NTT INDYCAR Series
From Road Course to Oval, Changing Cars to Fit the Tracks Part 1
The Verizon IndyCar Series is unlike any other, requiring so many skill sets, from the road and street courses, to short ovals and superspeedways. The 2017 IndyCar season hosted three superspeedways, three short ovals, six permanent road courses, and five street courses.
As a result, it makes for a significant challenge for the crews to convert the cars, adapting them to each specific type of track.
Their quest is even made more difficult by the way the schedule is laid out, with back-to-back events on different types of courses at opposite ends of the country. For example, the season begins with two street courses, first at St. Petersburg, FL, on the east coast and then four weeks later it moves to Long Beach on the west coast. Two weeks after that, the teams competed on the permanent road course at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL, and then immediately moved west to the short 1.0-mile oval at Phoenix.
While there are a few weekends off between these races, that is when the teams schedule their testing. And, it can be very difficult going from a superspeedway, if there is car damage, to a road course test a few days later. Most teams are mid-west based in the Indianapolis area and return to their shops between events.
The schedule isn’t all that team friendly when you consider Watkins Glen on the east coast is followed by Sonoma on the west coast. For these events, cars must be ready and loaded in the transporter no later than Wednesday (sometimes earlier) to arrive at a track early Thursday of race weekend to make their assigned time to go through Technical Inspection (required before running in Friday’s practice sessions).
Most teams handle the conversion from road course to oval and back again by having a designated road course and oval car. The best scneario is to have three cars per driver so the backup car can also be made ready for a specific type of track. It takes about 200-man hours to convert from a road course configuration to the oval. The greatest contrast on the schedule is switching from the longest, 4.0-mile Road America road course to the shortest oval track, Iowa (0.894-mile).
In the second part later this week, we breakdown the process in which the teams go through.
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