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IndyCar Series: Mandated Fuel Levels?

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 05:  Cars drive under caution during the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550k at Texas Motor Speedway June 5, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Andy BernsteinCorrespondent IJune 7, 2010

In the aftermath on Mike Conway's crash at the 94th Indy 500, concerns over the cause have been raised by members of the IRL community.

The IRL has been lobbied to establish a minimum fuel level in the race cars so that fuel starvation will not occur. That was the case when Ryan Hunter-Reay's Dallara decelerated in front of the hard-charging Conway.

Big hiccup. Wheels touch. Big crash.

There are a myriad of circumstances that will cause one open wheel car to rapidly slow in front of another open wheel car. Extreme closing rate. So the solution is to add more fuel?

What about a blocked fuel pickup, or loss of fuel pressure from a mechanical fault like Jay Howard experienced at Texas? What about another non-contact rear suspension failure like Sato suffered? A blown CV joint, or a driver rapidly decelerating from a sudden tire pressure loss?

The solution was publicly discussed by Less MacTaggart of the IRL in August 2009. The most simple implementation was inferred in his description:

"As another car's front tyres push into the blade so this is pushed against the rear wheel, preventing physical contact between the two and the resultant doubling in acceleration."

The chassis design rendered by Lola demonstrates these appendages. My own term for them is "wing extensions", as the rear wheel protection would be mounted on the rear wing supports. Of a Dallara.

Yes, an ugly, obsolete, useless old Dallara. The cars we will be watching for at least two more seasons. Add the update. Now.

And if you really want to demonstrate the pent-up power of innovation and idle CFD programs, design the wing extensions to also serve as aerodynamic elements to redirect the wake turbulence from the venturi outlets.

Imagine that. Actually initiating improvements to an existing chassis, instead of waiting for a redesigned replacement. Reducing the incidents of wheel to wheel contact and mitigating accidents. And possibly improving the ability of the trailing car to experience increased front aerodynamic grip in the process.

Nah, we can just add more fuel. And a call any other consequences "unintended."

Almost every airborne open wheel car got there the same way, and MacTaggart knows it. Cow-catcher style front wings would help, but not in all circumstances. Look at the video of Mario Moraes' car climbing up over the left rear tire of Marco Andretti's car at Brazil.

That's twice, in less than half a season, that a driver could have ended up with a face full of undertray skid. Both incidents would have been prevented by rear wing extensions which are designed to prevent rear wheel contact.

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