Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I spent today testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Team PBIR #35 Firestone Indy Lights car. And WOW! It is racetrack I have watched on TV since I was a boy. I even remember talking my mom into letting me stay home from school on the Tuesday after Memorial Day one year to watch the Indianapolis 500 (it had been rained out on Sunday and Monday). The history here is awe-inspiring to say the least. This year's 500 will be the 94th annual and the IMS is entering into it's three year Centennial Era celebration. Tomorrow, May 6th, will be the official opening of Indianapolis 500 practice but today was the Indy Lights practice time.
As a racetrack, the Speedway is very different to all the other ovals. Firstly, it is longer, 2.5 miles long. Secondly, it has two long straights (5/8 mile each), 4 corners and 2 short chutes connecting Turns 1 and 2 as well as 3 and 4. So it essentially is a rounded off rectangle. It seats nearly 400,000 on 500 Sunday. The banking is also very flat compared to Homestead and Kansas. And since it is a lot older than the other racetracks, it also pretty narrow. As a result the sight picture into Turn 1 is like heading down a tunnel with all you can see is a white wall in front of you.
So today is the first time there has been any significant running since the winter. As a result, there was a lot of dust to start with and no rubber down on the track surface. A few years ago, they diamond ground the track and it has a lot of grip, but to start it eats the tires away very aggressively. We only ran 27 laps on our first set of Firestone Firehawks before we got to the canvas (cords) on the tires. Then since it was only 10AM, we sat around for a while until other cars had run and put some more rubber down. For an idea of how much fun it is to drive here, I am full-throttle the whole way around the track. 2.5 miles in under 48 seconds all day. My quickest lap was the last lap of the day. I had timed a big run on another car to catch a tow. As a result, I was in the top of 6th gear and did a lap in 47.25 seconds. That equates to 190.441 miles per hour average. On that lap, I saw 199 mph at the end of the back straight headed into Turn 3. That is the fastest I have ever gone in a race car. The only time I have gone quicker is on an airplane! When you are going that fast, you cover the length of an American football field every 1.05 seconds. That's fast!!! All in all, it was a great day and a wonderful first experience at the Speedway. I ended the day 7th and think that in race trim and even in qualifying spec, we solidly in the top-10.
I can't wait to get back here for the race, the Freedom 100, May 22nd. And to stay and watch the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 May 24th.