Road Tips has a friend in Indianapolis, Steve Somermeyer, who has worked the Indianapolis 500 in some capacity for nearly 40 years - in fact, I believe this could be Steve's 40th anniversary this year. He started out working in the pits - unheard of for a rookie worker (most people who work the Indy 500 for the first few years start out directing traffic or parking cars), but Steve knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone who got him in the pits for his first race. Over the years, Steve worked his way up to be the head of safety for pits and garage area. This year, they kicked him upstairs, so to speak, to become the Coordinator for the Pagoda Command Center.
A few years ago, I was out in Indianapolis and Steve took me on a behind the scenes tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Click here to see that post. Each year, he always sends out a pre-race memo that takes an in-depth look at the upcoming race. It's always informative for those who are into the Indy 500. I thought I'd share it again this year.
By the way - this could be the hottest Indianapolis 500 on record this year. The warmest temperature for the race before this was 92 degrees in 1937. It's hit 90 degrees on race day five times in the history of the race. Temperatures today are forecast to hit the mid-90's, coming close to the all-time record high temperature in May for Indianapolis of 96 degrees. Although it would be fun to be there again this year, I think being able to watch it in air conditioning will be fine with me.
With a new chassis named after last year's winner, the late Dan Weldon, and three different engine suppliers, this year's race should be exciting and unpredictable. However, many of the usual suspects are the favorites to win the 500 mile race.
Dallara DW12: The first new chassis in years means that all of the learning's/data from previous years is of little value. This chassis was designed to accommodate different engines and aero kits (front and rear wings, sidepod fairings, etc.) and to be much safer. The drivers sit higher off the ground to allow some padding to minimize the back injuries that have happened in the past. The rear wheel is shielded from most wheel-to-wheel contact by the new body particularly in the rear. Ironically Dan Weldon was the original test driver for this new design and it very well could have prevented the airborne Las Vegas crashes, one of which claimed his life.
With a lot of caution exercised by the drivers, there were only five wall-bangers during practice and qualifying with no serious injuries to any of the drivers. All of the drivers got out of their wrecked cars and were immediately cleared to return to driving. A couple of the cars' rear ends became slightly airborne after bouncing off the wall at an angle. Dalara determined that the lower rear wing support was too rigid so they're making modifications to all of them and they'll be ready to use during Carb Day practice. That's fast response to a issue. These cars to seem to be safer than the previous model - We'll know a lot more once this race is completed.