If you browse a lot of IndyCar sites, you probably have found some pretty amazing claims passed off as news this week. As always, the pundits and fans engage in serious debate about what the rumors really mean.
Instead, here's a real piece of news that was reported last week and almost entirely ignored. Last Saturday, John Sturbin's article in Racin' Today (linked below) contained some interesting quotes from Helio Castroneves.
Castroneves wasn't rehashing the Edmonton call, or complementing security chief Charles Burns for his unflappable smile. Castroneves was talking about his boss, and dropping a hint about the future.
Penske Racing will not be constructing aerodynamic "kits" for the 2012 Dallara chassis. At least that's the direct quote from Castroneves, who should be an accurate source of information and a man who is choosing his words carefully of late.
The excerpt from John Sturbin's article, and Castroneves's quote...
However, Castroneves said bossman Roger Penske – owner of the most successful team in domestic open-wheel history has no plan to manufacture an “aero kit” for use with the basic chassis to be produced by Dallara Automobili. “No, he’s not,” the native Brazilian said. “I heard something around but he said no, he does not want to because if you got to do it for one car you got to do it for all the rest. It’s another thing Roger might not want to be involved in at the moment.”
That is not a small bit of news about the development of the 2012 IndyCar, since the "aero kit" plan was an essential ingredient in the search for variables in both style and performance.
Penske's decision seems to support the opinion that the R&D costs of the design and construction for a package of wings, sidepod covers, and engine covers isn't worth the investment.
There may, in fact, be competition for market share among several aero kit suppliers. Lotus has been the first company to express a serious interest in competing with the Dallara "standard equipment" to be supplied as an option with their new chassis.
With the sale price of each kit mandated by the IRL, there can only be one winner in this battle for market share. The kit which demonstrates the best compromise of lowest drag and highest downforce will win. This is not a styling exercise; this is racin' today.
As Castroneves pointed out, any aero kit manufacturer will be required to supply the entire grid. There would be no competitive advantage to Penske or any other team. It all boils down to a simple business investment.
Penske doesn't see the point. Why Ganassi Racing, Swift, Lola, or Boeing would disagree remains to be seen.
Notes on Chicago Qualifying
Scott Dixon will start from row eight. There was no explanation given for his poor qualifying speed, and his pace was competitive in the practice session which followed. Watching Dixon fight his way to the front should be entertaining as Saturday night's race unfolds.
Dario Franchitti has a sizable margin to make up in his championship points battle with Will Power. Normally, qualifying P2 and ahead of Power in P3 would bring some sense of satisfaction. But...
With Ryan Briscoe on pole, and Castroneves in P4, Franchitti will be surrounded by Team Penske. Perhaps engulfed will be a better word. Power's teammates will be sure to help protect his position, both in the race and the points standings.
Unpredictable factors aside, Franchitti will have a tough night unless his wingman can get into the battle up front.
And if we add in the invisible factors, the Ganassi cars will still be at a slight disadvantage. Team Penske already does their own aerodynamic development work.
And this year, they don't have to share it.