knocked him back a slot; but he quickly recovered and still finished seventh. He is eleventh in the points.

There were two cautions for seven laps: the first three laps for the multiple melee in Turn Two; and for four laps near the end of the race for Castroneves in Turn One and RYAN HUNTER-REAY in Turn Six. Both drivers DNF. Before the halfway mark, Castroneves was on a mission and turned the fastest race time on Lap 35 of 1:18.8427/105.156 mph.

Seventeen of the 22 starters finished the race, with all but two on the lead lap. The retirements were due to contact, mechanical problems or handling.

FRANCK MONTAGNY/Andretti Green Racing retired with handling problems. He was in a fifth AGR car, for this race only. He did a good job for AGR in American Le Mans Series last year. AGR co-owner, KIM GREEN, said “It would be great to add him to the series, if we could put together a program. His name would be logically on the list. The team presently plans to retain its four drivers.” Unlike NASCAR, IRL has no team limit on the number of cars it can run.

While the track policy is not to release attendance figures, many felt it was a great crowd. Franchitti commented on how full were the grand stands and hillsides.

Franchitti likes racing on road courses. “I think the more road and street courses the Indy Car Series has as well, we build that race fitness. Next year we’re going to do even more road and street courses. That’s cool.” Next year’s schedule calls for four road courses, five street races and seven oval races.

IRL races in six days for a night race at Chicagoland, a first for IRL at that track.


Indy Racing League Indy Car driver, WILL POWER/Penske Racing, will remain in Santa Rosa Memorial hospital for a few more days after a mega impact accident Saturday morning at Infineon Raceway. He T-boned the stalled car of NELSON PHILIPPE/Conquest Racing.

Power continues to be treated for two lumbar compression fractures – L2 and L4. He also suffered a concussion. The sometimes third-car driver for Penske Racing will be fitted for a custom back brace, and then transported to Indianapolis where he will be treated by IRL Orthopedic Consultant, DR TERRY TRAMMELL. Dr. Trammell will determine Power’s course of recovery.

Philippe suffered a concussion, open fracture on his left foot and also a hairline fracture of his right fibula. He is being fitted for a brace and will remain hospitalized another night at Santa Rosa Memorial.

The two racers watched the IRL race from their hospital rooms, but were unable to watch Sunday morning’s Formula One race as the hospital’s TV package didn’t include SPEED TV.

Both cars were destroyed in the impact from Saturday morning’s crash during practice. Penske Racing had a backup car, which was prepared and is on the transporter. Conquest Racing is now down to one race car. Philippe wasn’t scheduled to race next weekend at Chicagoland, nor the Japanese race at Twin Ring Motegi, and the team hadn’t yet decided on the season’s finale race at Homestead. Another driver had already been slated to race for Conquest at the Japanese race.


DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing is on pole for Sunday’s Indy Racing League’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway, with a time of 1:16.7987/107.955 mph. This despite his four-wheel off and on in Turn Two very close to the end of the session. It was thought at the time that the Scot’s agricultural detour would keep him from getting the pole. But, he was able to somehow scrub off the dirt. Franchitti said he was impressed how much grip there was on the ‘old’ tires. It didn’t hurt him, but didn’t help GRAHAM RAHAL/Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, who was running right behind Franchitti. Rahal qualified sixth of six.

Team Penske Racing drivers RYAN BRISCOE and HELIO CASTRONEVES were second and third. MARCO ANDRETTI and HIDEKI MUTOH of Andretti Green Racing were fourth and  fifth.

Franchitti has qualified in the top six at all IRL races this year. He currently is third in the standings, 19 points behind his teammate and points leader, SCOTT DIXON. Briscoe is second, three points behind Dixon, who won the 2007 IRL race at Infineon.

Newcomer to the series, FRANCK MONTAGNY of France, was the top Rookie in eighth place. He is running in a fifth car for Andretti Green Racing.

There are two females in this race, DANICA PATRICK/Andretti Green Racing, who will start eleventh; and MILKA DUNO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing starts twenty-second.

Twenty-two of the 24 entries will start the race. Conquest Racing has withdrawn its entry for NELSON PHILIPPE, who was injured Saturday morning in practice. Team owner, ERIC BACHELART, said “We never want to have to pull out of a race, especially under these circumstances. While we regret not being able to participate in this weekend’s event, the most important thing is that Nelson will be alright. It was a scary incident and we wish both Nelson and Will speedy recoveries.”

Franchitti said he was feeling the pressure of the short two-day race format, on top of Saturday morning’s accident.

The weather was warm and sunny, with a stiff breeze which helped cut the temperature 15 degrees from Friday’s 93F.

