LIVE BLOG: Grand Prix of Indianapolis

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on May 9, 2014 10:45 pm

11:18 AM ET — During the opening practice session of the day, I had the privilege of shadowing Dale Harrigle, who is Firestone’s Chief Engineer and Manager of its Race Tire Development program. I learned an enormous amount about how Firestone uses the data that it gathers on pit lane to assist IndyCar teams and do ongoing development work on its tires to improve performance.

I’ll be putting a much more detailed story together on this in the next few days, but here are a few tidbits on how the changes to the IMS road course impacted Firestone.

Coming in, Firestone had two sets of data to work from based on the previous configuration: Bridgestone had some experience from Formula 1’s events here, and Dan Wheldon tested the DW12 on the IMS road course. Based on that, Harrigle says they had an idea of what the speeds and loads were going to be but they were still expecting unique challenges.

Firestone arrived at the open test last week with what is essentially their Mid-Ohio tire. Harrigle says that wear was initially very high until the cars did some running, but with a rubbered-up track the wear settled down nicely. “We’re through a fuel stint now,” Harrigle says, “so everything appears like it’s going to be great.”

(The part that went unsaid — if a thunderstorm tears through here this afternoon and washes the rubber away, that can be expected to have an impact. Teams have also had some trouble going out on the Cooper Tire rubber that the Mazda Road to Indy series are leaving, so there are two major factors to watch.)

When asked whether the specific changes made to the road course configuration had an impact on Firestone, Harrigle said the most important point is that the road course and the oval no longer share space from a tire use perspective. “When the guys get out on the oval on Sunday, they won’t have one corner that has a lot of rubber and then get down to 2 and have nothing on it,” he says. “I think that was a great change that the IMS made.”

Watch for a full story on my visit with Dale and the Firestone team over the next few days. Thanks very much to everyone at Firestone who helped to arrange the visit for us.


9:34 AM ET — Found this excellent piece in an IndyCar press release this morning in which Simon Pagenaud giving a shout-out to our friends Damon Sturrock and Monica Hilton at Snake Pit Customs:

Simon Pagenaud will turn 30 on May 18, and gave himself a birthday gift a few days early.

The Verizon IndyCar Series driver took delivery of a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback — a car he calls his American dream car — last weekend. He christened the car, which he calls Miss Madison, by driving it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“(Damon Sturrock) did exactly what I wanted. It’s exactly the look I was wanting,” Pagenaud said of the owner of Snake Pit Customs. “From where the car was when I found it. I won’t say it was in a junkyard, but it wasn’t the best garage you can find. The way she looks today is absolutely stunning. It’s probably the prettiest car I’ve ever had or seen. It drives very well from the brakes to the Hotchkiss suspension and those American Racing Wheels are the best. Personally, I’m in love.”

Pagenaud brought the car in California last fall just before the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway. And though it was rust-free, he had his own vision for the car. Sturrock, a long-time Indy car mechanic, worked on the car over the winter.

“It feels like an everyday car now,” said Pagenaud, who had dreamed of owning a Mustang since hearing stories of his grandfather importing a Bullitt Mustang to France before he was born. “I wanted something that felt good and felt safe. I think my girlfriend is more excited than I am. She loves it just as much as I do. Hopefully, she’ll let me drive it.”

The project was the first for Sturrock, who will spend the Month of May with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as chief mechanic for the entry driven by 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve.

“When I was 19, I had a ‘67 Mustang Fastback that I built the motor and did suspension work on it and on my test drive, the engine ripped off the frame when I hit the gas,” Sturrock said. “Back then I didn’t have the skill or the knowledge to fix something like that, so I sold it and always had regrets about it. To build this car for Simon was awesome. It’s fantastic.”

Pagenaud says he wants to drive the car to Speedway, but the notoriety he’s already gained might make him more visible than he hoped for.

“I made it black because I wanted to be under the radar with the police,” he said. “With all the people who were looking at it already on the road, I feel very proud. She is like my baby. I got to design it and choose every piece that went on her. I’m honored people like it.”


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