Proposed windscreen for IndyCar passes first on-track test

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AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — With Scott Dixon at the wheel, the prototype for a windscreen to help protect IndyCar drivers from flying debris passed its first on-track test on Thursday, a big step toward requiring such devices, perhaps as early as next year.

“It’s definitely a milestone as far as moving forward and moving in the right direction for some more safety initiatives, and we all know the reasons why,” the four-time IndyCar Series champion said.

The only real problem for Dixon, he said, was the lack of air flow made things quite warm. But he described that as “an easy fix.”

“The cooling thing we kind of knew,” Dixon said, “but we just didn’t want to deal with it right now.”

Jeff Horton, IndyCar director of engineering and safety and head of the windscreen project, was happy with the results.

“When a guy like Scott gets out, a veteran of ours, and says there’s no deal breakers, a couple of small things to look at, what better could you ask for,” Horton said.

The windscreen wouldn’t prevent all flying-debris accidents since material still could sail over the front of the screen or come in on top of the driver, who otherwise is protected only by a helmet. Driver Justin Wilson died in August 2015 of injuries he sustained when he was struck by flying debris in an IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.

But IndyCar officials see the windscreen as potentially a big improvement in safety. With more testing to be done, the windscreen probably wouldn’t be required on the circuit until 2019 at the earliest.

The screen, made up of a new material called Opticore, is four-tenths of an inch thick and rises at a 25-degree angle.

“It’s a little bit different looking through something that’s so thick,” Dixon said, “but I thought it would have messed with my distortion a lot more but there was nothing like that. There was no problem with reflection. … The weirdest thing was just how quiet it is. You have no buffeting. The car feels very smooth.”

Next up is a ballistics test, when researchers will find out just how much the screen can take from small, medium and large size debris.

Dixon drove the Chip Ganassi Racing team Honda at speeds of up to 190 mph on the track at ISM Raceway, formerly Phoenix International Raceway and site of two NASCAR and one IndyCar races each year.

“Whether we’re developing foam for the car and stuff or whatever, it’s always exciting to do the test and have it a success,” Horton said. “And trust me, we’ve had many non-successful things and we just go figure out the solution and keep working.”

Dixon said earlier problems with potential limits in peripheral vision had been resolved.

But, he said, “you’re looking through quite a substantial amount of glass or material. It just takes your eyes a little bit to adjust to how you look through it.”

The reaction could be different from driver to driver, Dixon said, so the New Zealander suggested everyone get to test the screen.

“This may affect other guys in different ways so it’s something that everybody needs to almost try,” he said. “It ran with little to no problems but it could affect others.”

Dixon said he would like to see if he gets more used to it over time.

“Your brain and eyes just need to catch up to it,” he said. “The longer that I ran I got more adept to it.”

Before Thursday, the screen had been tested only in a wind tunnel. On Thursday, Dixon drove the Honda in sunshine, at dusk and at night with the track lights on. He spoke to reporters after the first run but didn’t foresee any problems when the light changed.

The current project has been ongoing for two years.

Formula One teams have been testing a “halo” windscreen, but it’s an entirely separate exercise.

“We’ve shared with them,” Horton said. “We don’t know the exact stuff that they’re using right now.”

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:


Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change