The top six drivers in the third and final round of Qualifying represented four teams. They all ran the red (option) tires.

Franchitti has a lot of great sponsors, but said he never has seen a sponsor who used its sponsorship to become so involved. “Going into Target House, you see how good your life is after you see the kids who are fighting for their lives.”

Sunday’s race starts at 2:30 PM PDT and will be aired live on VERSUS TV


Two Indy Racing League Indy Car drivers had an accident in Saturday morning’s practice session at Infineon Raceway, injuring the drivers and basically destroying their cars. They were each transported separately to Santa Rosa Memorial.

WILL POWER/Penske Racing has L2 and L4 spinal fractures, is awaiting a MRI and is being kept overnight. NELSON PHILIPPE/Conquest Racing has an open fracture of his left foot and is undergoing surgery as this is being written, and is being kept overnight.

Penske Racing started working on Power’s backup car before Power’s condition was known. Now the team will put it together and put it in the truck.

The car of E.J. VISO/HVM Racing was repaired. When he clipped Philippe’s car before Power hit Philippe, Viso’s left rear wheel and possibly suspension was damaged. The crew worked on it and Viso was able to qualify.

In advance of the 2008 IRL season, Indy Car mandated all cars to add side intrusion panels. They exceed FIA’s minimum standards. The panel is a seven-millimeter thick anti-intrusion barrier which improves the resistance to penetration of the chassis. This panel is made uup of 15 layers of Zylon, which is bonded to the existing tub.

According to Wikipedia, Zylon is a trademarked name for a range of thermoset polyurethane synthetic polymer materials, and is used in situations which require very high strength with excellent thermal stability.


The good news from Infineon Raceway Saturday morning during the 90-minute Indy Racing League Indy Car practice is that two drivers (WILL POWER/Penske Racing and Rookie NELSON PHILIPPE/Conquest Racing) involved in an on-track accident are awake and alert. The bad news is that both drivers had to be transported to Santa Rosa Memorial hospital and both had a concussion. The latest medical update from DR MICHAEL OLINGER, IRL director of medical services: Power was transported (by helicopter) complaining of back pain. Philippe went by ambulance with a left foot injury.

The accident occurred 41 minutes into the session. Ten minutes earlier Philippe spun going into Turn Four, knocking down the braking point marker. He was restarted and continued. Then he spun again and stalled over the crest of Turn Three (same spot) in basically a blind spot for oncoming traffic. Philippe’s i drive green car was in the line, nose on the track.

E.J. VISO/HVM Racing came up and over the hill, clipping the nose of Philippe’s car. Viso continued, albeit with some injuries to his car.

Power came up and over the hill full tilt in his bright yellow No.12, in the line and hit Philippe full on, causing him to spin and debris from both cars go flying.

At the same time in an unrelated incident, DAN WHELDON/Panther Racing hit the Turn Ten wall and continued.

The session was extended ten minutes.

In the garage, Penske Racing has already started working on the (black) backup car.

Just yesterday the three drivers in the informal press conference, MARIO MORAES/KV Racing Technology, Rookie MIKE CONWAY/Dreyer & Reinbold, and DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing, all said the most difficult part of racing at Infineon was the blind curves in Turns Two and Three.

Franchitti was the fastest driver of the 24 Indy Cars, at 01:17.2196/107.367 mph. Moraes was tenth fastest, Power was sixteenth, Viso was twentieth, and Philippe was twenty-third.

Qualifying is at 2:30 PM local time.


KEVIN FORBES, Director for Engineering and Construction at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, won’t take any individual credit for all the safety innovations installed or put into practice at the 100-year old race track. He said “It’s a team effort. Diverse resources and diverse thought processes look at problems with different thoughts, which are explored to the fullest. It’s a wonderful experience to be part of a collaborative effort. There are so many people involved in making the sport safer for everyone.”

Forbes is a little hesitant, and somewhat cautious in looking at the next improvement. He said “We need to ensure we’re not breaking the law of unintended consequences. An infinitesimal change can be catastrophic.”

According to Wikipedia, the law of unintended consequences (law of unforeseen consequences) states that any purposeful action will produce some unintended consequences. The maxim is not a scientific law, but rather more like Murphy’s law. Otherwise put, the actions of people always have effects which are unanticipated or unintended.

Forbes said “In making changes, we have to be deliberate and careful. Every time we repave the track, we try to make it smoother, with better friction, quicker drying than before. The racetrack is a stage. If  it’s not right, we can’t entertain…it’s important to keep cars on track. Handling a wet track can be done with drainage systems. We don’t have the ability at IMS to start all over with the track surface. But new race tracks are learning how to evacuate water better, more efficiently, so it absorbs less and dries quicker. The track still has to maintain grip and smoothness. It has to be a package. At IMS, we’ll always continue working.

