Any day spent at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or IMS, is special and Monday April 30, 2018 was a special day. Winter finally ended a few days earlier and Monday was a spectacular spring day. Even more spectacular was that race cars finally took to the track, much to the delight of the many spectators that congregated on the turn two spectator mounds.
It meant that I was finally able to return to the center of the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me, like every other race fan that looks forward to the Month of May, it was special because it was still April and I was going to be able to watch race cars going around the track.
This article is from a spectator’s point of view and I encourage everyone to read all of Eric Smith’s articles to learn the behind the scenes action from the track. You will learn about Scott Dixon’s comments about the cars and Jay Frye’s viewpoint about Dixon’s remarks.
The day started with a visit to the media center to sign the liability waivers and collect a wrist band that allowed access to the pit area, garage area and the media center. This is very special because it allowed me to roam the pits and get close to the action. There is a lot of action that cannot be observed from the grandstands.
The race teams arrived at the speedway with a pre-planned agenda for data collection. All the data collected during a practice period is used in the team’s decision making process. The race cars handling and the comfort of the driver is very important and thousands of decisions are made to meet those goals. Most of the team’s goals are data driven along with input from the driver. The interaction of the team members as changes were made to the race cars was interesting to watch.
Many aspects of the race car such as tires, spring rates, wing angles and ride height are analyzed and decisions are made based on that analysis. There are rules that govern all of the aspects mentioned above and those rules determine the parameters that the race teams must work within.
The weather is a big factor that affects the race track and how the race cars react to those changes in the weather is very important. The wind, ambient temperature and track temperature all play a role in the racecars handling characteristics.
Speaking of the track temperature there is an area on pit road where this can be observed. There are sensors buried in the track in all four corners. The drivers have always said that all four corners look the same, but they are all different. We found this to be true of the track temperatures with turn two being thirty degrees cooler than the other three in the morning. The theory being that the turn two suites block the sun longer than the other three. Later in the day the temperatures were all closer together.
The view from the pits is always thrilling, but walking down pit road to the first turn is spectacular. Again, TV cannot duplicate the thrill of watching the race cars negotiate turn one at over 200 MPH.
There are two more days of practice and unfortunately I will not be there. I urge everyone to read Eric Smith’s articles on the next two days of practice. I will return to the speedway on May 11th. for practice for the Indy Grand Prix to be raced on Saturday May 12th.