CONCORD, N.C. – Roger Penske doesn’t believe the recent spate of airborne wrecks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are connected to the new aero kits used by the Verizon IndyCar Series this season.
On Wednesday, Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves backed into the wall after his car wiggled through Turn 1 and went airborne after turning backward. The car completed a somersault before landing on the track. Castroneves was unhurt. Josef Newgarden also escaped injury after a similar crash the following day in which his car landed on its airbox.
Before Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Penske said Castroneves’ car likely didn’t have enough grip because the team was working with an unfamiliar setup. The Indianapolis 500 marks the debut of the aero kits on ovals.
“We looked at the data, and we actually had less downforce than when we qualified last year,” Penske said. “I think we understand how we’ve got to set them up now. I think any of these cars that get backward, it’s like a NASCAR car, that’s something the league is going to look at is how we can keep them on the ground. … I think we’ve got enough information now that you don’t want to be going backward, point No. 1. Point No. 2, if you do get backward, you need something to mitigate that. The league’s on it. We’re on it as teams.”
Penske said Chevrolet’s aerodynamicists had helped fine-tune the new aero kit setups after Castroneves’ crash. “We saw we were in the ballpark where we needed to be,” he said. “I feel good about where we are.”
Penske also feels good about the mindset of Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner.
“Helio got right back in the car,” Penske said. “Ironically, all that going through the air, he said he was never a big thump. It was almost like a feather coming back on the ground. So we were very fortunate.”