INDIANAPOLIS – Tuesday’s IndyCar Media Day at a snowy, cold Indianapolis Motor Speedway was an exercise in rapid fire sessions and anxiousness, and I mean that in a good way.
The length of the 2014-2015 IndyCar offseason has, for lack of a better term, dragged.
Yes, there have been occasional news nuggets, and we’ve hit a number of features that would otherwise get overlooked during the season.
But the last race was held August 30. It will be nearly a full seven months since that point when the 2015 curtain-raiser occurs March 29 at St. Petersburg.
Alas, here were some of the nuggets from media day we didn’t hit yesterday and are looping back on today:
MORE AERO KIT DISCUSSION
Depending on where you looked, the words used online in the wake of Chevrolet unveiling its aero kit on Tuesday ran to the degree of “awful,” “hideous,” “ungainly” or “extra wings that are going to cause a heck of a lot of yellows.”
A word used occasionally, but less frequently, to describe the aero kits was, “cool.”
But a word we can all agree on for aero kits now more than ever, however late it is compared to the original idea that occurred back in 2010 is, “actual.”
The aero kit implementation ahead of 2015 is proof positive of the “better late than never” mantra, and quite frankly, is a huge element of the season ahead.
The competition element of the championship is there – witness double digit winners and either 19 or 20 podium finishers each of the last two years. But without something to build on beyond the competition, we’d be looking at 2015 as a “more of the same” year without something new to discuss.
Chevrolet’s aero kit has 123 parts, and it will be fascinating to see which of those parts makes the difference in outright pace improvements throughout the year. While GM’s VP of Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, Jim Campbell, couldn’t be pressed on percentage gains, he did confirm these will make for faster speeds, as you’d expect.
The domino next to fall is Honda’s aero kit, and the fact that the two aero kits are not being launched simultaneously is a benefit for the series, which will now have two “hits” rather than one.
The anticipation will now build for a few weeks for Honda’s official reveal – tentatively slated for March ahead of the Barber Motorsports Park spring training test – although as a Honda spokesperson confirmed, “the plan is written in pencil.” It could be earlier, and it may have to, given some Honda teams will be testing after the March 13 first date but before Barber on March 16. It’s impossible pictures won’t get out.
While I was not a fan of the perpetual delay of the aero kits, I am pleased to see the timeline outlined by Derrick Walker in his first weekend with INDYCAR in June 2013 rigidly adhered to to see the aero kits actually, finally, happen for 2015.
ANXIOUSNESS ABOUT WAITING…
The long offseason, as mentioned, has made a number of drivers stir-crazy and a bit anxious to actually be racing.
After a recent flurry of testing though, the engines will simmer over the next two to three weeks before it gets crazy again from March 13 until the St. Petersburg season opener.
“Being here (at IMS) is nice, but being around the guys is a tease,” said Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal. “You want to get out and get running, see what we can do. I think it’s about a month before we hit the track again. That’s kind of weird.”
…YET FAST-PACED MEDIA SESSIONS
The drivers themselves were in fine form for most of the breakout press conferences. Rahal’s counterpart James Hinchcliffe, as expected, brought the usual humor and candor he’s known for with a couple riffs.
Tony Kanaan’s “Awesome!” line in response to a question about the Brazil cancellation showed his humor is still as as fast-paced as his driving, before he addressed the cancellation head on.
Josef Newgarden seemed flattered to still be considered part of IndyCar’s “next generation” segment alongside rookies and fellow past Indy Lights champions in Gabby Chaves and Sage Karam.
Newgarden had the line of the day when he whipped out a random Australian accent ahead of the Team Penske press conference and told series champion Will Power, “Have a good press conference, mate!” to much laughter.
Then Power and the test of his Penske teammates, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and new recruit Simon Pagenaud, had what Power described as “the most un-Penske-like press conference ever,” where the quartet was basically the IndyCar version of a comedy troupe. Montoya said he “sucked” early last year, Power said JPM left and the series went down, then he came back and now it’s on the way up. As the new guy, Pagenaud also got some good-natured ribbing.
With all sessions occurring between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at a snowy Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was a hectic, fast-paced morning.
ONE OF THESE GUYS HAS A RIDE, AND ONE DOESN’T
It was good to catch up with JR Hildebrand, who planned this trip to Indianapolis in advance of knowing it would coincide with media day. Nonetheless, Hildebrand’s presence was a welcome surprise. The American spent time talking and catching up with those on site and while he doesn’t have anything immediate in the works, he and fellow Denver resident Justin Wilson are both still sorting out their plans.
Meanwhile James Jakes made a cameo appearance at the start of the day, and was among several drivers present who weren’t part of the media sessions. Jakes has been called IndyCar’s version of “The Stig” before because you rarely, if ever, hear him speak – Tuesday was no different.
I guess I can’t help but sigh a little bit because Jakes – who is still a plenty capable driver – does not have near the fan interest nor name recognition of a Hildebrand. And a Hildebrand confirmation to a ride would have undoubtedly generated a better reaction on social media than Jakes’ did earlier this week.