Hybrid engines coming to INDYCAR in 2022

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Hybrid engine technology is coming to INDYCAR in 2022, making the series relevant to today’s modern automotive marketplace.

INDYCAR announced Thursday morning that it will implement a single-source hybrid system in its race cars for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season that will provide key enhancements ranging from competition to safety.  Current engine manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet are partners of the program that will combine elements of the 2.4-liter internal combustion engines, along with a hybrid powertrain.

It will be the first time the vehicles will not use the traditional, manual hand-held electric starters to start the race cars. Instead, a hybrid component can be activated by the driver from the cockpit.

One of INDYCAR’s challenges has been the difficult balancing act of bringing new technology into a sport that at one time was the cutting edge of automotive technological advancement. To remain technologically relevant while preserving the “Wow!” factor of speed and thrills that have been part of IndyCar racing’s heritage is very important as the 20thCentury sport of auto racing moves into the third decade of the 21stCentury.

“It’s an exciting time for INDYCAR with the forthcoming evolution of the cars and innovations like the hybrid powertrain being incorporated into the new engine,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “As we move toward the future, we will remain true to our racing roots of being fast, loud and authentic, and simultaneously have the ability to add hybrid technology that is an important element for the series and our engine manufacturers.”

The hybrid system will work in parallel with the internal combustion engines from Honda and Chevrolet, combining growing hybrid technology with the traditional power plants to produce in excess of 900 horsepower for the most competitive racing series in the world.

The hybrid powertrain will be integrated into the push-to-pass system and provide a power boost to the tool used by drivers for overtaking on road and street courses. The current system, which is limited to 200 seconds per driver in those events, will gain additional horsepower from the hybrid system to help INDYCAR reach its target goal of achieving 900-plus horsepower for its cars.

The hybrid technology will consist of a multi-phase motor, inverter and electric storage device that will create energy recovery from the car’s braking system.

The addition of the hybrid technology to the traditional engine formula will provide some integral benefits for the competitors while enhancing the race action for the fans. In addition to allowing drivers to restart their cars from the cockpit, the system will increase the horsepower of the push-to-pass system and potentially improve the pace and overall time of races.

INDYCAR had announced in May 2018 that it would move to a 2.4-liter engine formula that would produce 900 hp beginning in 2021. The addition of the hybrid powertrain will push the debut of the new engine formula from 2021 to 2022, realigning it with the arrival of the next-generation chassis as initially scheduled.

The move will allow INDYCAR to continue working on other future innovations for the new package as well as extend the window of opportunity for an additional OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to join Chevrolet and Honda in 2022.

“Honda is committed to racing in order to develop people and technologies relevant to the future of our sport and our world,” Honda Performance Development President Ted Klaus said. “INDYCAR offers us the perfect platform to prove out both people and technologies in an environment where measurement of successes and failures is crystal clear.”

Chevrolet officials believe the additional one-year delay on the new engine platform is important, now that relevant hybrid technology will be part of the equation.

“Chevrolet supports delaying the implementation of the revised engine regulations until 2022 to coincide with the NTT IndyCar Series introduction of new technologies with the chassis,” U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports Jim Campbell said. “The partnership between Chevrolet and IndyCar remains a strong platform for showcasing relevant technologies that we incorporate in our production engines, and transfer learnings in performance, reliability and efficiency between the racetrack and the showroom.” 

From a safety standpoint, the system will improve on-track situations by giving the driver the ability to restart the car quickly should it stall on track. This will help reduce the time the driver and AMR Safety Team are exposed on track than they currently are while awaiting a manual restart.

That safety feature also provides a benefit to the fan experience by potentially helping reduce the number of caution flags for stalled cars on track and leading to improved overall pace and time of races.

The new engine regulations will be in place for six years – 2022 through the ‘27 seasons – in a concerted effort to provide a clear vision and stability for the NTT IndyCar Series engine manufacturers and teams. It is a continuation of INDYCAR’s initial five-year strategic competition plan that originated in 2016.

Chevrolet and Honda will continue with the current homologation table through the 2020 and ‘21 seasons.

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

NHRA
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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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