“Fencing is a mysterious aspect of a track. We continue to research and improve them. It has to protect the spectators and help drivers be safe. It needs to be invisible but safe. Racing is a spectator sort. A good fence needs to be invisible, but also provide the best protection possible for the fan. It needs to minimize damage to the driver and car.”

Forbes has never been to Talladega Superspeedway, so wouldn’t comment on its fencing or the recent accident during a NASCAR race. “The fence at IMS was designed in a vacuum. We didn’t rely on anyone else. We looked at what we had to design for IRL cars going 225 mph, NASCAR and Formula One cars going 180 mph. We didn’t compare our fencing with others, but designed to what we have. The banking at IMS is 9 degrees 12+ minutes. That’s our design challenge. Talladega has 33 degree banking. The IMS fence built in 1992 – very modern fence.

“We want IMS to be a total experience, more fulfilling, more worthwhile. We want the roads to be good, the grass green, and trash picked up. We want it to be more like a park – welcoming. We are the world’s largest stadium, which is a total of all its parts. We’re rebuilding ourselves, not just the track. All staff are ambassadors. It is attitude. Our mission statement matches goals. Being on track is being on stage.”

Forbes is like a Back Stage Director. “I handle all else – backstage. It should be an invisible position, invisible like the fence. We have very finicky customers, who expect a lot. We can’t let them down. We have to deliver and meet expectations.”

Severe storms are difficult for the track. Mother Nature is unpredictable. “This is a city of 300,000. On race day it is the second largest city in Indiana. We can’t just run to the basement. We have the best prepared group here at IMS, but it is challenging. When it rains, the parking plans change.”

One of the most unusual incidents Forbes encountered at IMS was three years ago when 50,000 bees landed on a car in the media lot, covering the entire vehicle.  The car was spotted by one of the ‘Yellow Shirts’ (security person) who contacted Forbes. “We have to be prepared for anything.” IMS has a beekeeper on call, who was brought to the track via police escort. The situation was handled before the car’s owner even knew there was a problem.

Take a bow, Kevin Forbes.


Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500, the SAFER barriers had many chances to show how well they lived up to their name. Despite all the wall-banging in Turns One and Four, the SAFER walls did what they were installed to do – absorb energy and keep the drivers safer.

KEVIN FORBES has been the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Director of Engineering and Construction for the past 18 years. During the first weekend of Qualifying we had a nice long chat about track safety and the Speedway, especially the SAFER barriers.

Forbes said then “There have been no debilitating injuries in any accident involving the SAFER barrier.” And he would know. Forbes oversaw the design and installation of the SAFER barriers, which were installed first at the Speedway and proven before they were installed at other tracks.

Turn One’s SAFER barrier attracted more than its share of incidents during the first weekend of qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500, and then again during the race. Forbes had said “There’s just something about that corner (Turn One-Two) which elicits accidents. But the SAFER barrier works! It is better to talk about saving lives and careers. It helps maintain stock-in-trade.”

No one was injured in Qualifying and all drivers were cleared to drive after their incidents.

After all the wall-whacking in the Indy 500 race, only one driver was hurt, and it wasn’t debilitating. VITOR MEIRA/No.14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises took a ride on the wild side, after hitting the Turn One wall. He was hospitalized at Methodist Hospital with fractures to L1 and L2 vertebra. Meira was fitted for a back brace by orthopedic surgeon DR TERRY TRAMMEL, and the driver’s medical regime, set up by DR MICHAEL OLINGER, Indy Racing League’s medical director,  is “non-operative management.” Meira is expected to remain in hospital for two days.

IMS is currently using Version 2 SAFER barrier. One of the main improvements is that there now is a universal Styrofoam shape which is compatible with both open-wheel cars and stock cars. No more swapping out the Styrofoam between races. Five steel tubes are welded together instead of four in the barrier’s exterior. The attachment points anchoring the barrier to the existing concrete retaining walls have been improved. The barrier has been permanently lengthened an additional 200 feet from the entrance of Turn One northward.

At one point in the first weekend of Qualifying, track activity had to be stopped so the Turn One wall could be repaired. And again during Sunday’s race repairs were needed in the same general area. There’s a repair kit on the truck ready to use. The damaged SAFER barrier part is cut away, replaced and welded. It doesn’t take long.

During all on-track sessions, Forbes sits in Race Control, overseeing and directing the track and safety issues and responses . He’s done this for the past five years.