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Scott Dixon tests INDYCAR Aeroscreen on Dallara simulator

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Scott Dixon served as the test driver in INDYCAR’s simulation of the proposed Aeroscreen that will greatly enhance driver cockpit protection in the future. Dixon, a five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and winner of 45 IndyCar races, tested a prototype manufactured by Roush Tuesday morning at the Dallara simulator in Speedway, Indiana.

The latest test comes just six weeks after INDYCAR announced a partnership with Red Bull Advance Technologies to design an Aeroscreen concept to protect drivers in the cockpit of their Indy car.

The simulator test allowed Dixon to provide feedback on entering and exiting the cockpit in addition to discuss the sight lines that will come from the framework of the Aeroscreen structure. The design of the Aeroscreen will enclose the cockpit but will be open on top. It consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework.

Dixon’s test on Tuesday utilized the framework produced by Roush as the clear screen itself remains under development. The framework mounts in three areas around the cocking including the chassis centerline, two-rear side mounts and roll hoop integration – to provide enhanced load-bearing capabilities.

“It went pretty smoothly,” Dixon said on Tuesday. “This process has been ongoing, whether it’s the device we’re currently running to looking at the halo systems to the Aeroscreen to this partnership with PPG Aerospace and now Red Bull Technologies.

“It’s evolving. To actually have a piece we can use visually. The additions on this are some areas for cooling and the anti-fog system. We are just making sure the line of site isn’t impeded by any of these. It’s much like the current car with the AFP device. We are actually looking a bit higher out of the car.”

Dixon went through simulation programs that included running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park, Long Beach and Iowa Speedway.

An additional vane has been added to the outside of the screen to help the tipping point of the car after it hits the wall.

Although it is not the full construction piece, it gave Dixon an idea of extraction from the car.

“The extraction doesn’t seem to be any different than the halo,” Dixon said. “That was pretty easy. Visually, there is always the worry about not being able to see the flag stands, but it was actually almost the same as the AFP that we are currently running.

“It didn’t really impede my vision.

“I think the next step is to run the proper one, which I think is down the road in September on track.”

The Red Bull Advanced Technologies design will consist of a polycarbonate laminated screen that includes an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element and possibly tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party companies. Another feature for the drivers will be a cockpit cooling option that will be designed by Dallara in conjunction with Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

The Aeroscreen is scheduled to be implemented for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.

“The biggest concern, and it’s a bit of a myth about people talking about the halo and it not being useful for the Indy car because of line of site on the ovals,” Dixon said. “This design doesn’t impede that. What we have run in the past with the windscreen and how we run the angles and how it applies to the frame, there have been no issues previously. There will be an anti-fog system, as well, and that will help.

“Distortion and visual are the biggest things a driver looks at to make sure it doesn’t impede your vision or missing the flagstand. Those were all ticked off the list and there were no issues there.”

Dixon told NBC Sports.com the simulator was able to calculate the visual aspect of the actual clear Windscreen that will be mounted on the framework.

“I’m not sure which material they are going to go with, but there was no actual screen on there, but the additional pieces that will be added for the defog system was added,” Dixon said. “We’ll find out more about that on-track.

“I think it will visually be almost exactly the same as what we have. The AFP is pretty high, so it is exactly where the line of site currently is. The new system is the same in terms of thickness. Getting in the car is the only difference you will notice, but once you are belted in, visually, it will be about the same.”

Aerodynamic figures and center of gravity tests were also simulated during the test because the weight distribution of the car will change. Dixon expects more aero drag with the screen.

He also said the test included running with wheels missing, as well as crash and roll scenarios.

“It was a pretty in-depth test,” Dixon said. “They want to cover most of the bases before we run a lot of tests in the off-season to make sure we have looked at all scenarios.”

Actual on-track testing will be next later this year. INDYCAR intends to have the Aeroscreen on all cars for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.

The addition of the Aeroscreen should dramatically protect the driver, but it won’t change a racer’s attitude.

“This will protect the driver’s head a lot more, but the impacts are still going to be the same,” Dixon said. “We, as drivers, don’t really think about that.

“We think about going as fast as possible.”

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

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Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

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When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

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Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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