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Drivers think more aero changes are needed to improve speedway racing

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In the wake of this year’s Indianapolis 500, IndyCar officials revealed that changes to the front wing of the UAK-18 would be made available for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

The decision came as a result of an Indy 500 that did not produce the same slip-streaming shootout we’ve seen since the DW-12 chassis was introduced in 2012, and drivers, teams, and officials were looking for a way to improve the show as they continue to get their hands around the the 2018 aero kit.

Pocono would serve as a testing ground of sorts, and the nature of the 2.5-mile “tricky triangle” made it ideal to see if the subtle aero changes would work. Pocono, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is relatively flat, particularly in Turns 2 and 3, which means it doesn’t have multiple grooves to use in the corners. This puts a premium on having a package that allows cars to follow each other closely through the corners.

Sebastien Bourdais highlighted this point about Pocono after Saturday qualifying. “It’s typically a one-groove race track and following is very difficult, so getting a run is going to be hard,” he explained.

Although the front wing changes were small, there was optimism that they would allow cars to follow each other more closely. Tony Kanaan addressed this after his qualifying run, and while he acknowledged that things were still going to be plenty challenging, he thought the changes were going to be a help.

“I think it was a good tool to add, but we’re still going to have our hands full anyway. It’s just made our life a little bit better,” Kanaan expressed.

However, things ultimately did not pan out as well as everyone hoped. Following and passing cars remained difficult – several drivers indicated that even passing lapped cars was a challenge. Further, while Will Power was able to keep a dominant Alexander Rossi in his sights, Power knew he would have trouble getting by on the track, and resigned himself to saving fuel and going longer on a stint, with the hope that he would jump ahead during a cycle of pit stops.

“Pretty much as soon as we caught traffic, I was just in fuel save heavily for most of the race to get a lap on (Rossi). That was our best shot to jump him,” Power revealed.

Third-place finisher Scott Dixon detailed that, while battling Marco Andretti for third earlier in the race, he simply could not get a run on him, despite Andretti running lean on his fuel mixture.

“We got stuck behind Marco for I think it was three stints. It was just miserable,” Dixon lamented. “No fault of his. They were just trying to hit a fuel number. But I just couldn’t do anything. I had no pressure from behind. It was the most bizarre thing where you’re running four, five miles an hour slower than probably the pace of the race should be, and nobody was doing anything.”

Dixon also asserted that, as a result of the persistent issue of cars unable to follow each other on super speedways, more changes might be needed.

“It was really tough to pass. You could get cars that were really bad, but cars that were sort of midway and halfway pace, you just really struggled. Marco was lifting big-time to get fuel mileage and just couldn’t get a run on him. If we just didn’t have the washout we did today, it would have been a lot easier to pass. It is what it is. Next year we need to come out with a revised aero kit,” said Dixon.

Power also highlighted possible changes to the tire compound to improve things.

“I think the tire will help. It just depends how far you want to go,” he explained. “You need to make it so close where you take the driver out. Obviously (on Sunday) there was a lot of driver in it. It probably needs to go a bit more towards being wide open in (Turn 2), getting runs. Just need more grip. That’s probably downforce and tire, yeah.”

However, they remained positive about the overall outlook of the aero kit, and are confident that IndyCar and its technical team will make the right changes for next year and beyond.

“It’s the best group they’ve ever had at IndyCar as far as the technical side,” Power added. “Bill (Pappas), Tino Belli: these guys are very thorough. They’ve worked as engineers on teams. They are always making the right moves. They’ve made a car that looks awesome, and it does race well on short ovals, road courses.”

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister