INDYCAR confirms new closure panels to super speedway aero kits (UPDATED)

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INDYCAR has now confirmed there will be a new “closure panels” to the rear wheel guards ahead of this weekend’s Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway.

A Twitter post from USA Today Sports’ Brant James said to expect a new aero part, described as a new “contraption,” coming to the cars this weekend.

That has now been confirmed. Here is the release from INDYCAR:

INDYCAR announced today it has implemented the use of closure panels to the rear wheel guards of both Honda and Chevrolet superspeedway aero kits beginning this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The panels were developed by Honda and Chevrolet, respectively, and will also be utilized at Pocono Raceway and Auto Club Speedway during the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“This has been a collaborative effort with both manufacturers and they have been working on these since the Indianapolis 500 qualifications,” said Will Phillips, IndyCar Vice President of Technology. “These closure panels serve as a blocker so air cannot flow through the rear wheel guards. This will ultimately raise the point at which cars would experience lift when traveling backwards.”

INDYCAR also confirmed that the rear wing angle for all entries this weekend must be set between (-6) and (-10.5) degrees, which will still result in an increase in overall downforce compared to the 2014 event at TMS.

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage has release a statement as well.

“I think they have found an effective way to reduce and eliminate the lift that they had problems with in practice at Indianapolis,” Gossage said. “This is a logical approach to attacking this problem and hopefully we won’t see that here at Texas at all. I think this is a step in the right direction.”

Gossage also likes the the decision to adjust the rear-wing pitch.

“That will probably cause the cars to slow down just a little and I think that is a good move as well,” Gossage said. “That will also make the cars more drivable. We are pleased IndyCar is working on this. We don’t know what these changes will bring until the green flag drops, but IndyCar is trying and we appreciate that.”

INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker said during the qualifying change press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that IndyCar, in partnership with Chevrolet and Honda, would seek to make changes before the race at Texas.

“Well, we’ve already started and it will go as long as it takes to get the answers we need,” Walker said on May 17. “Both our manufacturers are working very closely with us. That’s one of the reassuring things of this whole exercise is how they’ve rallied around and put all their resources behind looking at how to understand it more, so I would see that continuing.”

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.